I can’t say I know exactly why I agreed to come back here, it’s the first time I’ve managed to since Arthur left us. How long ago was that now? A decade almost. Stepping out here feels just like it happened only yesterday.
I have that tickle you get behind your nose sometimes when you feel like you want to cry. Do they have support groups for this sort of thing, this sort of moment in life? He was just twenty when he went, but it felt like I had known him for an eternity. He was a part of me. We weren’t twins, but we probably should have been, and I did everything for him, and he never said thank you. Never could, of course - couldn’t comprehend it. I loved him for that, just as I loved him for all the ways he was so different, loved the movement of his arms and the mystery of his eyes drifting off to places you’d never know. I even loved the tantrums. Not all the time, just sometimes, when it felt like he was actually talking to me and not off in his own world. I was the best at it, at pinning him down so he didn’t hurt himself. I was his protector.
There’s a heaviness to the air I’d totally forgotten about, the way the sea salt and the eternally grey clouds weigh you down sometimes and speak to your skin. I’d forgotten what it was like to walk around all day in wellington boots and hand-me-down anoraks that are always too long on the arms. Forgotten how there’s really no point in doing something nice with your hair, the first five minutes of any walk anywhere will see the wind blow it into something ridiculous. And I’d forgotten the comforting strangeness of all the cow shit, and the mountains that haunt as much make you feel frighteningly alive. Blueberry bushes everywhere you go, their fruit tiny like mouse droppings, blood red juice at your fingertips.
It’s strange how little has changed since we were young. The sound of the gravel beneath my feet, the walks that wind forever, the fir trees and the tall grass. People’s homes have changed a little bit, though, but I don’t see many of them on these long walks that I take in my wellington boots. When we were younger, people didn’t invest in home stuff. Didn’t modify as much. You built your house and that was that. They were modest and pretty, like on a postcard.
Now squinting through foliage reveals all sorts of monstrous extensions. My parents did the same to our place, that’s how they’ve been spending their retirement. I won’t say anything as I’d hate it if they thought I looked down on them, especially now that I’ve moved to the city, and given that I never came to visit.
It’s 5am and we’re out walking, there’s almost no one here but it’s light enough not to feel like my parenting habits aren’t too abnormal. We won’t see anyone at all for another hour or so, then maybe a stray passerby will comment on the fact that John isn’t all that friendly, and ask whether he’s OK with his little legs walking these hills as if the generations before us didn’t do it all the time. Honestly, Norwegians have gone soft. They’ve gone soft but they are no less prescriptive about how one should behave or be seen to behave than they were when Arthur was still around.
So what if John has an anxious surliness to him? So what if he doesn’t smile at strangers like the sweet little blond boy they think he is? So what if we just like to be out here alone in our thoughts together, not all interested in chitchat, mysterious and goblin-like in the energy we bring. I think, who cares what these people think. These nice people. These perfectly nice people. Who cares what anyone thinks. I want John to be immune to all of it, like Arthur was. He had no idea the fuss he caused in being different, and I loved him for it.