the girl with the icelandic map tattoo

IN THE SPRING OF ’14, my wife asked me for a divorce. Somehow I managed to delay it nearly two years. I read a lot about midlife crises, and thought this crisis would pass. She met all the criteria: a) just turned 40; b) obsessively exercising and investing in her appearance; c) embarking on strange new hobbies. In one of our fleeting moments of still togetherness, we bought tickets to Iceland for Christmas. I thought it would allow us to reunite in the Blue Lagoon. Instead, she announced to the children that her decision was final and I swam away to the other side of the steaming waters. Most days, she didn’t bother to go anywhere with me (or us). Instead she hid in the back room on the phone with some Kashmiri dealer in esoterica named Mohammed. One day we did go for a walk by the Tjörnin during a snowstorm. She said that she would now try to find a new partner, and that I should too. I said that I did not want nor need a new partner. I was happy with the way things were. She was not. My mindset hasn’t changed much since that cold day, nor has hers. In the evenings, I was out and about in Reykjavik, eating lamb soup and relaxing at the Vesturbæjarlaug swimming pool on Hofsvallagata. It was here that I met the girl with the Icelandic map tattoo. She had curly golden hair, witchy blue eyes, and the outline of the map of Iceland inked on her right bicep. For whatever reason, desperate, half-married men with needy children clinging at their sides are incredibly attractive to a certain breed of young female. During several encounters, she gave me a come hither look, or more of a, “Don’t you want to go in the back of the changing rooms with me?” kind of look. So it had come to this, I thought. I had been a devoted married family man for years. Here before me awaited my fate in the form of a twentyish Icelandic youth with a patriotic tattoo. Five years later, I am still wondering if she was the one for me. I have found no one to partner with. There doesn’t really seem to be any reason to even have a partner, beyond sex and companionship. So I return to the girl from Vesturbæjarlaug. Maybe she is still there? Or has she finished her graduate studies in Icelandic literature? Might we sit together and talk about Halldór Laxness or Sjón? Then some time in the hot baths, followed by a thorough and satisfying lovemaking session in a cheap rented room downtown as I suckle her pink young breasts for dear life, glory, and god. Is that the best I can hope for now? Maybe so. Then, when it’s over and her golden mane lies draped across my chest, and I trace the map of Iceland on her arm, I can tell myself, this is what it was all for, and all that is now is much better than was then, and this is how it was meant to be. Maybe I will even tell her that I love her. “Fate!” I’ll declare. “Destiny!” Örlög, as the Icelanders say.

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