Over the Bridge: Life Goes on in Bergen, Norway (Part IV)

This is part 4 of a 4-part series. Start from the beginning Over the Bridge: Life Goes on in Bergen, Norway (Part I)

I get half a night’s sleep, full of rolling around and disastrous dreams. In one dream, I’m sitting on a NYC subway platform with my legs dangling over the edge. It’s silent and dark in the tunnel in both directions. I sit there a while until I see that light coming from around the bend. The light grows larger and that awful tumbling sound grows louder. I try to stand up, but my thighs are stuck to the concrete platform—the only thing I can do is bang my heels on the underside of the platform. When the subway comes, it tears my calves off, and I’m left with two little stumps of gore and blood jets.

In the other dream, I’m walking down a street in Niskayuna, New York that I used to drive along quite regularly. I come upon the elementary school where all these kids are watching something from the playground equipment. When I look to where they’re looking, I see this tree line going up in flames, smoke turning the sky the color of charcoal, and the fire spreading in the direction of the Jewish Community Center across the street. I look around to ask any adults, “Shouldn’t we do something?” but it’s just me and the kids, so I just stand there and watch the fire spread toward the JCC, and just as the building starts to catch on fire—

—I’m up and crusty from dried sweat. Victor is asleep across the room in his own bed, and I can hear only two things: the pulse in my ears and the light drizzle flecking the window. Every part of me seems to be twitching. There are tremors in my wrists and an acidic, nauseating feeling in my stomach. It seems I have drunk all the water Victor left for me while I was in a semi-conscious, non-remembering state, so I get up to refill my glass.

But, before I make it to the kitchen sink, there’s a horrible attack on my insides, like the Hulk grabbing them up with both hands and squeezing as hard as he can.

I rush to the bathroom and take a seat on the toilet, where, for the rest of the morning, I am forced to take part in the evacuation of everything I have eaten in the last three days, held hostage to what feels like the prolapse of all my vital organs.

First Dam, and now me. God, what a mess. I keep forcing water from the sink down my throat, but it only seems to go right out the other end in a matter of minutes. I have a mouth made of sand. I am cold and shivering. I think about the dream where my calves are torn off and how that might be a preferable scenario to this.

Victor and Dam alternate asking “Are you okay?” through the door (and then whispering to the other, “His shape is bad”), but I shoo them away with hoarse sounding “Yes-I’m-fine”s so I can finish my digestive processes in stark, hellish isolation.

Victor eventually says through the door, “We are being picked up at one.” A little shared muttering, then “No rush,” Victor says, and walks away.

Then there’s Dam: “How’s it coming?”

“Swimmingly,” I moan.

“What?”

“Well enough.”

“Did you puke?”

“No.”

“Do you need to?”

“If I did, I think I woulda done it already.”

“Well, if you do and you can’t,” he says casually, “you don’t have an index finger for nothing.” Then his footsteps go off and his door closes.

It doesn’t come to that. By around noon, I exit the bathroom, feeling ten pounds lighter and like I’m walking out of a freezer. Victor’s sitting there at the kitchen table, his eyes already on me and scoping me out to see if he should be surprised at what he sees or not. There’s still some lull in the intestinal fighting, after the smoke clears and all the soldiers are out of ammunition, so they resort to spearing each other and throwing fists. Not quite so bad. Victor says, “You are alive,” and I nod solemnly and sit down with him.

“You have not eaten,” he says.

“No. I don’t think my stomach could take it.”

“Well.”

“Thanks for last night.”

“You were not well,” he says. “You just left in the dark. You could have been hit, could have fallen in the river. Good thing I had the key, no?”

I nod slowly in agreement.

“I think I blew it,” I say.

“Blew what?”

“I don’t know. All of it, any of it. Every part of the proverbial it.

“You are morose.”

I grin at the way he says that word, morose. “Maybe.”

Then Dam enters the room and notices me there. “My boy!” he exclaims, “welcome to the other side.”

“Seems that way.”

“I didn’t think you were a big drinker.”

“I’m not, that’s the thing.”

“You didn’t puke.”

“It didn’t get that bad.”

“Oh, but it was bad,” he says, grinning.

“Just a tad.”

“Looks like a cat chewed you up.”

“Well, that’s appearances. I feel like eighty dollars.”

