helsinki ship

I DROPPED MY ELDEST off at the airport where, after some difficult situations, she boarded a flight that would take her back to New York via Tehran, the only connection we could find at this time. Then it was down to the port to board a Helsinki-bound ship, a floating hotel of sorts, with a gray-painted clapboard façade, hanging gardens, and networks of stairs within that reminded one of the dark tunnels within the unearthed pyramids of Egypt. Up these stairs into the light, and to the top deck to watch the roll of the waves from Tallinn to Helsinki and the first glimpses of the rocky coastal archipelagos. The Estonian coast is, aside from some bluffs, long and sandy and lined with pines, but the Finnish coast reaches out with fists full of heavy rocks until one soon sees the gray and white dome of the cathedral. I was on a mission of sorts, and there were strange fellows on this ship. I had been trained beforehand by an Indian man from somewhere on the subcontinent who wore a neon yellow jacket, entrusted with a box to store the pirated goods, and even taught a special way of sealing the gems in place, so that it would be assured they had not been tampered with. At sunrise, all of these men from the East began to worship on the deck of the ship, but I refused to bow to the sun, or their gods, a decision that was met with stern stares and general disapproval. The yellow-jacketed man excoriated me in front of the others — “you fucking asshole” were his words — but I still refused to pray to the sun god. When we disembarked, I lost the others in a crowd. Helsinki was warm and summery and the Esplanaadi was thick and fragrant with new gardens and flowers. I took a taxi and to my surprise found myself seated beside some Italian actress, a dead ringer for a young Claudia Cardinale. She wore that blue sweater again and there was buzz in the air of some looming romantic deed. It felt good to be Helsinki though, I must tell you. It felt good to be anywhere.

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