That thing occurred during my travels in Iceland. I didn’t try for it. I am not sure how the events lined up from dawn to dusk but they paved my way into the bed of an unknown Viking. I embraced … Continue reading
The last week concentrated the intensity of at least two regular months of my life – although there is no such thing as a regular month in my life. As intensity and I are old road buddies, I apparently always say “It’s been the most intense week ever!!!” My friends sweetly make fun of me when I come up with that statement.
But this time, it is true.
It all began on Monday evening. I was at home writing a letter to H, sketching the portrait of a character that I want to develop for our next script. “I don’t have her name yet, but it should be a morbid and poisonous, maybe latin sounding name. She’s a thanatologist, a death expert. She studied the sciences of death.”
At about 10pm, I put my pen down, and without knowing why, I downloaded a stupid dating app on my phone. A girl contacted me right away. I remembered liking her on another app a few days before so we started chatting. We shortly found out that we were neighbours. She lives in the block of warehouses right next to mine, but as our buildings have separate entrances we had never met each other.
She asked me what I was doing right now. It was about midnight. I traded my pyjamas for jeans and she picked me up with her car in the middle of the night. She had brought take away tea. “How many sugars?”, had she asked on the chat right before I left the house.
We drove to the woods.
She put a CD with hits of the 90s, we smoked mint cigarettes. “Who said romance is dead?”, she said with a laugh. I was feeling like a teenager. It was awesome, because I never felt like a teenager when I was a teenager. I’m discovering the butterflies of adolescence in my 30s.
Then, fate hit me. She said she was a funeral director and had studied anatomy and mortuary sciences. Her name could have matched the one I was seeking for the character of my movie. I had manifested her.
On the side of living in the same spot of earth now, we had lived or hanged out in the same spots of earth before. New York, Brighton, and she wanted to travel to Iceland. She had something to do with most of the destinations I write about on this blog.
After a couple of hours unravelling our respective life story and being amused by all the coincidences, I spitted my gum so she could kiss me. I eventually got my belt undone. Yes. We did have car sex in the middle of the night, in the middle of the woods.
All of a sudden, we saw car lights coming in our direction. They got closer to us. Really close. It was a police car. We covered ourselves as fast we could, both panicking and giggling. Thank God the windows were all steamed up. “I am providing a training at 10am tomorrow, I can’t afford to be arrested!” I said, putting back my sweater inside out. The car went past us and they lit the blue police light when reaching our level. They surely guessed what was going on inside, but chose to leave us alone.
We got back home at 4am. I slept 3 hours and went to work with a dumb smile on my face.
Since then. I saw her the day after, and the day after, and the morning after since she slept over that night, and the day after again. She crosses the yard in the middle of the night and pays me visits at indecent hours. Whatever part of her boyish tattooed body I touch, I ask her the scientific name for it. She told me: “If I opened up a body for you, I could teach you the name of every single muscle.” It killed me.
She always comes to mine since her bedroom has no walls.
My bedroom does have walls which are witnessing our sleepless deep human connection.
When κ, α & I arrived at the car renting agency in Reykjavik to pick up our 4×4, the 2 guys working there looked for a moment at how tiny we were.
They asked where we were heading with a doubtful question mark in their voice. We said that our ultimate goal was Djúpavík, a lost hamlet in the north west peninsula of Iceland. They gave us a bunch of instructions on how to drive on ice, on snow, on pebbles, on mountain roads. Feels like they were worried not to see the 4×4 again.
Off we were to northern adventures in OUR car. We stopped for a couple of nights on the way, visited an ice cream factory supported by volcano energy and adored the poetry of it.
On the last day of Winter (end of April for the Vikings), we stopped in Borgarnes where we were strongly recommended by a lady who was a huge fan of Paul Oscar (the Icelandic equivalent of… Peter Andre?) not to drive further up north. She showed us the official website of Icelandic roads, and most of them were closed due to weather conditions. She called Djúpavík hotel on our behalf to cancel our night.
But the trip wouldn’t feel complete without seeing Djúpavík because we had been fantasising it since day 1. In only a few days, it had become our Mecca, the one place to see before you die.
So on the first day of Summer, we hit the road anyway.
It was the most intense journey we all ever lived. The more north we were getting, the more lost in white.
Nothingness and white. Sometimes after a curve, the insolent green of a far away fjord would blind us as if we had already forgotten about colour.
As the hours were passing, the road was getting narrower and whiter. The snow hadn’t been cleared. We were directly overlooking the cliffs – no security barrier whatsoever. I can’t remember how long this lasted, but it felt like a lifetime, another time/space dimension. We were several hours without speaking at all, just all gathering our meditations not to die, to make it to the next bend, to the next bump on the road. To the safe.
Everytime we were seeing a hut ahead, we were all secretly hoping: Djúpavík? But Djúpavík wasn’t in sight.
There was a point that we lost hope to ever reach it. We thought of going backwards, we thought we got lost. We decided to carry on just a bit more.
And there it was. No possible mistake.
We had reached our Mecca, our El Dorado, our enchanted land. It wouldn’t have surprised us much to see unicorns drinking the water of the bay.
We cartwheeled on the snow and knocked the door of the hotel. A beautiful lady welcomed us: “Your rooms are not ready, I wasn’t expecting you.” We were the only customers in the hotel, and the only living souls in Djúpavík along with the couple of owners and their dog Freya.
That’s the happiest I’ve ever been to arrive somewhere. That’s the most desired destination I’ve ever wanted to see with my own eyes.
It is not until months later that I talked about that journey again with α, and we both agreed that it was the closest to death we ever felt.
But God was it worth the risk.
That’s in the bathtub that we lost the battle.
It was in the spring of 2012, May or June.