“Is that a lot?”

“For me, yeah.”

Dam shrugs and starts making himself some lunch. I take a shower and keep knocking back glasses of water until we’re picked up outside our building by Hanne. She says hi to all of us, then gives me a look in the rear-view mirror like, “That sure was something, huh?”

“Aidan was a big man last night,” Dam says.

“Yeah, I could see that,” she chuckles, pulling onto the main road. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m alright,” I say

“He says he feels like eighty dollars,” Dam tells her.

“How much is that?” she asks.

“Sixty euros,” I say. “Sixtyish.”

“Oh, that’s hardly anything.”

“What is that in kroners?” Dam asks.

Hanne thinks for a moment. “About 580.”

“That sounds like a lot,” Dam says. Then to me, “You should phrase it like that.”

“But that’s not even a day’s worth of food,” she says. “Like a burger and two cokes.”

“Well, it’s probably enough for the rest of the day,” I say. “Enough to make ends meet.”

We meet the rest of the gang at a gas station, piled into Eva’s parked Corsa. Anders, however, is gone from the picture; he had to rush off to Stavanger for work. All of us chip in for gas and then head out. The plan for the day is to see some of Bergen’s more rural settings, to see those canyons and fjords I saw from atop the mountains before. Our ultimate destination is a waterfall several hours outside the city limits, but the real treat will be the things we see along the way. The waterfall is more of an excuse than anything else.

I’ve mostly recovered from that hectic night, but still, sitting in a car and looking at some beautiful scenery is the best thing I can think of doing today—I just don’t have any crazy hikes in me anymore.

We stop first at the Fantoft Stave Church, which is tucked deep in a forest. It looks sort of Eastern in a way, at least on the lower half, with how the shingled roofs are shaped and overlap each other. But, looking up and seeing the needle point at the top of the spear in the bleak grey sky, it takes on a more gothic character. The girls explain that this isn’t the real church though, simply a reconstruction, as the original was burned down by an anarchist in the early 90s, who then went around the country and burned down a bunch of other churches as well.

We head back to the cars and drive off again. The urban corridors fizzle out, and it only takes us about twenty minutes to reach true rural territory. The highways wind around huge, open lakes fronted by rising mountains on all sides. I can make out the shape of every individual tree that rise up those mountains, the tips sharp and accentuated. Some of the tops of the mountains get lost in the clouds. Little fishing vessels dot the lakes and dock along tiny lake villages that rise up the slopes of the mountains. The weather adds a kind of cosmic weight to the landscape, which closes it up and adds that extra feeling of isolation to it. No, not isolation—solitude.

Hanne has a song playing on the radio, a song called, “Eg vet e Bergen,” a piano ballad that clenches my chest. It suddenly hits me in an unbearable wave that I’m really going to miss this place. I’m going to miss the Norwegians. I’m going to miss everyone. The gloom of the landscape is enigmatic of how I feel, sitting there in the car and quietly hurting inside. But, the countryside is the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. The cozy homes, docks made from plank wood, the concentrated fishermen, the huge, rugged canyons we drive through—they all create a world where the white noise of modern life has been stripped away to its bare qualities. I love it. A man can truly live and die here.

“With a Little Help From My Friends” starts playing as we pass a WWII concentration camp on the side of the road, followed by Little Eva’s “The Locomotion” and Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love.” Hanne obviously loves her 60s rock. The canyons grow taller on both sides as we drive through them. We start going through tunnels where all the lights are out above us, so we’re just driving through pitch darkness, making guesswork on our turns, and exhaling deeply each time we make it out the other side of a tunnel.

As we drive through “It’s Raining Again” by Supertramp and “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” by the Beach Boys, I digest the fact that the next time we see each other, if that day ever comes, we will all be completely different people. We will be married, have jobs, have had experiences without each other, and have thus grown apart. I have been part of these “groups” many times throughout my life, and for whatever reason—distance, priorities, just becoming different people—all of those groups’ occupants drifted in different directions. But, there’s something about these people, these friends, that make me feel like I have been looking for them all my life, and I have finally found them.

But I’m in that hellish part of my head again; I’m thinking about how my leaving them is like, well, it’s like they will no longer exist once I leave tomorrow. It’s like they will have died. This thought crushes me.

