‘and she was wearing blue’

ESTONIA. How did I wind up here? Oh, that’s right, I met some girl. How many men are sitting in cafes this morning pondering the same thing? There they are, getting to the cafe as it opens in Istanbul or Tashkent or Saigon, ordering up an espresso, which is the preferred no-frills drink of the life-lived man, conjuring up memory, wistfully, dreamily, merrily, ‘Ah, yes, that’s how I wound up here, and she was wearing blue!’ I tell you though, those Finnish airport workers are sweethearts. Each time a Finnish woman wishes you moikka or kiitti, you melt. They are the firm rye crust. I am the rice being baked into the Karelian pie, melting, as I said, with every kiitti and moikka. I am not sure what it is, perhaps it’s that sisu they keep speaking of, the unknown Finnic element, a melange of grit, no nonsense, and vital essence. Here I am reminded of Jack Kerouac in The Subterraneans, “I am crudely malely sexual and cannot help myself and have lecherous and so on propensities as almost all my male readers no doubt are the same.” Nonii. Or maybe it’s just been hanging around preteen girls who keep confessing to me that they are in love with the actor who plays Draco Malfoy. They have all awakened my inner youth, the one who has been suppressed, kept down, imprisoned, chained, forgotten, beaten to the curb, beaten back. The heart, the soul, they yearn to sing, to fly, volare, but the weary humdrum clock of the world keeps them down, hidden away in the back of the drawer in the desk in the garage, like my grandfather’s bottle of scotch, which you only take out once in a while to sip on while musing over old photographs. “And she was wearing blue!” This morning I related some American idioms to a friend here. Or rather New York idioms. America is a big country, spread across many time zones, encompassing north of 320 million people. But in New York you hear expressions like, “How much does he make?” (Make as in money, not as in chocolate. Nobody asks how much chocolate a chocolatier makes in New York. They ask about how much money he earns from his craft). Another gem is, “I bet he’s really raking it in.” This is as if there was money scattered across the lawn after a storm and the New Yorker has to go out and use some landscaping tools to capture it all. Those greenbacks are like leaves, you see. You need to rake them in (I gesture with my hands to my friend, as if I am actually raking money). In Estonia, people talk about work. There is even this expression, mul läheb töiselt, which means something like, “It’s going industriously.” Estonians feel proud of this, if they are pulling out their hair and working first to last light and, especially, if they are not getting paid for it. They just work because … well, just because. They rake leaves, not money, and nobody even asked them to! In New York, the ideal is that you check on your investments from your phone on your yacht and then go and get some lobster or something. You barely lift a finger. In Estonia, you rake all day and then you die penniless of heatstroke and exhaustion, but at least you die happily, not because you got some money for it, but because töö sai tehtud, the work got done, and your heart is thus at peace, su süda on rahul. Not always, no. Not always always. Not everyone is like that, always, but sometimes they are. Sometimes.

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