Í ÓKUNNUGRI BORG
A strange city is a big, lonely place when you do not know your way around and you do not know a single soul who lives there.
The city seems even bigger when it is in a foreign land; the buildings, the roads are so different to that which you are familiar, as are the signs; thousands and hundreds of signs on the street, in the shop windows, the stations, on buses and lorries and hoardings.
All in a language you do not know.
This is where I am, in a strange city, in a foreign land. All those signs meant nothing to me; besides spouting my own imaginative gibberish gobbledygook, which besides entertaining my mind, said nothing constructive.
It is a strange experience, both fascinating and frightening.
I needed to be at the public telephone box, situated near a café called ‘Rosy Lee’, in Richmond Park Gardens, a municipal park and flower garden, at eleven o’clock this morning.
She said she would ring, call me there. If I did not show up, she would understand, move on, get on with her life and put ‘us’ behind her.
But I did not want her to move on, not without me by her side.
That is why I am here, in this city. I have to say sorry, to beg for her mercy. I need to admit my foolishness. I want to tell her I still love her, love her more now than ever before.
If I miss her call, if I did not answer the telephone, I may never see her again.
This is why I am getting annoyed, frustrated and so damned worried.
I do not know where Richmond Park Gardens are and nobody I try to ask will stop. Most are too busy rushing to wherever they are rushing to. The few who do halt their stride take off again as soon as I speak.
No one, it seems speaks Islenska in this city and I do not speak more than a few word of English, clearly all so badly pronounced to be incomprehensible.
This scrappy bit of note paper I have in my hand, the one with the diagram, the map of how to get to the park is creased, smudged and torn. The written directions almost illegible, even if they were not I have no idea where I am, which way is north or south or which will take me towards the Richmond Park Garden.
The clock is ticking, my hopes and dreams and my future slowly evaporating before me. Still, no one gives me a second glance. No one will spare a few moments to help.
Until the young girl, I guess she is a student, takes the scrappy, ill-drawn diagram from my hand.
I speak, but she just shakes her head and shrugs. I know she is saying “I don’t understand you”. So, I spread my hands and shrug back.
We smile at each other. Understanding.
The young girl looks at the drawing, squints, looks about her, first one way and then the other. She nods and smiles. Waving her hand, she beckons me closer. Until we stand shoulder to shoulder, facing the same direction.
She then signals forward by pointing straight ahead, then left, right and so on. I nod and smile back in reply.
This is a language we both understand.
She passes me the paper back. I glance at my watch. The girl holds her hand up again, fingers spread open. ‘Five’ she is telling me, five minutes.
I shake her hand, nod… it is almost a bow. I can feel my grin stretching across my face, from ear to ear. If I hurry I can still make the park by eleven o’clock.
I glance back. The girl is still standing in the same spot. She raises her hand and waves. I wonder if she knows, if she has a sense, a feeling of my anxiousness, my distress?
Maybe she knows of my love and of my fear of losing it, of losing my girl? Maybe she could feel my heart pounding, aching.
I like to think so.
I like to think she derived some satisfaction from helping a stranger in a personal crisis. I also like to think someone, sometime will smile upon her, in her hour of need.
I see the phone box. It is right there next to the tables and chairs of the ‘Rosy Lee’ tearooms, just as explained in the note. An English telephone box, bright red, blood red.
The red of love and life and loss.
At least it is empty. At least no one is making a call.
I glance at my watch. It is three minutes past the hour. I pray I am not too late.
I go inside. The door slowly squeals as it closes, shutting the noise and the entire world out of my life. There is now only my pounding heart, beating, pounding, counting down the moments.
All I can do is wait.
Wait for the phone to ring.
Wait to hear her voice.
I can feel tears welling in my eyes.
I wipe them away, sniffing.
The kiosk door is pulled open, arms grab me, encircling my waist.
I smell her perfume.
“Ég hélt að ég myndi koma þér á óvart,” segir hún.”
(“I thought I would surprise you,” she says.)
© Paul White 2017-2021
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