We enter and exit a tunnel into another world. We’re in snow country now. Before, only the very tips of the mountains were snow-coated, but now the snow cover is everywhere. The mountains themselves have cow spots where the surface is barren of snow. Seeing this amount of snow on the ground takes me back to New York a little bit, and how the Catskills or Adirondacks look in the wintertime. But these mountains here in Norway are more aggressively shaped and aren’t just enlarged hills that roll into one another. These mountains are much harder-edged, more isolating, and really take to stabbing the sky.

Into and out another tunnel, and suddenly we’re out of the snow country. The ground is free for the grass to sway. We stop in a little village, wedged snuggly in a gradual valley, with a calm river running through it. Hanne pulls into a parking lot, and when we get out I’m hit with the smell of manure. It has stopped drizzling. There’s a waterfall, maybe 100 feet high, and I wonder if this is the one they were talking about.

We all go to the bathroom by the roadside, then the girls start leading us toward the waterfall—I guess it is. We walk up and under it, where we can see the small houses rising up one of the sides of the valley about a mile out, as well as scattered fields of dark green and brown from the tilling of the land. We hang out at the end of the pathway for a while, none of us really wanting to leave. It’s too nice, it’s too perfect. But we do leave when we start getting hungry, heading back down to the cars to start the hunt for some grub.

We scour the little village for a place to eat, but it’s Labor Day, so everywhere is closed. We drive over to the town of Ostese and pull into a gas station, willing to eat just about anything. Hanne is exhausted from the driving, and all three of us offer to take the wheel for her on the way back, but she keeps saying “Nonsense” to this and says the food will pick her up.

Surprisingly, though, unlike Hanne, the girls in the other car are energetic and singing when they pull into the gas station, opening their windows for us to hear: “You can’t tell me what to do, la-la-la-la-la…

Inside, I think I order a waffle (which, from a gas station, already sounds disgusting enough), but it turns out to be a waffle with brown cheese and butter folded into it. Hanne and the other girls look at me funny, ready to see disgust cross my face. “That’s a typical Norwegian food,” Nina says. “So…you know…”

I take a bite, and instantly it feels like it’s swimming in my stomach. Hanne and Nine begin giggling at me. I take another bite, not believing this is an actual food. What sort of madman came up with this?

“How is it?” Hanne asks.

“It’s…I mean, it’s…” I can’t really find the word. “It’s food.”

“Exactly.”

I finish the waffle-thing, not really proud of myself for suffering through it, but at least now there are some calories at work in my system. All of us finish eating before Dam, who stays back to order seconds of whatever he got, so we go back and wait in the car and listen to music. When we see Dam walk out, Hanne pulls out of the parking spot and starts rolling the car out of the lot. Dam sees right through it and doesn’t pick up his pace. We stop at the gas station exit, Dam enters the car, saying, “Oh yes, practical jokers you are,” and we follow Eva’s Corsa back to Bergen the way we came.

We’re met with traffic once we enter Bergen city limits. There is an eighteen-wheeler beside us whose breaks scream horribly in that stop-and-go traffic, Dam exclaiming, “Jesus” every time the sound wails out. Then he looks on his phone and tells us that a bridge has collapsed up ahead, and that if we stay on the highway we should expect to be there for a very long time. So, we coordinate with the other car and get off at the next exit. To kill some time in the area, we go to the Old Bergen Museum. This would normally cost each of us 100 kroners, but there’s nobody there to sell us tickets, so we just walk right in.

It’s a little town square, made up of about 55 wooden buildings, multi-colored, going up steep cobblestone streets, not unlike some of the alleyways we explored the other day. There is absolutely nobody else there, and the resumed drizzling gives it an airy, ghost town feeling. We spend most of our time there looking through dark windows, trying and failing to see what’s inside.

While we’re walking around, Dam, Victor, Petra and I try to exchange words to one another inconspicuously about taking the Norwegians out to dinner tonight. Give them something special, a nice send off. It’s already in the Norwegians’ mind that we’ll be eating out, so we feel it’s right to treat them.

Nina flops her arms to her sides like, “This is it,” and once more, we’re off.

