Iceland by Night

“I don’t snorkel,” he said. “I don’t surf.”

Lucinda canceled their Hawaii trip and booked them a Winter Solstice tour of Scandinavia.

On the plane, he let her make a cat’s cradle with his hands. She rolled ball after ball of yarn. When they arrived at their hotel in Reykjavik, he lay down for a nap.

Each morning, the Greek waiter brought coffee and pumpernickel toast. “Hann er sofandi,” she would say. “My husband is sleeping.”

She drank her coffee in a chair pulled up next to the bed, her feet tucked into the warmth between his belly and the mattress. She read aloud from brochures about the excursions they were missing.

She drank his coffee. The rectangles of window went from black to gray and back again to black. She practiced Icelandic phrases. She knitted. She put on her pajamas and fell asleep watching the travel channel with the sound muted. He nuzzled into her side, light from the TV rippling on his eyelids, and whispered to her from the places of his dreams.

The tour group moved on to Oslo without them. In the early mornings, footsteps stopped in the hall and notices piled by their door.

She unraveled odd shapes that appeared in her knitting each night, rolling new balls from colors she hadn’t brought with her.

By now, she was fluent at telling the waiter her husband slept. She told him he had been lost all night in a forest of dwarfed trees. That he’d slipped in and out of crevasses on an ice-crusted plain, forded streams that caught his slippers on fire.

The waiter’s Icelandic was poor. He searched her words for coffee or pumpernickel or the name of his own island and shook his head. She signed the bill and closed the door.

Barr Bielinski’s stories have appeared in SmokeLong, Blink-Ink, and One Forty Fiction. She is a member of Grub Street Writers in Boston and lives on Cape Cod Bay.