Buzz aldrin what happene.., p.46
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       Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?, p.46

           Johan Harstad
 

  But that wouldn’t be for another nine years.

  What did we do in the meantime?

  What became of us?

  We got better, grew healthier, became our real selves at last, so that we had to get to know each other all over again, Ey∂is could take much of the credit for things going so well, she was the common sense one among us, kept things in order when we weren’t in a state to make decisions ourselves, to find solutions to problems, however trivial, she kept things going until we were on our feet, men and women, until she could lean back knowing that she’d got us going, she could see it was good, and unless an opposite force came to influence us, we would carry on, moving forward seemingly forever, at least that’s how it seemed, after a while, after those first two years, after we’d sold the boat, moved from the big apartment in St. George’s and out into the countryside, to an old house in Grenville that we took over for next to nothing from neighbors who were happy it wouldn’t stand empty, after we’d done several rounds with the authorities and got our work and residence papers sorted, Havstein’s specialty, the iffy paperwork, after we’d joined forces with the surrounding farms and got our business properly under way, it all looked pretty good, we’d sit on the beach in the evening, just us or the neighbors too, fabulous Ey∂is with her round belly and Carl who started taking pictures again, documenting the group as the time rolled and our beards grew, Happy Ville, and I couldn’t stop looking at her, taking her in my arms, and we’d talk about the Faroes, an endless stream of evenings that overlapped to become one single night on the beach, we talked about Sofia, how she should have been here, how she’d have loved it, a better climate to look at the same things through. She could have taken buses to and fro, complained about the rain, who knows, and so we talked and the calendar ripped off its own pages, as we sat with our backs turned toward it.

  Mother and Father visited us every other year, for two weeks, neither more nor less, Father suffered from nerves and exhaustion from the journey the first two times, but after a while it became part of his routine and in the last few years they got quite settled in, Father would take us out to his favorite restaurants in St. George’s as though he lived there, greeting the proprietor, quite the worldly globetrotter. Otherwise we talked sporadically on the phone, wrote briefly, kept up correspondence and contact, sent me the Stavanger Aftenblad, a newspaper a month, I kept myself updated, was a good student and shared the news with my classmates, other than that we gathered around the Internet, studying the Faroe Islands on the webcam, following the seasons as they changed in Tórshavn, Klaksvík and Tvøroyri, watching the snow come and go, the New Year fireworks, and when people came into the picture we stared hard, trying to identify them, not that we ever managed, they looked like blurred figures on archival films, doing things we couldn’t take part in, on the way to places we couldn’t go.

  Perhaps it was all that sun, twenty-eight degrees all year round, perhaps it was the four thousand overwhelming hectares of forest or perhaps it was something quite different, but I think Havstein became a happier person in Grenville. He no longer had responsibility for us, we all looked after one another in equal measure, and when the files that we’d carried with us along worn tracks and through dense forests were eventually ruined in the damp air, I think it may have come as a relief to him. The pages crumbled and disappeared without his ever throwing them away, it happened on its own, it was just to sit and wait, and I often think it had some meaning, although it probably didn’t, but I often think things resolved themselves on their own, as most things do, if only one waits long enough, and finally he got rid of the last papers and filled his shelves with other possessions, CDs, books, healthy things that didn’t demand attention or excessive care, and once the files were gone for good, we never said another word about them.

  Jákup was born during our fifth year on Grenada, I sat in the backseat with Ey∂is as we raced to the hospital in St. George’s, Havstein clutching the wheel. I woke up on the floor of the delivery room just as Father had done, and I remember calling home just afterward, waking him up, in the middle of the night, I could picture him clearly before me, Father, in his underwear, in front of our old telephone table in Stavanger, waving Mother away as she tried to take the receiver from him, on a telephone line with a delay, we talked over each other, and I had the urge to call NASA and ask if anything was happening in space that morning, but I didn’t, it wasn’t so important any more, things were happening in Grenada and I was almost certain the world slowed down, in those first few hours, that it slowed down from its 1,000 kilometers an hour to give Jákup a gentle start on the earth.

