My sister had persuaded me to come and visit her this weekend, and although I wasn’t feeling over the top and had more writing to do than ever, I accepted the offer and bought a couple of tickets for Koppang, rural Norway. I think the line that got me going went something like: "I lived in Bergen for eight years and you only came to visit once." I don’t like Bergen. What can I say?
This trip added to my already brimful schedule, and I even had to squeeze in a visit to the local super market to buy a bag for my new digital camera, which took twice the amount of time I’d expected. Add to my search for the perfect bag my general ability to get lost in shopping malls and being unable to find a way out, or even just a way down from the forth floor, and you can imagine the amount of stress I went through. Naturally I got stuck on 4th. I looked at the other dead souls and consumers, and decided that if I would get trapped here forever like them, I’d jump over the fence and fall down to first. If I didn’t make it out alive, at least I’d go out in style.
On Thursday I stayed up late at work to get things finished so that I could get home early on Friday to catch the train. When I got home Friday afternoon I discovered that I’d forgotten to pack anything, but instead of slitting my wrists I just packed whatever I could think of.
Among boxers and t-shirts I brought with me the digital cam, my 3.5kg laptop, headphones, three books of inspiration, notepad, pack of gum, kleenex, a shoehorn and my trusty mountain boots that were falling apart in the seams. I looked like a chain-smoking bastard child of a countryside junkie and a computer nerd.
This made me very upset. That, and the fact that it was five minutes left for my train to arrive, and I still hadn’t found the platform. I asked someone working there if they knew, and they referred me to the touchscreen computers that eventually referred me back to the staff. Finally I overheard that someone was going to catch the same train and I just followed them. Yippe-ki-yea, mother fucker.
I was so angry during the first two hours of the journey that I wrote out one and a half pen in pure anger.
At the time I was going to swap trains at the infamous hick-town of Hamar, I was feeling much better and sent some sarcastic remarks to a friend of mine from that area. Right next to the train station you had access to a Burger King, three special psychiatrists and an institute specializing in pain treatment.
After another hour and a half in front of a couple in love, who couldn’t spare themselves the funny voices, I was finally there; the middle of nowhere.
I got out, met my sister and checked out the scenery. It was very foresty, or wooded, whichever you prefer. A couple of kids ran by on their bicycles. Statistically, one of them would end up unemployed and alcoholic. My spirit rose considerably.
My sister drove me all the way up to the secluded sanctuary, or retreat, as they call it. It was truly a trip down Memory Lane as scenes from my childhood, age nine, came to pass. We turned into the forest and after five minutes on the dirt road we reached a big, wooden gate with lanterns on either side….
"What have they got in there? King Kong?"
It hadn’t changed much, though, things had just gone a bit smaller.
I was greeted by Mother Superior herself, along with the most darling little angel I’d seen in any such place. I easily subscribe to the unfounded myths of convent eroticism. She must have noticed, and quickly redrew, while my sister hugged me along to show me my room.
Let me tell you something; the meek really know how to live in style!
The only thing lacking in the room, which easily qualified to a class B hotel room, was a mini bar, but I guess such a thing would be hard to justify considering the Holy Sacrament. "’Tis the blood of Christ, Bourdaux. ‘Tis the Body of Christ, Ritz." But then it didn’t have a Bible either which I found quite confusing.
Apart from the typical and very springy bed, I had my own porch, a second bed, a working table, a resting chair and a little window overlooking the church bells. The window didn’t have a suicide stopper, but that didn’t worry me much, considering the room was practically halfway into the ground.
I had a look at the homemade brochure lying on the table.
Fire exits? Check. Fire extinguishers? Check. Toilet roll? Check. Mini bar? Nope. Ashtray? Never heard of it.
Apparently, Christianity is not all about booze and cigarettes after all, but they do appreciate a good, healthy fire once in a while.
The brochure said: "Welcome. Your stay here is about Jesus."
Sorry? I just came to see my sister. Yeah, she invited me for the weekend, and-
It went on: "And he’s right here among us!"
OH Shit! I took a look out into the forest as the evening light faded, mere silhouettes towards the general pitch black oblivion, and a cold shudder ran down my spine. There was a 2000 year old dead guy walking about somewhere out there…
I wouldn’t have come if my sister had told me. So typical of her! Always leaving out the crucial bit of information. Like when I met the Christian cat called Stig-Inge they had chasing mice there. My sister went: "Oh, there’s Stig-Inge. There he is. He’s so pretty. Real nice and cuddly. And so friendl-NO! DON’T TOUCH HIM!"
"He got AIDS."