We park both cars at their old high school and take the train to this high-ceilinged restaurant—extremely posh—that sits right along the water near the fish market. Hanne asks if her boyfriend could come and meet us—oh she would so love us to meet him!—and we say alright. Surprisingly, mere minutes after Hanne asks us this, he appears at our table and takes a seat. He mostly keeps to himself and speaks to Hanne in low Norwegian tones. He doesn’t have any interest in learning about us, but he’s a kind enough gentleman and offers good company.

At the end of it, we surprise the Norwegians by covering their bills, and the girls are genuinely caught off guard, though possess an unsurprising amount of politesse in their voices. Hanne’s boyfriend, however, is startled by this with horror in his eyes, suddenly guilty, and sort of flounders with his wallet, insisting that he pay for his own meal. I tell him it’s alright and to put his wallet away. We step outside into the late evening mist, where all around us there is a tint of blue, and above us the clouds hang low to the ground. This is where Hanne parts ways.

She says goodbye to us all, and when she gets to me, we hug cheek to cheek and I say to her, “Until next time.” She flashes me a knowing smile, then walks off hand and hand with her man.

We head back to the girls’ place. The color of the city perfectly fits my spirit. The bitter taste of ending hits me as soon as their house comes into view. It feels like forever from the point of seeing the house from the end of the street to actually reaching it. Outside their door, we all hug and say our farewells, good lucks for good lives, and wishes for swell health. This moment is sudden; sudden in its happening and sudden in its ending.

Then Dam, Victor and I head back toward the bridge.

“I really hope this isn’t the end,” I say with a heavy heart in my chest.

“Yeah, but I mean…” Dam says, trailing off. “The odds are high.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

We head over the bridge, the two of them speaking to each other in French as they normally do, and me walking about a meter ahead, completely alone. They aren’t dead, I tell myself. They’re right there in their home—I can see their roof from here. If they stood outside, I could see them. But they already feel so far away. I see no way of reconciling this, any of it.

But through the French, Dam says something as he looks over the lights of the Bay, as if he were echoing something from the past:

“Life goes on.”

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I'm an accounting major, as well as Head Editor of the Ellipsis Literary Magazine, at Binghamton University. Telling captivating stories has always been my passion, and I'm always searching for ways to grow as a writer. I still don't know too much about this thing called "Life," but I have come to find that it is short, yet sweet, and while life may seem like a bitch sometimes, you should kiss her anyway.

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Over the Bridge: Life Goes on in Bergen, Norway (Part IV)

This is part 4 of a 4-part series. Start from the beginning Over the Bridge: Life Goes on in Bergen, Norway (Part I)

I get half a night’s sleep, full of rolling around and disastrous dreams. In one dream, I’m sitting on a NYC subway platform with my legs dangling over the edge. It’s silent and dark in the tunnel in both directions. I sit there a while until I see that light coming from around the bend. The light grows larger and that awful tumbling sound grows louder. I try to stand up, but my thighs are stuck to the concrete platform—the only thing I can do is bang my heels on the underside of the platform. When the subway comes, it tears my calves off, and I’m left with two little stumps of gore and blood jets.

In the other dream, I’m walking down a street in Niskayuna, New York that I used to drive along quite regularly. I come upon the elementary school where all these kids are watching something from the playground equipment. When I look to where they’re looking, I see this tree line going up in flames, smoke turning the sky the color of charcoal, and the fire spreading in the direction of the Jewish Community Center across the street. I look around to ask any adults, “Shouldn’t we do something?” but it’s just me and the kids, so I just stand there and watch the fire spread toward the JCC, and just as the building starts to catch on fire—

—I’m up and crusty from dried sweat. Victor is asleep across the room in his own bed, and I can hear only two things: the pulse in my ears and the light drizzle flecking the window. Every part of me seems to be twitching. There are tremors in my wrists and an acidic, nauseating feeling in my stomach. It seems I have drunk all the water Victor left for me while I was in a semi-conscious, non-remembering state, so I get up to refill my glass.

But, before I make it to the kitchen sink, there’s a horrible attack on my insides, like the Hulk grabbing them up with both hands and squeezing as hard as he can.

I rush to the bathroom and take a seat on the toilet, where, for the rest of the morning, I am forced to take part in the evacuation of everything I have eaten in the last three days, held hostage to what feels like the prolapse of all my vital organs.