We were soaking in hot waters. A couple of girls and a couple of candles.
It was supposed to be an enjoyable moment. But she brought up the sword-of-Damocles subject that I knew was hanging above my head since the first day of our common life.
Her parents wanted to come and visit in the fall, and it would therefore be very welcome if I was so very kind to plan myself a little 2-week holiday to evacuate the premises of my own home.
(The parents were told I was a boy).
We finally had hit the wall. We had gracefully managed to work our story around it for already 2 years. The state of grace was over.
I can’t remember any of my words. I can’t even remember what I thought.
I only remember diving underneath the water and not wanting to come back to the surface cause we’d have to finish this conversation.
But I soon got out of breath and emerged to articulate something like of course, I understand, I want you to have quality time with your parents, I am just a fucking dyke they don’t deserve to witness this, and you are a dyke too by the way, but yes that’s hard to admit, yes, only fair, yes, old generation, yes yes, let me just take a map of the world and put my finger on a random country and I’ll book tickets and it will be as if I had never existed.
Where is the line between compromise and self-bashing? When do we know what’s acceptable and what’s excruciating? Should I have grabbed her hair and maintain her head under the water for a minute or two so she knew how I was feeling? Should I have walked out of the bathtub without even rinsing the foam off my body to pack my things and never come back?
It would have exploded if I had said no, so I said yes and it exploded anyway. Only difference is that we agonised for a year.
I’ve paid for my lack of courage. But I’ve never found what I could have done or said that day to prevent the explosion. It wasn’t in my power anyway. This was never my story.
On the map, my finger had landed on Iceland, so off I went alone to Reykjavik, which has since then become my spiritual retreat.
The purity of the Icelandic air burnt my lungs the first time I ever breathed it. I wandered Iceland alone under these disturbing circumstances. One day, I sat on a bench near the duck lake in the town centre. I wanted to enjoy the last rays of sun. I started thinking of what was happening in my London home at this instant.
I thought of the naked walls from which all my pictures and personal traces had been washed away – too feminine, too queer, too me. I thought of my clothes and shoes stuffed in bin bags and hidden behind a trapdoor above the same bathtub where it had all begun. I cried on all the ducks of Reykjavik that day, and she was calling me to help her cook a béchamel for her parents over the phone.
It is the most wounding feeling in the world to know that your existence has been clinically wiped out.
Picture borrowed from the wonderful I’m a Fucking Unicorn page.
We were home one night. Or one day.
She was on our bed, setting up to skype with her parents. She was always skyping with her parents and I never was. This is how we were respectively brought up. I respect both schemes.
She was always briefing me before her parental interactions, even after 3 years together, when the rules were so ingrained in me that I wouldn’t even have the distance to judge them right or wrong. This is how things were. She always had to mention: “I am calling my parents. Don’t speak.” Just in case I would all of a sudden decide to squeeze next to her and wave at the webcam to introduce myself: “What’s up in-laws! Nice to meet you! I am the one screwing your daughter!”
I regret not doing it. I would have freed them all from a huge weight, and at least I would have given them a good reason to hate me, cause for all I know they had none. It would have been a cult coming out scene. I can be such a docile girl when it comes to affection.
In these recurrent occasions, I was like an elephant in my own house, because they subconsciously knew about me. Of course they knew. It takes tremendous organisation and concentration (and hypocrisy) from all parties to ignore something that big over so many years. They had an implicit agreement not to look at the elephant too closely to keep their wonderful family unity. If someone had to be beheaded for the unity to keep up, it had to be me.
The voice of her parents grew familiar to me as years went by. I was hearing it all the time. But I only ever saw their face in picture. I could catch fragments of their hellenic conversations. I could tell when they were talking about me, all declined in the masculine version. Her mum was nicknaming me “Parlez-vous”, most likely because she knew it was fucking nonsense to refer to me with my made-up male name.
This whole theatre piece was sickening. Over the years, not only was I exponentially suffering from my nothingness status, but I gradually lost respect for her. I even ended up despising her intellectually.
I have never met any other couple – gay or not – in a similar situation. I don’t know any closeted gays who live with their partner. It just can’t work out between 2 people who are at different stages or their coming out process. It is mathematical.
That particular day, she was getting ready for the family performance. She checked the background behind her to make sure there was no queerish hint. She stopped, looked at the poster of the sublime blonde woman on the wall. I had brought it back to her from my solitary Icelandic journey. It was the poster of an exhibition that I had seen at the Reykjavik Museum of Photography, a series of portraits of contemporary Icelandic women taken by Berglind Björnsdóttir.
She must have judged the sublime blonde too tendencious. She moved the poster up on the wall – literally 3 centimetres up. I was observing her in silence, fascinated in a bad way. I was trying to be in her head at that precise moment. What were her criteria to evaluate what was suspicious or not? How had she developed so many strategies in 15 years of her gay life to know what could betray her secret? Did she really believe that the 3 centimetres up or down the wall had the power to change the course of her life?
This is where my lost love was spending her plan making energy. Evaluating the centimetres to organise her cover and mine. Whilst she was measuring and micro-managing the practical details of her double life, how could she ever have time to think of happier questions such as: What do I really want to achieve? Do I love my life? What is meaningful to me? Do I want to be with her, or do I want to be like her? If we ever decide to have the family we’ve been talking about, how are we going to proceed? Stuff like that. The regular legitimate late 20s stuff. Not moving a fucking poster an inch up the wall cause there’s a woman on it.
This entire chapter of my life was so fucked up. I am grateful that I stepped out of it with no serious damage but a bruised soul and a devastated heart. I really would have had reasons to hit my head against the wall.
I will never grant to anyone the power to make me sink.
Picture by Berglind Björnsdóttir