The Long Ride Home

When? It was last March. A year to the day. I was on the S-tog out in the country. All the way up front because I wanted to get to her as soon as possible. The train drove through the country in eerie silence; delayed for the first time since I had moved here. Across me sat a young couple looking at the passing countryside and cyclists under us on the road. The man had his left arm around the girl’s shoulder and tightly held her wrist. She had put her right hand on his left, and they were just sitting like that, pressed against each other with an indefinable closeness. I watched them as the train stopped and started again while the rest of us were jolted and thrown front and back from the inertia. I observed them; how nice it looked to see them unmoved by the laws of physics. 

It took so long; hours, the countryside was endless in its plains and impressionist colours. The sky got bluer and bluer as the noonday sun peeked out with her yellow rays. And she was so powerful when she parted the clouds as if flowers would begin to blossom immediately straight through the sky. The pink and green roofs approaching in the distant cityscape were visible through the black and brown leafy straws of those cold Nordic tree barks.

The weather was too warm, and the fields seemed to rest easily under the sunlight. By the time the warmth sent icy tingling sensations through my bones I could see straight and organized roads; highways where cars were coming and going like they knew their destination and had the freedom to turn whenever they wanted. But those roads didn’t lie as peacefully as the fields, in their sizzling grey cement and painted white lines; they were just there, like the rest of us. Finally, the city gleaned in the distance, where the glass orbs of the streetlights flashed in vain hope that they wouldn’t be needed if they really tried to hide from her. But the couple refused to hide from her, and in fact embraced her boiling lines of light. 

Then something unexpected happened; I got cold, and then colder and colder. And that red train kept thrusting along the tracks as fast as the day wanted to flee her rays. To make up for the delay I guess. Cognizant now that it was quite a long ride from Veksø to Frederikssund, and that the days should’ve been longer in the spring, I kept my focus on the couple whose hands were now clenched even tighter in each other’s grasps. Yet by the end, where she was probably waiting for me by the water, there were sloshing raindrops thrashing the glistening red train like foamy waves on white sand. Each one seemed to want to stare her in the eye, the eye that was now burning across the sky like hellfire as though there were souls to set aflame, where the lakes and canals and colourful impressionist houses were sizzling and boiling all across Copenhagen. None of it warmed me; not a spark of life except the sheer bliss I would get from seeing her, brought any jolt or zest to my tightening muscles or my stiff bones. Now she was getting bigger, and having employed the wind to part the clouds, there was only the tingling numbness of prickly needles grazing and poking against my heart; and I kept getting colder and colder and stayed the same size frozen on that seat looking out. Until finally, that yellow sun walked into the train and queried, “Why are you still on this train?” 

Gabriel; or Details in the life of an Average Man

Gabriel moved to Reykjavík in his twenties and married the love of his life, whom he’d met there. He grew wealthy, affluent, and was blissfully ignorant. Most of all, he acquired a zest and glee for life that others only pursued in passing. One day, for a reason unknown to him, after kissing his wife good morning, he left her in their manor in the suburbs, their two cars in their garage, and his office in the financial district. He left them for a young Swede he’d met at a meeting the day before. He loved her but he was not loved by her, and eventually his life ended at the bottom of an abyss he’d burrowed for himself.

What I outline above is perfect for an epitaph. In fact Gabriel’s funeral attendant, the only person who was present at the end of his life and the beginning of his death, wrote on his gravestone. “Here lies Gabriel, a loving, affluent man.”  

This is a formulaic narrative, in fact, this is every story you, dear reader, have seen or read. The information I’ve included is everything that has and will happen to Gabriel. Setting is established, background of the characters are given; there is a climax and a resolution (or lack thereof). I can leave the story there and let your imagination run wild with the intricacies of Gabriel’s life, and I would if there existed no profit (both psychological and financial) and pleasure in it for me. 

An adequate depiction, if you will, although abridged, of an average man’s life. Most of modern narratives depicted as “groundbreaking” are in fact about the most exceptionally average people, but the tale of Gabriel is not “groundbreaking.” Why? Something is missing. The embellishment, the connection, and interactions that fills a person’s life. The reader must imagine Gabriel and his wife Isabella, with her red ringlets and emerald eyes and slender and tall body that loved to relax in the sauna he’d built for her; his mistress Carin, with her ravenous straight hair and sky blue eyes and her nimble and petite body; his office with the large oak Venetian doors that lead to a view of the city and sea down the horizon, and his Windows in the centre of his mahogany desk and his red-bound leather chair he’d flew in from Italy. They must imagine his Mercedes S-Class with its 12 cylinder engine and 621 horsepower as compensation for Gabriel’s powerlessness. They must really feel and see his quaint but elegant manor with its white walls and modern art and marble kitchen floor. Those things do not exist without the reader, and the reader imagines these things only through precise descriptions of the details that encompass the life of a person as a whole. 

Paul Cézanne (French, 1839 - 1906); L'Éternel Féminin; about 1877; Oil on canvas 43.5 × 53.3 cm (17 1/8 × 21 in.);  The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles   Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.

Paul Cézanne (French, 1839 - 1906); L'Éternel Féminin; about 1877; Oil on canvas 43.5 × 53.3 cm (17 1/8 × 21 in.);

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.