I WAS COMING BACK FROM RAPLA of all places, traveling that curvy road south through Türi and on to Viljandi. I know the dark woods of northern Viljandimaa well enough, but the forests of Raplamaa, Järvamaa, those are true mysteries. Eerie shadowy little orchards and pine forests spread out alongside the roads, then big bundles of hay. Up there in the gray clouds, that big full moon. People in Viljandi kept messaging me. “Where are you?” “Why aren’t you at the party?” “You’re in the wrong place!” They were all drunk. Down at the Ugala Theatre, a major party was underway. People had come from as far away as Karksi-Nuia in their finest to take part in the scene, the socializing, to rub elbows at the bar. I didn’t want to go anywhere near that place.
I was done with it, and the thing was, I had just left another big party behind in Rapla too. There a funky band called the Kangelased was playing in an industrial yard to the local youth. But I just wanted to be on my own, to think things over. I’ve been there, done that, the drinking scene, the music scene, the one-night-stand scene. I wanted to breathe a bit. My daughter’s birthday was coming up and my 40th birthday too just months away (but now passed as you read this), and I didn’t know what to think. Had it all been a big party, a glorious triumph, or a bloody disaster?
There was this sensation as if I had been fleeing a crumbling bridge, like in some adventure movie. You run and the bridge just crumbles beneath your feet into some abyss as you head toward the safer ground. All of that was over. The big traumas, the big changes, the upheaval. That was all done, they said. So this is it, the safer ground, the vantage point. I had reached it and it looked like a tree-lined road outside of Rapla. Looking back, looking down that ravine of the past where the bridge fell was terrifying though. That moon hung in the clouds like an owl.
I put on some music to take my mind off things and it began to hail. Big glassy chunks of the stuff came hammering down out of the sky and pummeling everything. That lovely musical tinkle. This godforsaken beautiful country, what a mess. No matter the season, you could count on a freak hailstorm. The way grew icier and soon I could barely see, so I decided to pull the car over onto the side of the road and wait out the storm. Down it came still, in thick crystal flurries. It wasn’t freezing though, but it was moist enough that I could see my breath. Soon all the windows were obscured by fog. It was me there alone in the car and the sound of mother nature.
A song came on there in the dark. It was an old song that reminded me of my childhood, but it reminded me of something else. There had been another night, a humid, sumptuous evening in the hot summer. On that night, there had been another party, and there had been a lot of drinking, and when our wine glasses were empty we refilled them and refilled them again. Then, in the thick of it, a young woman I admired walked into the party in a red dress. As soon as I saw her, I leapt to my feet, as if animated by some supernatural power. I went at once to her and we began to dance to the same song that was now playing on my tiny car stereo in a hailstorm near Rapla.
A great gush of love began to flow through my body as we danced together that night, and it lingered even when the song ended, and we held each other briefly and I kissed her on the side of her head and embraced her just one moment more. “Thank you for the dance,” I had said to her, and she had looked at me and thanked me as well. “But now I must be going,” she said. “I know,” I said. Go now and live. Let the dream of life carry you forward into never-ending ecstasy.
For a few moments, everything had been worth it.
This column appears in the winter issue of the magazine Hingele Pai.