Songs in our heads
By josh hamlet
We woke up with songs in our heads and laughter remaining from the day before and Muesli on the table, waiting for us to shove our hands into to prepare for the day. Our bellies were still full from the lunch that lasted from noon to nearly four in the afternoon.
We started with crawfish or lobster or Chablis or leaves twice dehydrated and reconstituted with brandy made from the cloudberries native to that one region that gets no rain but all at once. We had beer poured twice a tasting pour and saw the Wine Cellar. We chatted restaurants and giggled under our breaths because we were humble and didn't think we deserved it.
We strolled around the water intersecting the gorgeous city, astounded by where we were. We laughed and took pictures and went to museums and talked about wealth. Wealth and politics and art and the pursuit of passions and dreams and how do we fit into all of it.
We woke up with a bit of panic: are we going to miss our train? Pack up the rest of your clothes and throw on those boots and grab the Muesli. Send Hannah a text to say thank you, but now because you're in WiFi.
The train ride came at the perfect time. Five days, maybe four, into our trip, we needed a time to be forced to sit. To think, and read, and be silent and thoughtful. I gazed out of the window watching the Swedish country side slip, fly, shoot by. Rolling hills and swaths of land covered in trees and ponds polka-dotted the landscape. The clouds came in and out of focus and that playlist we had been listening to calmed me down, brought me to here, where I was. Sitting in a train with Catherine, with a bag of chips we bought from the 7-11, some chocolate because we always had chocolate on us, and a beer because it was vacation and it was 6pm and the children behind us wouldn't stop talking yelling screaming crying. And because we enjoyed each other's company.
The second day we got there, to Malmo, we woke up with Muesli on the table ready for us. That and an apple and a tall glass of water to help us get back to normal after last night, where we listened to jazz and wandered the streets rolling cigarettes and made it into bars that looked like they came from a Baz Luhrmann movie or Wes Anderson or just out of the story books of the 1960's and 1970's with boys skinnier than healthy bopping off beat to the music of today and girls lounging in iconic Scandinavian threads.
We rushed out the door. We ran to the train station, stopping for 2 minutes at the farmer’s market. Catch this train to this bus. Go from Malmo to Central Station. Central Station to Lund. Lund to a bus. Walk ten minutes in a town that looked like 1950's London, but cleaner and brighter but paler. Take the right down the path past the playground crunching leaves as you go and end up at the water's edge. Gaze out on the grey-blue waters rippling gentle in the sound off the Baltic Sea. Walk out on the pier, another five minute walk to the end where you find your sanctuary. A small structure, half enclosed, half open-air.
Inside, there was calm and a brunch all around us. Buffets of oranges and coffee and smoked salmon and cardamom buns and a register. We picked up our coins, shuffled through the gate to the deck, split up—men to the left women to the right—and stripped down. Isolated on a wooden structure in the water, naked, we walked independently from shower room, across the open air deck to feel the cool, rich, and full of life early Spring breeze across our bodies. It was fresh. It feel anew.
Fifteen minutes in the wooden-slated dry sauna with two of the four walls floor to ceiling windows. We followed social cues. We were quiet in contemplation watching the water ever undulating against the pale pink blue all underlined with grey skies butt up against the opposite coast. We listened in on Swedish talk of politics or business or pleasure or tennis, we couldn't tell. Hej. Hej. Head nod.
After the sand dripped its last grain through the hourglass, we all got up from our resting places in the sauna. I followed slowly after.
Exposed we all filed onto the deck. Off to the left, where the railing gave way, were stairs down. By the third stair, the water was lapping the metal frame. By the sixth step the stairs met the Sea floor. Men slowly made their way down into the forty-something degree Sea water and I followed. The third step was fine. Your legs can take cold. By the fifth, your belly button was underwater and you felt the shock. But as I looked over to you, we dipped our heads fully under water and the collapse of our lungs, the panic that first set in, the deepest breath we could quietly take when we emerged, and the intense sense of calm, of tranquility, of peace as we walked up the stairs to sit in wooden chairs, nude, and soak in the greying skies and where exactly we had made it to. Where were we. We were here, and here only.
Repeat three times. Shower. Dress. And come back together inside. We sat, together, in silence, serene, and sipped cappuccinos, ate cardamom buns, trying not to let what just happened, what we had just had, slip away.