First Dam, and now me. God, what a mess. I keep forcing water from the sink down my throat, but it only seems to go right out the other end in a matter of minutes. I have a mouth made of sand. I am cold and shivering. I think about the dream where my calves are torn off and how that might be a preferable scenario to this.

Victor and Dam alternate asking “Are you okay?” through the door (and then whispering to the other, “His shape is bad”), but I shoo them away with hoarse sounding “Yes-I’m-fine”s so I can finish my digestive processes in stark, hellish isolation.

Victor eventually says through the door, “We are being picked up at one.” A little shared muttering, then “No rush,” Victor says, and walks away.

Then there’s Dam: “How’s it coming?”

“Swimmingly,” I moan.

“What?”

“Well enough.”

“Did you puke?”

“No.”

“Do you need to?”

“If I did, I think I woulda done it already.”

“Well, if you do and you can’t,” he says casually, “you don’t have an index finger for nothing.” Then his footsteps go off and his door closes.

It doesn’t come to that. By around noon, I exit the bathroom, feeling ten pounds lighter and like I’m walking out of a freezer. Victor’s sitting there at the kitchen table, his eyes already on me and scoping me out to see if he should be surprised at what he sees or not. There’s still some lull in the intestinal fighting, after the smoke clears and all the soldiers are out of ammunition, so they resort to spearing each other and throwing fists. Not quite so bad. Victor says, “You are alive,” and I nod solemnly and sit down with him.

“You have not eaten,” he says.

“No. I don’t think my stomach could take it.”

“Well.”

“Thanks for last night.”

“You were not well,” he says. “You just left in the dark. You could have been hit, could have fallen in the river. Good thing I had the key, no?”

I nod slowly in agreement.

“I think I blew it,” I say.

“Blew what?”

“I don’t know. All of it, any of it. Every part of the proverbial it.

“You are morose.”

I grin at the way he says that word, morose. “Maybe.”

Then Dam enters the room and notices me there. “My boy!” he exclaims, “welcome to the other side.”

“Seems that way.”

“I didn’t think you were a big drinker.”

“I’m not, that’s the thing.”

“You didn’t puke.”

“It didn’t get that bad.”

“Oh, but it was bad,” he says, grinning.

“Just a tad.”

“Looks like a cat chewed you up.”

“Well, that’s appearances. I feel like eighty dollars.”

“Is that a lot?”

“For me, yeah.”

Dam shrugs and starts making himself some lunch. I take a shower and keep knocking back glasses of water until we’re picked up outside our building by Hanne. She says hi to all of us, then gives me a look in the rear-view mirror like, “That sure was something, huh?”

“Aidan was a big man last night,” Dam says.

“Yeah, I could see that,” she chuckles, pulling onto the main road. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m alright,” I say

“He says he feels like eighty dollars,” Dam tells her.

“How much is that?” she asks.

“Sixty euros,” I say. “Sixtyish.”

“Oh, that’s hardly anything.”

“What is that in kroners?” Dam asks.

Hanne thinks for a moment. “About 580.”

“That sounds like a lot,” Dam says. Then to me, “You should phrase it like that.”

“But that’s not even a day’s worth of food,” she says. “Like a burger and two cokes.”

“Well, it’s probably enough for the rest of the day,” I say. “Enough to make ends meet.”

We meet the rest of the gang at a gas station, piled into Eva’s parked Corsa. Anders, however, is gone from the picture; he had to rush off to Stavanger for work. All of us chip in for gas and then head out. The plan for the day is to see some of Bergen’s more rural settings, to see those canyons and fjords I saw from atop the mountains before. Our ultimate destination is a waterfall several hours outside the city limits, but the real treat will be the things we see along the way. The waterfall is more of an excuse than anything else.

I’ve mostly recovered from that hectic night, but still, sitting in a car and looking at some beautiful scenery is the best thing I can think of doing today—I just don’t have any crazy hikes in me anymore.

We stop first at the Fantoft Stave Church, which is tucked deep in a forest. It looks sort of Eastern in a way, at least on the lower half, with how the shingled roofs are shaped and overlap each other. But, looking up and seeing the needle point at the top of the spear in the bleak grey sky, it takes on a more gothic character. The girls explain that this isn’t the real church though, simply a reconstruction, as the original was burned down by an anarchist in the early 90s, who then went around the country and burned down a bunch of other churches as well.