  And something happened that night, didn’t it?

  Yes, it did.

  A lot happened.

  I wanted the whole world to meet Jákup.

  Wanted everyone to see him.

  To see this fantastic person who had appeared here in Grenville, Grenada, the Caribbean.

  The next morning I stood looking absentmindedly through some CDs in a little shop in St. George’s, while Ey∂is and Jákup slept in the hospital, I flicked through some panpipe and Rastafarian recordings, my mind only half present, when I suddenly came to a complete stop, I caught my breath, an avalanche went through me, took me thousands of miles East. I looked down at my hands, they were holding the last Cardigans album. Long Gone Before Daylight. I glanced around me, as though at any moment I expected somebody to leap out at me and reveal it was all a joke, I expected Sofia to pop out from behind the counter, to smile crookedly and begin to laugh at me as I stood there in the Caribbean, rooting in the Scandinavian pop. But nothing happened. The other customers had their noses in the old vinyls and cassettes, the shop owner was busy with his own thing. He barely looked at the cover before digging out the CD disinterestedly from a drawer in the back room. I didn’t sleep that night. Instead, after going to the hospital to visit my family, I sat up with the head phones Carl had once given me, sat in the living room and listened to the album, over and over, read the liner notes meticulously, searching for us between the lines. Nina Persson had dyed her hair. It was black now. Just as nice. Sofia would have liked it, I thought; the hair, the music. She’d have papered the walls with the liner notes if she could. She’d have liked Ey∂is a lot, she’d have lifted Jákup up, danced in the big living room and sung that she loved us, all of us, for what it was worth, we’d have sat up in her room, our ears on stalks, that expression of hers that demanded we listen properly, catch every nuance, every little vibration that oozed from the speakers.

  Grenada. Nine years. For the first two years we got by doing small jobs, in restaurants, in shops, Palli and Anna worked on board a cruise ship, in the bar, were away for weeks at a time. The rest of us killed time after work, wandered about St. George’s, took long walks, went down to the beach, swam, spent time together. Ey∂is tried to learn the local patois, she never quite succeeded, but it was entertaining to listen to, both for us and the local farmers, rasta-Faroese-gobbledigook, interwoven island languages, we joked about her taking a patent out, Faroese-Patois, publishing a text book, a totally new and unusable Esperanto. Later, when we moved to Grenville on the east coast and we left the little colony of American and European expats, we set ourselves up in cocoa, joined a cooperative with our neighbors, production wasn’t massive, but big enough, we delivered regularly to the capital, were paid in cash, and drove back home while our cocoa was loaded onto boats for transport to other islands, Trinidad, Tobago or further, to Grenada’s other export destinations; Britain, Germany, Holland. For a while we’d considered sheep as a source of income, there were great opportunities in that, no doubt. But it was voted down. Our expertise lay with wooden sheep, and besides we’d seen enough sheep for a lifetime.

  So we became cocoa farmers, eyes turned skyward, on the look out for tropical hurricanes that could wreck everything for us at any moment, but never came, not to any severe degree, and I remember the walks we used to take, when we didn’t feel like sitting on the beach anym
ore, we walked in the humid forests, in among the teak and mahogany trees, and I finally felt like a kind of Columbus, or a Robinson Crusoe, discovering new paths, new places, and we climbed up to the Grand Etang Lake, in the middle of a volcanic crater, sat with our feet in the warm water, taking the view in just as we had on that morning on Skælingsfjall long ago, and talked about our plans for the future, alternative ways of organizing things that might make our work easier, production more effective.

  And then I remember the day we decided to go home.

  Mother had been ill for some time, and Father wanted us to be around for the time she had left. A few days later we sat in the living room with her, synchronized swimming on the TV, and I remember they looked like flowers, opening like the petals of a flower, in new and even more complicated formations than in Mother’s time, even synchronized swimming had moved on, leaving her behind, and finally one night she died, undramatically, after four days in the central hospital, Father was the only one with her, we’d been to visit earlier in the day, bringing sweets, the obligatory sweets, the medicinal chocolate, but we’d been the ones to eat it, she didn’t want any, hadn’t eaten for days.

