It was Friday night.
What am I doing wrong? I lamented – probably hurling my wails at the wrong person. Why is it that I always wind up in these situations against someone who is taller and blonder and more North Atlantic than me? I simply can’t compete.
(In times of trouble, the human animal seeks fat; salt; sugar; familiar warmth. I rationalised this not as scab-picking but as biology.)
Do you really think it’s that? He asked, It’s a good metaphor, but do you really think that this theme of being deficient of Viking blood really does appear consistently in your life?
Yes. I said with the obstinance of a child. But it was an empty affirmation; a silent nod. It didn’t matter.
The point was: during my first real encounter with the North Atlantic; the North Sea, I was in Denmark and no one would take my credit card because it wasn’t a chip-and-pin card. Everywhere I went, they said to me with utter disdain, “It’s not Danish.” It became kind of a joke, as if to say things that were not Danish were so inferior as to be unworthy of a second look. I was in Denmark in the Autumn, and it had already turned cold. I’d not packed very well so I was personally freezing, and by that point in the journey, I thought that everything Danish was crap anyway.
And then the last time I was in the land of the Vikings, it was half-past February, just eight, nine months ago. We’d flown to Edinburgh from London then driven to Inverness. My travelling companion and I had intended to drive all the way north, but a massive snow storm had thwarted our plans. Our little car skidded and slid on the unplowed roads; spinning out on turns – that gets you tough, like the lyrics to a Joni Mitchell song.
I was tough. But I was not a Viking.
Meanwhile, back in Manhattan:
I’m not blaming you. This was bad pick. Freight train full of baggage, he said. I could hear him clucking softly through the bits and bytes of the email. It was the same noise he’d make, years ago, when I’d call from downstairs. The same way he’d phrase things brutally; gently but with a little bit of longing, like when I was walking down Park Avenue and he was trying to spot me with binoculars.
But those days were done. And all the trains had left the station.
I am never going to be a Viking. And I have not yet sorted out how to resolve that discrepancy in matters of the heart.