From Iceland — I am Going For a Cup of Coffee

I am Going For a Cup of Coffee

Published October 6, 2007

I am Going For a Cup of Coffee

The sun doesn’t knock on the door of this old barbershop, it rushes its way in here through several windows. All I see from my desk, regardless of what I want to see, is the narrow landscape of dirt on the thin piece of glass separating me from Grettisgata – formations of dirt, which enter my mind by the warm hand of this bright light. The sun is everywhere, and yet, all I do is trying to ignore it.
Here are two examples:
The glossy paper of the cheap book I bought at the airport is shining back at my eyes, keeping them from focusing on the small ink letters of the novel and I’m forced to reorganise the furniture. And during my much needed thirty minutes for lunch, a very disturbing warm breath of the sun is giving the supposedly cold milk a couple of extra degrees.
These lines are written during a completely normal, sunny Friday in September. The air is clear, the harbour noisy, and a friend of a friend is playing guitar at a random place on Laugavegur tonight. As I said – normal.
I’m reading ”The Book of laughter and forgetting” by Milan Kundera, and as the warm milk has started its temporary rest within my body, I’m in a chapter about the blackbirds, and how they fled the nature for the cities somewhere around the eighteenth century, all over Europe within just a couple of years.
It hits me that the unfriendly gestures towards the bright enemy in my house are as easy to find if I step outside. And as I sit here thinking, I can’t but help to see that this humble apartment symbolises something larger, perhaps every modern city.
I’m leaving my desk for a nice and quiet walk through my new home town, walking along Laugavegur towards (for me) unknown environments. The cars are everywhere, and they aren’t ashamed of themselves. Clumsy four wheelers slowly flood the street, making the potentially so beautiful main street into a land of nothingness. Or should I say a land of everywhere, and therefore nowhereness.
To be home blind is to ignore the unique charm of one’s own city and its people. And as I tried to ignore the penetrating sun some time ago, the people of Reykjavik seem to be focusing on things that you’d find in every capital of the world, instead of the surrounding ever so astonishing phenomenona that are constantly knocking them on their shoulders.
Minutes later, when I pass the beautifully placed City Hall, the people around me seem to vanish in the opposite direction. They’re slowly drawn backwards in the periphery, like flies to old food. Surprisingly alone, I discover the old graveyard, where I find a whole bunch of the 1 450 people that lived here in 1860.
A sign tells me that the great variations of plants are rare for Iceland. I wonder if the plants are getting some nourishment from down under, since they aren’t getting any oxygen from the visitors. (My only company is a cat with dead eyes.)
Just like my furniture rearrangement, our habits are drawn away from things that we cannot deal with, towards…for example a cup of coffee and a “been there done that” kind of friend.
And just like the narrow landscapes on my window, the pendulum of my newly made friends here seems to be taking place up and down the very same road of nothingness. New York, Stockholm, London and Paris has a Kaffi Barinn, they have drugs, clumsy cars and second hand shopping. But no other city has a graveyard like this one, or steaming rising water from the ground. Not to mention the amazingly beautiful background scenery known as Esja, which I heard of only once from a citizen in a tale of a drunken runner.
Later this Friday, I find myself in one of this cafés, with one of these friends. As I watch her dipping that little spoon in her cup over and over again, obviously dull, I curse the blackbirds for their stupid move. Seconds later, answering the question of whether she’s been to Esja or not, her surprised face tells me everything.
It tells me to stop asking those stupid questions and of course she hasn’t. And the key phrase: why should she?
Why indeed.
The home blind people of the world are settling for a Starbucks society without any great adventures. Bored to my bones I walk home again. A friend of a friend is approaching, looking really depressed.
What’s bothering you, I ask, and he sums up this text perfectly for me: I can’t stand the midday sun without my sunglasses, it gives me headache. I’m going for a cup of coffee, wanna join me?

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Enough. Stop. Now.

Enough. Stop. Now.


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