  So we stayed on in Stavanger. Ey∂is had put the idea out to me and the others a few days before we were due to leave, that it might be time, she thought, to move back, but not to the Faroes, at least not yet. She wanted to live in Stavanger, she’d probably never seen herself growing old on Grenada. And me? Well. I’d been away a long time. We asked Jákup too, worried he might say no, his friends were on this side of the world after all, but it went fine, surprisingly well, Jákup was ready for anything, even though he felt the cold, even though he always shivered in the damp and the rain. I took him round Stavanger with me, showed him Byhaugskogen, Stokkvannet, and the two of us went for walks, from Kampen, past the villas on Eiganes, through Færøygata, down toward the theater, and from there up to Våland where Jørn had once lived.

  Havstein, Anna, Palli, and Carl decided to stay. We did discuss the possibility of everyone traveling to Stavanger in those final days, but it was unrealistic from the outset. Havstein couldn’t start all over again, and there was the weather too. The warm climate. The possessions they’d accumulated, everything they’d built up over the years. The secure income, for life. I couldn’t argue with that. Although I had a childish hope they’d throw it all in and come with us, at the last minute. But they didn’t. So only the three of us went, and when we left the island, a sort of subconscious disappointment hung in the others, as though we’d left them in the lurch, as though it was a mean thing to do, all things considered. Perhaps it was this, and the huge distance that caused our phone calls over the sea to grow ever shorter, and more infrequent, until they dried up altogether some years later.

  We made it a tradition to go to the Faeroes every summer, Ey∂is, Jákup, and I, visiting Ey∂is’s parents, as well as Óli, Selma, and Sofus. Little Sofus was twenty-five now and lived in Dr. Jacobsensgøta, a fisherman, he’d got married, but not to Óluva, she’d never moved back, stayed in Denmark, and not to Annika either, Sofus found himself another wife from town, married after four months, and we always had to visit them during the first few days of our arrival in the country to eat skerpi, either that or pilot whale, because Sofus would be the first in the water when the whales entered the fjord, he’d wade about for hours, knife at the ready, working, while his wife stood on the beach watching, there seemed to be a favorable wind in his life, and somewhere inside me I hope that in some strange way it might have something to do with our meeting, to do with our driving his radio-controlled car through the streets of Gjógv, with our building construction sets, our talking. But for all I know it had nothing at all to do with that.

  On a couple of occasions Father came with us, and every time I was there, every time I came to Tórshavn and walked through those old streets on my arrival, I’d always think I saw Havstein and the others, as though I believed they’d suddenly moved back and were ready to continue where we’d left off. But they were always people who just looked similar. And we’d drive out to Saksun, I’d take a small pair of shears, clip the grass around Sofia’s grave neatly, and the gardener in me would surface and I could be there for ages, on my knees, as I worked my way across the flower bed, planting new flowers, turning the earth so the soil could breathe properly. And then there was Gjógv, I’d always go back, the Factory had been dismantled and gutted, cement bags piled outside, no idea what they were planning to do. Otherwise Gjógv had woken up from its torpor, every house was inhabited again, there were even people at the beach on fine summer days, and the houses were freshly decorated, lawns maintained, Gjógv had regained its color, grew stronger and stronger with each year, they didn’t give up here, and the same went for a number of villages in the country, they grew, slowly but surely, things were looking up, and on our last visit, as we passed the old shop that had been closed so long, for so many years, I saw that it had reopened, I went in, bought an ice cream, took it down to the beach and sat on the grass. Just sat there and stared, and that was when I caught sight of it, a decaying rowboat farther down on the beach. I wandered a few yards down to it, and there it was, Óli’s little boat, the one we’d fetched Carl in one New Year’s night. One of the seats was broken, I thought how it might have happened as we rowed back in again, perhaps I’d grabbed it too hard, I’d been so terrified that night, or so happy, who could tell.