We head back to the cars and drive off again. The urban corridors fizzle out, and it only takes us about twenty minutes to reach true rural territory. The highways wind around huge, open lakes fronted by rising mountains on all sides. I can make out the shape of every individual tree that rise up those mountains, the tips sharp and accentuated. Some of the tops of the mountains get lost in the clouds. Little fishing vessels dot the lakes and dock along tiny lake villages that rise up the slopes of the mountains. The weather adds a kind of cosmic weight to the landscape, which closes it up and adds that extra feeling of isolation to it. No, not isolation—solitude.

Hanne has a song playing on the radio, a song called, “Eg vet e Bergen,” a piano ballad that clenches my chest. It suddenly hits me in an unbearable wave that I’m really going to miss this place. I’m going to miss the Norwegians. I’m going to miss everyone. The gloom of the landscape is enigmatic of how I feel, sitting there in the car and quietly hurting inside. But, the countryside is the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. The cozy homes, docks made from plank wood, the concentrated fishermen, the huge, rugged canyons we drive through—they all create a world where the white noise of modern life has been stripped away to its bare qualities. I love it. A man can truly live and die here.

“With a Little Help From My Friends” starts playing as we pass a WWII concentration camp on the side of the road, followed by Little Eva’s “The Locomotion” and Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love.” Hanne obviously loves her 60s rock. The canyons grow taller on both sides as we drive through them. We start going through tunnels where all the lights are out above us, so we’re just driving through pitch darkness, making guesswork on our turns, and exhaling deeply each time we make it out the other side of a tunnel.

As we drive through “It’s Raining Again” by Supertramp and “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” by the Beach Boys, I digest the fact that the next time we see each other, if that day ever comes, we will all be completely different people. We will be married, have jobs, have had experiences without each other, and have thus grown apart. I have been part of these “groups” many times throughout my life, and for whatever reason—distance, priorities, just becoming different people—all of those groups’ occupants drifted in different directions. But, there’s something about these people, these friends, that make me feel like I have been looking for them all my life, and I have finally found them.

But I’m in that hellish part of my head again; I’m thinking about how my leaving them is like, well, it’s like they will no longer exist once I leave tomorrow. It’s like they will have died. This thought crushes me.

We enter and exit a tunnel into another world. We’re in snow country now. Before, only the very tips of the mountains were snow-coated, but now the snow cover is everywhere. The mountains themselves have cow spots where the surface is barren of snow. Seeing this amount of snow on the ground takes me back to New York a little bit, and how the Catskills or Adirondacks look in the wintertime. But these mountains here in Norway are more aggressively shaped and aren’t just enlarged hills that roll into one another. These mountains are much harder-edged, more isolating, and really take to stabbing the sky.

Into and out another tunnel, and suddenly we’re out of the snow country. The ground is free for the grass to sway. We stop in a little village, wedged snuggly in a gradual valley, with a calm river running through it. Hanne pulls into a parking lot, and when we get out I’m hit with the smell of manure. It has stopped drizzling. There’s a waterfall, maybe 100 feet high, and I wonder if this is the one they were talking about.

We all go to the bathroom by the roadside, then the girls start leading us toward the waterfall—I guess it is. We walk up and under it, where we can see the small houses rising up one of the sides of the valley about a mile out, as well as scattered fields of dark green and brown from the tilling of the land. We hang out at the end of the pathway for a while, none of us really wanting to leave. It’s too nice, it’s too perfect. But we do leave when we start getting hungry, heading back down to the cars to start the hunt for some grub.

We scour the little village for a place to eat, but it’s Labor Day, so everywhere is closed. We drive over to the town of Ostese and pull into a gas station, willing to eat just about anything. Hanne is exhausted from the driving, and all three of us offer to take the wheel for her on the way back, but she keeps saying “Nonsense” to this and says the food will pick her up.

Surprisingly, though, unlike Hanne, the girls in the other car are energetic and singing when they pull into the gas station, opening their windows for us to hear: “You can’t tell me what to do, la-la-la-la-la…

Inside, I think I order a waffle (which, from a gas station, already sounds disgusting enough), but it turns out to be a waffle with brown cheese and butter folded into it. Hanne and the other girls look at me funny, ready to see disgust cross my face. “That’s a typical Norwegian food,” Nina says. “So…you know…”

I take a bite, and instantly it feels like it’s swimming in my stomach. Hanne and Nine begin giggling at me. I take another bite, not believing this is an actual food. What sort of madman came up with this?

