Monday, March 27, 2023

Móðir, kona, meyja

Chapter 13 of Search For a Dancer, a serial memoir about a week I spent in Iceland. Mondays on Flippism is the Key
“I think that was our conversation, as nearly as one can recall a conversation when a woman talks to a man and a man to a woman, for of course the words themselves say least of all, if in fact they say anything; what really informs us is the inflection in the voice (and no less so if it is restrained), the breathing, the heart-beat, the muscles around the mouth and eyes, the dilation and contraction of the pupils, the strength of the weakness in the knees, as well as the chain of mysterious reactions in the nerves and the secretions from hidden glands whose names one never knows even though one reads about them in books; all that is the essence of a conversation - the words are more or less incidental.” ~ Halldór Laxness, The Atom Station
Of all those bloggers whom I’ve interacted with over the years, K stands apart.

In 2004 blogs were all the rage, especially so in Iceland. K was the mother (móðir) of 3-year-old twins, with a husband and a cat. Reading between the lines on her blog, it seemed that she was under-employed for her education and a bit lonely, missing the friends of her youth, many of whom had been scattered to the winds. Her blog was somewhat a mommy-blog, but with an additional focus on culture and her life on the ‘rock.’ I had had two young boys myself once so it was fun to follow her parenting efforts. She posted pictures of herself and her children doing things; an idyllic Flickr-fairy-tale-land. I had sent her a box of books that my boys had enjoyed when they were young. Other pictures on the blog showed her on nights out with friends; proto-selfies. She was the first blogger I met IRL, during the 2006 Iceland Airwaves. Her graciousness, charm and perceptive wit made my day. I met with her again in 2009, right after I had attended a poignant concert, I was so affected by it that it made me tear up a bit. She comforted me then, and even called me later to make sure I was alright. In 2012 I met her with her young son and she was radiant: in full-móðir mode. We had fallen out of touch since then, life gets in the way of the best of intentions.

I was a bit early so I was already in Hlemmur (food hall) when I spotted her walking down the street. She worked just around the corner and was on a lunch break so this would be a time-constrained affair, unlike the other occasions when we lingered over coffee. She looked great, of course (myndarleg kona), I had always felt a bit shabby sitting next to her. Professor Batty meets Eve Kendall. Getting together with her was never quite seamless—several times we had failed to connect due to a misunderstanding or a sudden event, or something would up to cause us to reschedule. This time was no exception, she had mis-read my email to be for a meeting a week earlier which caused her to email from a restaurant with ‘Where are you?’ message while I still a thousand miles away.

But now we were here, together again in the eternal now, ordering Krösti-burgers. We took our buzzer to a quiet table away from the main doors and began catching up. What a difference ten years makes: K was now in the midst of a painful divorce from her second husband. I had never met her first (an investment banker with a porn-addiction) but I did meet her second husband. I wasn’t too impressed by him, but then spouses of blog-pals (and I’ve met several, some of each gender) are not really interested in you and can be hostile, and may even consider you to be a threat. I think I won’t be going there again. Closure. This whole trip could be considered closure of sorts; the blog-era is nearly dead, displaced by e-commerce and about to be overwhelmed by AI. While one can never be entirely honest on a blog I try to be. AI posing as human is, by definition, a lie.

One positive thing K had going for her was that she had finally gotten her dream-job, working as a translator in the Icelandic Foreign Ministry, extremely precise and challenging work that paid well and was not without its perks (including junkets to European capitals!) As my days of gainful employment are over, I again felt a twinge of guilt in imposing on her schedule. We talked a bit about the Icelandic theatre scene and she gave me the lowdown on a musical I would be seeing in a couple of days. The musical was a big thing, it was the first full-blown  production since the Covid restrictions were lifted. One of the characters was on the autism spectrum, and there had been a row about having a ‘norm’ portray him. K’s involvement with autism has been vigorous and constant over the years, active in many circles (her blog was even called Aspie Mum) and she was the narrator for a documentary film on the subject of autism in women (konur) in 2019.

When she was a young woman (meyja) she had lived in both Iceland and abroad, she was an au pair and had even won some renown for her flamenco dancing! Now her life was less free, having to raise her son with a faithless husband during an epidemic will put a damper on the most optimistic soul. I wished there was something I could do or say to make things better, I doubted if my words of consolation could have much of an effect. She had picked me up when I was down. I thanked her again for taking the time to see me and after finishing our meal we walked back to the Foreign Ministry. She pointed out a nearby art gallery (ministering to foreigners?) as having a good selection of artists (and indeed it did) and then she was gone.

Some friends are life-long, some friendships flare-up brightly, only to quickly burn out. Some friendships are simply a case of parallel lives, two stars a drift in the heavens, each gaining a little energy from the radiance of the other and then parting to fade away to oblivion.
Svo lít ég upp og sé við erum saman þarna tvær stjörnur á blárri festinguni sem færast nær og nær. Ég man þig þegar augu mín eru opin, hverja stund. En þegar ég nú legg þau aftur, fer ég á þinn fund. ~Megas

Search for a Dancer Index…

By Professor Batty


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