31 May 2008


LUND--"How do you feel about going back to the States, Matt?"

"The time for reflection has passed, frankly. Now I am just going."

And that is the truth. Whatever form a trip may have, a return to the familiar or an adventure into the unknown, all the fantasy and anxiety takes place in the weeks and months and days before. But then, at some moment, you are faced with the fact that your bags are packed and the plane leaves in the morning. The events to come, the closer they come, lose significance in the face of the practical details. I don't, in fact, care much what the hell I am going to do this summer or what I am going to say to my Mom or what the first things I will do upon return will be because those will happen. What I need to do right now is make sure I get to the airport and that I have my passport with me. All the rest of it? All of that is going to be and now, since I have entrusted myself to a big aluminum tube with wings, is out of my hands.

And as I write this Matt is probably packing. He had better do it soon anyway because the train for the Copenhagen airport leaves, at the latest for him, in seven hours. One of the first friends I made in this country, and my only fellow countryman, is going back home to New York City. We were printing photos in the community center darkroom the other day and while they were fixing and washing we sat outside and talked of the United States and of Sweden, what they meant in relation to each other, the all-you-can-eat buffets we missed and how good it is to be an American and how good as well it is not to be in the US. But it is easy to love where you are when you know your ticket home is only days away.

It is possible, a joke perhaps, but one I hope he carries through on, that when his family picks him up at Newark the first thing they will do is take him to IKEA and there, after adventuring out in the world, he can take his people on a mini tour of Sweden. "And these, Dad, are kottbullar, we call 'em meatballs, but try a little lingonberry jam on them. No really, it's good..."

Today was a good day. Lena and I hiked around a lake. The trail was well marked at first, Swedishly marked. There were orange paint blazes on every third tree along a well-worn path. There was little danger of wandering off and being eaten by a random grouse or badger. But after a few miles the orange trail (still well marked) began leading off into the countryside, away from the lake. We found a farmhouse. Lena laughed at my hesitance to approach it. "Don't worry, no one will shoot you, this is Sweden," she said. "In America," I replied, "A lot of guns would live there..."

We walked around the barn and an older man was cutting boards on a sawhorse. There was some barking and his medium-sized black poodle rushed us and began savagely licking our hands. "Oh, yes, just walk down my field and you'll get back to the lake and the trail," said the old farmer. That was not the end, the adventure, in fact, was only beginning, but pleasantly trail-worn we returned home. Lena's friend Elin came over, at a loss while fabulously between parties. We had dinner and champagne with her.

Then after a bit Matt came over. We spoke of space and exploration, the future of the human race, spoke of many things, said our farewells, figured train schedules for the morning. New York City, United States of America. When I go to bed tomorrow he will be back in the USA. And I can't even think much of what that will be like. His trip, not mine. Right now, as I write, all he can think about is making sure a bag is packed and that he makes it to the train on time. Me? I don't have a ticket home. I don't know when I will. So, for me, the US is a fantastical land, far away, across the sea. I hear the streets are paved with gold. Someday I will go there.


Blogger Lena said...

I've never been in the situation you're in. I've always had a return ticket, and even if the return date has been open, I've known that it's withing six or twelve months. You're brave. That's just the way it is.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Andrew Tonn said...

Well be that as it may, you make it a lot easier to be so.

4:52 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home