As I was passing through customs the agent asked where I would be staying. When I told him I would be staying in an apartment on Garðastræti, he smiled and said, "Say hello to the Russians!" I was starting to feel jet lag, and this comment only made me more disoriented. He handed back my passport and then I was in. The terminal was nice, modern and bigger than I had thought it would be. I had picked up some really good Grand Reserva Tempranillo, most impressive for duty-free. In the ground terminal I got my ticket and boarded the almost-full Flybus for the trip into town. It was still somewhat dark when we left the terminal but the sky was already starting to glow over Highway 41 as it snaked through the lava fields and past an enormous aluminum plant, while the whole time the lights of Rekjavík and the surrounding communities danced along the distant shoreline:
Somewhere in that tangle of lights was my quarry, Billy Clarkson, the errant son of a senator, a senator who could possibly be the next president. Billy had evidently traveled this road many times. Why did he come back- love or money? Or perhaps his little power trip games played better here.
It was the passenger in the seat next to mine, an American who had boarded the bus at the last minute. I had to think before answering. He looked to be a bit of an odd duck, possibly an academic. My stock "Scandinavian Studies" reply might only bring more questions, questions that I wouldn't be able to answer.
"I don't know exactly, I've heard the scenery is pretty fantastic, and the music scene is supposed to be good in Reykjavík." I was grasping for anything.
"Oh, you'll find it all here- on a smaller scale than in a larger country, perhaps, but the Nature and the Culture of Iceland offer the receptive traveler immense rewards." He had a strange gleam in his eyes, and it wasn't just reflections from the lights from the lights along the highway.
"What would you recommend?" Anything to turn the spotlight away from me.
"Check out the National Theatre. Do a walkabout around the city. Check out the nightlife on the week-ends- but it doesn't start until after midnight. But the number one best thing to do is go to the swimming pools, to the thermal pots. Listen— don't speak unless spoken to. You'll find the real people there. If you've got nothing to hide you'll learn a lot when sitting in a hot-pot with four or five Icelanders wearing only Speedos."
"Thanks, I'll remember that." My head was starting to spin, that mental image didn't help any, and I was starting to get hungry. "I'm Sean. What is your reason for being on this bus?"
"I am Harold Shallbetter, I'm a professor of Scandinavian studies at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. I'm here for a seminar on some newly discovered manuscripts. It's causing quite a stir in my field. There is some controversy about their provenance."
I was right not to bring up my 'studies'.
As the bus neared the city the sky was getting quite bright. Looking out the bus window I could see into the cars driving past several feet below me. Morning commuters: some with coffee, some with sleepy children, all nice looking people, ready for their daily life. Billy wouldn't be found here among 'regular' folk.
Billy had his own reality.