Today started off well with a free walking tour led by a retired ballet dancer and all round crazy guy who was extremely animated, extremely entertaining and extremely ****** off at the financial crash that bought Iceland to its knees, never missing an opportunity to have a go at the powers that be, or were.
Aside from the more obvious sites, he took us to a rock containing ‘hidden people’. He spoke at length of the superstitiousness of Icelanders, quoting the statistic that 65% of Icelanders believe in God, 75% believe in trolls. This particular rock was uncovered when clearing a site to build a hotel in the city. They tried everything they could to budge the boulder, breaking several pieces of heavy equipment in the process including industrial drills and bulldozers, to no avail. The next obvious step was to call in the troll-whisperer who negotiated with the hidden people in the rock to reach an agreement to be moved to a peaceful location with a view over the city. The deal was sealed and the rock apparently lifted like a pebble and was moved to the location we were now standing on.
He primarily led us around the old part of town, regaling us with stories tall and true before leaving us with a final word on Iceland’s controversial predilection for whale meat: “don’t judge it, try it!”, on that count I was unable to oblige him but gave him a tip for an otherwise excellent tour and wandered away.
Alone again and suddenly feeling it – I discovered a small crack in my proverbial dam wall and the world rushed in – all that I’d been holding back, containing, keeping at bay was suddenly on top of me, threatening to drown me and refusing to recede. I was at a bit of a loss of what to do or where to go, seriously questioning the wisdom of my decision to isolate myself in the most sentimental destination I could’ve chosen for my first birthday alone, ever!
In 24 hour sunlight, there’s not too many dark corners to hide in and with a flooding face, I wasn’t exactly in an ideal state to cafe hop or even go puffin-watching. I just couldn’t stem the flow but managed to keep the worst of it behind sunglasses on a downturned head as I literally just walked. After a few hours, the well temporarily ran dry leaving me quite numb and still unable to engage in anything meaningful so I once again headed to Hemmi og Valdi, pulled out my laptop, plugged in my headphones and watched an episode of True Blood.
Luckily I’d already planned to spend the evening in the one place in town I could truly hide in the dark – the movies. Earlier in the week, I picked up a program for a film festival of Icelandic films from the past 50 years. It was a welcome coincidence that I’d already earmarked tonights double feature – Parents and Children. Both films were pretty traumatic but at least they gave me an excuse to sob without explanation.
It was approaching midnight by the time the second film finished but I was still reluctant to go back to the apartment with swollen eyes that had resumed leaking. I wasn’t much for company so rather than risk seeing my flatmates, I walked back to the seawall to watch the sun not set for a while before heading back in the safety of its light.
I crept into the sleeping household and up to my room feeling absolutely exhausted and heavily sedated by the days outpouring. Although today has given me reason to doubt it, the intuition to come here for my birthday was so strong and immediate that I still choose to have faith in it. Even if I wanted to give up, at this stage I wouldn’t even know how, there’s nothing to revert back to and so on I go – a fool stepping off a cliff trusting against reason that there’ll be ground beneath me.