After a humble soul search I found that I was hungry, and my sister insisted on making me some fried eggs and leftovers, which I didn’t make an effort to object. In the meanwhile I was left in a cramped room with some of her co-workers, a properly wed couple with a little toddler to keep ’em together.
"Have you been here often in the weekends?"
"No, I usually go to normal places."
They quickly left after that, a bit rude of them, but I guess they had to get up early.
Later in the evening we went for a walk, which is a natural pastime in any forest you may go to. My sister showed me the new and impressive additions to the growing complex, including a beautiful forest chapel, a football court and two pigs who clearly didn’t like me or the way I smelled.
Then we almost tripped over a bunny rabbit that was sleeping on the ground. In the middle of the ground. In the middle of the open area between whatever houses and objects that constituted very open ground. I put out a hand to see whether it was actually alive, and to my amazement it still was. I looked into the skies, then to the forest surrounding the area, then to the rest of the world in general that seemed very threatening to me if it had been that I was some such small animal like, say, a bunny rabbit, and back to the rabbit again. Nothing.
The rabbit was clearly suicidal.
I tried to hush it under a bush for cover, to do something if anything, but it made an effort to ignore me. I eventually gave up on it.
It was bound to meet Jesus sooner or later.
It got time for bed, I bid my goodnight and got indoors. I sealed the doors and the windows, just in case. When I’d brushed my teeth and done all the bedtime hassle, and was ready to sleep, I finally discovered how quiet the world was.
It was deafening. I couldn’t hear myself think. I felt my head was going to explode.
But what’s worse was the darkness. It was pitch black. It was so dark black dark around me where I was lying that a black hole would blush. I kept hurting my eyes against the pillows ’cause I had forgotten to close them.
I began to have small conversations with myself just to calm down enough to fall asleep. But then I got into an argument that soon turned into a full-scale pillow fight! Fucking bastard! I was trying to get some sleep here!
I declared the bed Switzerland and turned my back to it, with the faint hope that the parties involved would either stick to the peace agreement or execute the silence treatment. However, it didn’t take long until I was back on the defense again. This time I had the bed sheets all over myself, with my head squeezed real hard into the pillow until I could hardly breathe. I gasped for air, sweat pouring from my face and my back, but to no avail. I was so exhausted I fell asleep.
Despite my fears I hadn’t been awakened in the morning by church bells or special ceremonies of any kind, and with some light clothing on I waltzed over to the NECTA Colibri coffee machine standing in the hallway. It made enough noise to stir up the devil. Slurping the black brew on my way back to my room to get some cigarettes rolled and ready, I was caught up by a bunch of mad staring eyes. It was a painted poster by some smackhead called Margaret Keane (see post below). The poster looked back at me. It totally freaked me out.
My sister eventually joined me outside for a cup of tea while I smoked cigarettes with growing expectations for breakfast. When we got into the kitchen I was greeted with sarcastic remarks about having slept too long. Why, I’d like to see them get up before noon after a riot night in a hotelroom that was clearly haunted and had no trace of alcohol whatsoever.
This was our day, and my sister’s weekend off, so we managed to slip out of everyone’s view and have a nice walk in the forest by ourselves. It was good to get out into fresh, untouched nature again, although I went from sweating rigourisly to shuddering of cold and back to sweating again.
They’d told me this was bear country, and that wolves were known to stalk the area, so naturally I had brought my digital camera in case I could get a shot at Grizzly Man 2. Being a completely new camera I was kind of over-protective and we had to stop several times along the way to wait for me to put it down or pack it up again. The freakin’ bears would just have to wait.
We didn’t see any, although I got some nice shots of some elk tracks.
The following day we saw a wild hare that was on its way to change to summer paint. But then a stomach bug hit my sister and rendered her completely useless, and I was left to pack my bags and get ready to leave. It was about time for me to get on home anyway. The hours on the train were highly uneventful, as I dozed off in a sort of comatose sleep, only to be awakened by a couple of teenage girls arguing about the geographical whereabouts of Great Britain. One of the girls insisted it was close to Canada, or even Alaska. When I got on the 2nd train, eager for a cigarette – everything’s non-smoking these days – the three places around me were hijacked by retired people on their way home from a holiday.
"Is this seat taken? Is it taken? Hey, you! Is this seat taken?"
"Can you see anyone sitting there? No? So sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up!"
At half-past ten pm I was back home in the city of sin, refreshed and saturated with life, and I was glad that my sister had made me take this oppurtunity to get a swing at countryside life. I can honestly picture myself staying there for another week to just be on my own and get some proper writing done, but I had more pressing matters waiting for me at home. It was really good to see my sister though. Don’t get me wrong. I’m just not going to Bergen.