  Ey∂is and Jákup had been up on the grass-covered slopes, clinging to the wire fence at the edge of the cliff, watching the puffins as they flew around randomly, and stretched their wings or busied themselves with essential tasks. They walked down toward me and the boat, I gave Ey∂is a hug, I put my arms around them, and shut my eyes to the tourists who were pouring off the bus to stand in front of the natural harbor with cameras and sun hats, and I thought how I should have had a camera now, taken one last picture of us standing here. And after I’d had the picture developed, I’d have pointed to it and said:

  This is Mother.

  This is Father.

  This is us.

  This is our Family.

  Kodak moment.

  The final one.

  April. I’m forty-nine. And this is our apartment. We live in Stavanger, on the first floor. If I stand close to the window, lean to the left a little, I can see most of the town center. Heavy clouds hang over Saturday’s Stavanger. It’s been raining for weeks. You don’t know me, haven’t any idea who I am. I am nobody in particular. But, I do also exist, I also subscribe to a newspaper, I also cut that little square of grass each week during the summer, clean my car with the correct equipment and remove mildew from my garden furniture with American products I’ve ordered from the TV shop. I go to the cinema, drink beer from a glass and never from the bottle, watch TV from 16.30 to 17.25, and own the Dr. Phil Home collection on DVD. I get up in the mornings, get dressed, go to work at eight. You don’t need to know where. I’m the best at what I do. On occasion I still sleep badly, some nights I don’t go to bed at all, just rise from my desk and get straight into the shower when the time approaches seven, other nights I go to bed early, set the old metronome by my bed and sleep to its evenly paced, slow clinking after an hour. I vote. I submit my tax forms on time, the figures correctly entered. I sit in the 43rd car you pass on the highway on your way to work.

  I stand in the kitchen, pouring coffee from the pot into the thermos and from the thermos into a cup. Four CDs stand on my window ledge, leaning to the side and collecting dust in unchanging formation: First Band on the Moon. Life. Gran Turismo. Long Gone Before Daylight. I look at the clock. It’s still early. It’s only five o’clock on the East Coast of the United States, Buzz Aldrin is sleeping in Florida and dreaming of space, or maybe he’s dead, and Jørn is sleeping in a hotel room in Ohio, or he’s up with his child, he’s given a concert and can’t go to bed. It’s been three weeks since they left, another five-month tour, off to Europe next, then Japan, Australia, as they play themselves into the p
ages of history. I keep their concert schedule on my fridge, follow their travels, strike through the venues with a pen as they cross the continents, put a cross for each town they play in.

  I saw Jørn a lot in the months before he left, a couple of times a week at least. We went down to the shore one afternoon, before the snow had melted, walked down to the smooth rocks where we’d sat so often twenty-five years ago, that we’d visited almost daily in the summer and autumn of 1986. We stopped going shortly after I got together with Helle, not quite sure why, whether he’d felt like a spare part when there were three of us, or whether it was Helle who’d made the place her own. It may have been both. But we went down there again some weeks ago, Jørn and I, sat on our jackets on the large boulders, looking across Gandsfjør∂en toward the Dale psychiatric hospital on the other side, where nearly all the lights were out, despite its still being early afternoon. It had been an asylum seekers’ reception center since then, Jørn thought, perhaps it still was. And that was when he told me more about his brother, and I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t heard about it before, why nobody had told me, not a word. He’d disappeared too, in the spring of 2001, Jørn’s brother had just vanished one day, his parents came in from work, his room had been tidied, his bedclothes folded. A search had been launched, international inquiries made, but nobody had seen him, all trace stopped some hundred yards from the house, from there everything was open, everything was possible, everything was inexplicable. And then there was Roar, Jørn talked about Roar too, apparently he worked for a company making a new kind of airbag, he’d started there the year after I left and Jørn had basically lost contact with him after that, read about him in the papers mainly, there’d been quite an uproar, the equipment had proved useless, life threatening, Jørn saw him now and again, in a store, in a restaurant, and I said that’s the way things go, and I asked if he’d seen Helle at all, over the years, and yes, he had, and she had two kids.

 
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