“How is it?” Hanne asks.

“It’s…I mean, it’s…” I can’t really find the word. “It’s food.”

“Exactly.”

I finish the waffle-thing, not really proud of myself for suffering through it, but at least now there are some calories at work in my system. All of us finish eating before Dam, who stays back to order seconds of whatever he got, so we go back and wait in the car and listen to music. When we see Dam walk out, Hanne pulls out of the parking spot and starts rolling the car out of the lot. Dam sees right through it and doesn’t pick up his pace. We stop at the gas station exit, Dam enters the car, saying, “Oh yes, practical jokers you are,” and we follow Eva’s Corsa back to Bergen the way we came.

We’re met with traffic once we enter Bergen city limits. There is an eighteen-wheeler beside us whose breaks scream horribly in that stop-and-go traffic, Dam exclaiming, “Jesus” every time the sound wails out. Then he looks on his phone and tells us that a bridge has collapsed up ahead, and that if we stay on the highway we should expect to be there for a very long time. So, we coordinate with the other car and get off at the next exit. To kill some time in the area, we go to the Old Bergen Museum. This would normally cost each of us 100 kroners, but there’s nobody there to sell us tickets, so we just walk right in.

It’s a little town square, made up of about 55 wooden buildings, multi-colored, going up steep cobblestone streets, not unlike some of the alleyways we explored the other day. There is absolutely nobody else there, and the resumed drizzling gives it an airy, ghost town feeling. We spend most of our time there looking through dark windows, trying and failing to see what’s inside.

While we’re walking around, Dam, Victor, Petra and I try to exchange words to one another inconspicuously about taking the Norwegians out to dinner tonight. Give them something special, a nice send off. It’s already in the Norwegians’ mind that we’ll be eating out, so we feel it’s right to treat them.

Nina flops her arms to her sides like, “This is it,” and once more, we’re off.

We park both cars at their old high school and take the train to this high-ceilinged restaurant—extremely posh—that sits right along the water near the fish market. Hanne asks if her boyfriend could come and meet us—oh she would so love us to meet him!—and we say alright. Surprisingly, mere minutes after Hanne asks us this, he appears at our table and takes a seat. He mostly keeps to himself and speaks to Hanne in low Norwegian tones. He doesn’t have any interest in learning about us, but he’s a kind enough gentleman and offers good company.

At the end of it, we surprise the Norwegians by covering their bills, and the girls are genuinely caught off guard, though possess an unsurprising amount of politesse in their voices. Hanne’s boyfriend, however, is startled by this with horror in his eyes, suddenly guilty, and sort of flounders with his wallet, insisting that he pay for his own meal. I tell him it’s alright and to put his wallet away. We step outside into the late evening mist, where all around us there is a tint of blue, and above us the clouds hang low to the ground. This is where Hanne parts ways.

She says goodbye to us all, and when she gets to me, we hug cheek to cheek and I say to her, “Until next time.” She flashes me a knowing smile, then walks off hand and hand with her man.

We head back to the girls’ place. The color of the city perfectly fits my spirit. The bitter taste of ending hits me as soon as their house comes into view. It feels like forever from the point of seeing the house from the end of the street to actually reaching it. Outside their door, we all hug and say our farewells, good lucks for good lives, and wishes for swell health. This moment is sudden; sudden in its happening and sudden in its ending.

Then Dam, Victor and I head back toward the bridge.

“I really hope this isn’t the end,” I say with a heavy heart in my chest.

“Yeah, but I mean…” Dam says, trailing off. “The odds are high.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

We head over the bridge, the two of them speaking to each other in French as they normally do, and me walking about a meter ahead, completely alone. They aren’t dead, I tell myself. They’re right there in their home—I can see their roof from here. If they stood outside, I could see them. But they already feel so far away. I see no way of reconciling this, any of it.

But through the French, Dam says something as he looks over the lights of the Bay, as if he were echoing something from the past:

“Life goes on.”

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