10.30 PM, PASHA KEBAB. I have no idea what this neighborhood is called, Enghavevej, I think. There is a park here, and it is ringed by fine cafes, cocktail bars, shawarma joints, etc. My daughters went to the concert early, there was a line around the block of 15-year-old Danish girls with chipped black nail polish smoking cigarettes, their eyes painted up like Cleopatra. It was really a moment, and I could see why I was prohibited from attending the show, and as soon as they got in line, I was banished. I saw one other adult person in line, a Danish mother, and we looked at each other, as if to say, “I feel your pain.” There were Swedish girls as well sitting around, maybe from Malmö, and then I did hear a few American voices. But then I disappeared and left them alone, and wound up here, at the kebab house.
From here I ventured to a nearby kaffe, where I downed an espresso, two bags of potato chips, and two teas (actually a third, but it was a refill). Nice kids at the bar, one, a young man, is from the south of Sjælland, and the other, a pretty young lady in a white blouse who spoke both American and British English is from who knows where. I eavesdropped on her conversation, she had just broken up with her boyfriend, “And now I’m living the life!” she said, and her mother told her that in the scheme of things, her relationship was just parentheses, “And it’s true, you know. It’s really true.” I started to develop a slight rapport with these two, the kid from the south, the pretty girl. I told her about how I studied Danish years ago, after she said that speaking Danish makes your voice lower over time. My favorite Danish word was the word for nurse, sygeplejerske. Her favorite German word is the word for ambulance, krankenwagen. She absolutely loves, loves the word for ambulance in German. “It captures the drama of an ambulance,” she says. If only the German krakenwagen was transporting a group of Danish nurses, or sygeplejersker? This is our shared dream. I like talking to the Danish baristas at the kaffe.
Beside me, there is a woman approximately my age that looks dead bored, checks her phone, and digs through a mound of chocolate cake. Before, another writer type about my age came in with a pen and pad of paper and ordered a cappuccino and also checked his phone and wrote nothing. This made my very basic attempts to write dialogue and some concepts for my novel seem like a stunning achievement, and yet I also felt like a colossal failure, because I just couldn’t get it all done in two hours with a pen and paper in Denmark. I wanted to get it all done!
I love and loved the view from the window of the people talking underneath the umbrellas, and how just a bit of sun crushes the gray clouds at Scandinavian dusk, and turns the whole sky red. The people keep talking, and gesturing with their cigarettes, and dogs scurry by, and more bikes come, and some bikes leave, and other people come into the kaffe, and others leave. One man tells the barista who likes ambulances that he hasn’t touched coffee in 40 days. Forty days! An Indian student with a beard and long coat. Our krankenwagen barista loves this too. “I just love that you even counted the days,” she says.
Ah, the lush exuberance of youth.