Friday, April 29, 2011

Solstice. For us, the party lasts all night, a progressive feast that moves from house to house, cucumber salad, buttermilk soup, salmon with dill, cheese and cheese and cheese, a crab boil down by the harbor--and this year, a wedding.

At midnight, Lydia and Alex take hands and the Chief pulls a worn book from his pocket. We gather around to hear the vows. For now, we are solemn. And I think about last summer, about Alex and me, about Sevario so far away, and I feel like a rumple of yarn, all tangles and knots. Get over it, I remind myself. I want to be happy for my friends.

After the newlyweds kiss and Lydia flashes me her biggest small, we amble over to the restaurant for cake and Champagne. Rounds of toasts and congratulations.

In a lull, Lydia and I lean against the wall.

"It's your new life," I say.

"It's the same life. A good one. It's just moving along."

It's changing.

"We're all moving along," Lydia adds. "I just hope in the same direction."

I think about knitting booties.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sunlight burnishes the road while I sit in a patch of it and stir my coffee. I've seen three weeks of Norway, with no bad news from home. I'm beginning to get my northern legs and my language. I'm seeing friends again, and a few more people have joined us. One of the new women, Stella, is a crazy movie buff from Limoges, and so she's started screening movies every Wednesday night. It's so normal, and I welcome it.

But I must adjust to not having email anymore, or a phone. I'm back to postcards, and I check the mail every day. Words from Henry are far between. I think we've never gotten used to anything more than our twice-a-year notes. Anything else I guess is extra. And that tells me something. So I ask, how often have I written him?

Not so much since I met Sevario.

And he sends postcards and letters and once a box of sauces from his favorite shop in Santiago.

The bell above the door jingles, and a couple of customers wander into the store. Can I hear them speaking, know what language? I like to have an idea before they ask me a question--not that I have much of a repertoire. Mostly numbers and "thank you"--and the prices are posted anyway. But it helps me get my brain into gear. I don't like to be caught unprepared.

Next the door bumps a little, and Lily's dog pushes his way into the store. He likes it in here for some reason I can't guess. I also can't leave the store while customers are in it, so the pup and I sit by the counter and wait.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Summer north

Lydia rushes up to me at the gate hugs me hard. Something is different.

"Misha, I've missed you so much."

I hug her back, and then hold her apart to look at her.


"You can tell?"

I'm speechless.

"Alex and I are having a baby."

What do I say?


She starts to pick up my bag.

"Oh, no, I think I'll be getting that." I grab my satchel and we start toward the doors. Pregnancy is not slowing her down any.

"You're so happy. I'm happy for you."

"We'll have time to talk about all that later. I want to hear about your trip, and your mother."

I fill in the details on the drive back into Kirkenes. It's gray and raining, but it carries the promise of a long, long day--gray, but a long gray. I am glad to be back even as I'm taking in the new terrain. The land's the same, but my friendships are changing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I slip off my sandals and feel the linoleum on my bare feet. I haven't gotten used to this new ritual of flying, but then I haven't gotten used to flying.

I stare at the neck of the woman in front of me, and I think about hugging Mom and Becky good-bye. I can't tell whether Becky's upset with me for leaving or glad to see me go. Is it the friction between us, or is she just eager for the band-aid to be ripped off?

Mom was sad and happy. I know she doesn't want me to leave, and I know she doesn't want to keep me, doesn't want to lose me on some winding road. I promised I'd visit more often. And while none of us said it, we silently prayed that her good test results would keep coming back good. The negative that's a plus.

We shuffle forward and wait again. Then the flurry. I haul my bags up onto the conveyor belt and walk through the door. But my bags don't come through. The attendants scrutinize their screen.

"What are these?"

"Knitting needles."

"You can't take them on the plane."

I blush, feel the heat rising. I want to argue, but I know that will be bad. I want to run back and check that bag--but the cost is a lot more than a few pairs of knitting needles. I unzip the bag, carefully slide my knitting off the points and hope I'll be able to pick up all the stitches.

It's going to be a long flight for my hands.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dear Misha,

It's a letter from Henry. Sevario hasn't even reached the airport, and I start to feel the old pull.

Henry asks how my mother is doing, asks how I'm faring, whether it's light enough. He tells me news of Nido Claro. He mentions visiting, but he isn't specific. Has he cooled off, or have I?

I don't know anymore whether he's my friend or something more. Clearly, I'm drawn to long-distance relationships--friends and lovers, if I could even call it that.

But today I'm wanting something more. I set the letter in my bag, promising to answer it later, and head out to bring in the wash from the line.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sevario leaving feels like a ripping, like I'm missing part of my skin. In his eyes a sadness.

I tell myself it's only been a week, but it doesn't feel that way.

Tires crunch back down the gravel driveway, and then I wipe my eyes on my hands, wipe my hands on my jeans and go inside.

Back to my roots, I'm uprooted.

Mom isn't even here. She and Becky went to the clinic for some follow-up tests.

I pick up the gray wool I bought down South and work toward the end of a sleeve. I need more buttons. I need an anchor, or a sail.

The mail truck stops out front, then its growl grows distant. On a better day, I'd walk out, just to see.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lumpy clouds scud across the sun as the ferry chugs toward Bremerton. We've decided to ride the boat even though we have no good reason. The wind and the morning and fill us, and Sevario wraps his arms around me while the gulls sail alongside, looking for old French fries and other trash. The day is delicious, and I try to forget that we have only three left.

Then Sevario will return, fly to another continent--and that leaves me where?

"Misha, you need to do what's best for you. You need to make the decision," he said to me last night, and I thought about what's best for me. Kirkenes, and this constant hopping? Santiago, a sort of medium? Or here, in my old home? The rooms don't fit quite right, like a coat outgrown since last winter that still has a lucky tupence in the pocket.

What if I had only one permanent address, and a real job, with a paycheck and that bank account?

I'm not ready to do it. If Mom's still doing well, I'll book my flight to Norway.