August 31, 2012 – Traveling Dr. Seuss Style
I’ve crossed an ocean, taken taxis, gotten on a train in Germany, ferried—train and all—across Mecklenberg Bay to Denmark, changed trains in Copenhagen, watched the farms and cities of Sweden pass by for hours, switched trains again in Stockholm, and finally made it to the last leg. I’m sleepy, wishing I wasn’t. I’ve been tired all day, worn down from all my debauchery; drinking with officers and the late nights that came with that, my excursions out with the crew and the late nights that came with that, my staying up through the midnight to four watch to lie to second officers after crane adventures, and getting up too early to squint out into the darkness at distant city lights and chitchat with pilots.
on a boat?”
There’s so much to see and I don’t want to miss a thing. I’m cursing myself lightly and wishing I could just let go and shut the world out. My body craves rest and I’m fighting my eyes to stay open. As the scenery continues to change outside the window of my train car, I can’t help but feel I’m traveling Dr. Seuss style; On a boat, In a car, On a Train, Going Far. It’s nothing near One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish, and certainly not a masterpiece like Green Eggs and Ham, but it’s what I come up with as the wheels churn out the kilometers and take me closer. Ever closer.
“A train! A train!
A train! A train!
Could you, would you
on a train?”
The past month has been so amazing and I’d gotten so wrapped up in ship life that I almost forgot that I’d planned this summer adventure around a visit to a friend I met online and whom I’ve never seen in person. “Is your friend a man or woman?” several of the Filipinos had asked me. I don’t know what assumptions they made when I told them he was a man. I’m not even sure what assumptions I have. What I do know is that I’m going to Sweden to stay an unspecific amount of time with a guy friend. It had seemed a perfectly natural thing to do until I said it out loud. Suddenly I wonder, just what kind of friends are we anyway? My imagination is worse than the Filipinos’ gossip.
“You’re gonna stay in Sweden, aren’t you?” my sister-in-law asks me by phone. She’s seen pictures of my friend. He’s a good looking guy. She’s seen pictures of Sweden too.
“No. I don’t think so,” I reply with a laugh, but I don’t know what will happen. The future is a nebulous and shifting cloud. I’m also a fiction writer so What Ifs get played out a lot in my mind. An infinite number of things could happen.
The train pulls into the station and I grab my bag from the hold above me. I’ve got a swirling nervousness in my stomach, in my head. It’s more than just the exhaustion of sixteen hours of travel. I feel like some type of backward mail-order-bride, only there was never any old style mail between us, I’m not a bride, and Pontus and I really are just friends. Good friends. At least by phone and email.
What if we don’t like each other in person? What if we don’t get along? What if he hates me?
“I do not like them,
Out the window I catch sight of my friend. He’s seen me first (is my hair okay?) and his smile is complete, his wave joyous. I smile big and wave too. Most of my trepidation dissipates. After all my planning, after years of talking about it, I’m here. Next to him stand two blond headed boys. They wave shyly back at me. One is Pontus’s son, Isak, I recognize him from photos. The other boy I don’t know.
I make my way out of the train and step on the platform. Pontus and I exchange a hug and I turn to say hello to the boys.
“This is Isak and this is his friend Mio,” Pontus says. He’s already told them who I am.
“Hey,” I say.
“Hej (hi),” Isak says. He doesn’t speak English and my Swedish is relegated to things like, “Excuse me, where is Sigels Plaza?” and “How do you do?” and “I only speak a little Swedish.”
We fit my bag into the back of the car and I get in the front seat. I’m getting situated as Pontus starts up the engine. Isak says in Swedish, “She hasn’t put her seatbelt on.”
“I will,” I promise. I think of the song we used to sing when we were kids: Buckle up for safety, buckle up! Buckle up for safety, buckle up. I buckle up and we drive off.
“I would not ,
in a car.”
I’ve arrived a couple days in advance of the Raw Life Festival that Pontus and his friend Tom are hosting for the second year running at a place called Ängsbacka.
“Since you’re here a little early,” Pontus tells me, “There are a couple options for where you can sleep before the festival starts.” He’d done the booking for me and put me in one of the dorm rooms at the time when he thought he’d be staying in a tent. “I can see about finding you a room in one of the buildings or you can stay in the trailer with Isak and me.”
“I would not, could not,
in the dark.”
“Whatever is most convenient,” I say. But I’d rather stay with them in the trailer. I’ve just come off a ship with a family of people around me and being isolated doesn’t sound like much fun. “I don’t mind staying with you guys if that’s okay.”
Calm down, you two, I think. All of you, I mean it. Everyone is just out of control.
I don’t know what’s worse, all the assumptions or the fact that I talk to myself, my imagination and my gossiping mind. At this point of the evening I don’t care. I’ve made it to Sweden.
[*Text taken from Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham]