Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Helsinki, 16.10.92: Angels Watching Over

9:40 A.M., New York time: writing this aboard flight from Helsinki to New York . . . .

After dinner, simply paced the airport, waiting for the board to show my flight. I went to the information window to see if I needed to do anything about the customs declaration form, which I had lost. The young girl there spoke French, and kindly went and got me a new form, which I filled out and realized I’d done wrong, so I went to tell her that and she got another for me. As we walked, we conversed in French.

When my flight was called, I went to customs and there met a Finn who was extraordinarily kind and nice—another of those angels that have been with me on my journey. I have his card—his name was Kyösti S. I told him I was worried re: the fact I didn’t have my original customs form, and asked if it would be a problem. He smiled and said nothing, but a Finn ahead said, “Yes, it is a problem,” and then something in Finnish re: Russkies. Another man offered the same—“Yes, it’s a problem.”

Then I asked if the customs people might detain me and cause me to lose my flight, and a man behind, also Finnish, said, “That’s not their concern.”

But when I went through, the young blond woman, rather pretty, said after I explained, “Go on, it’s okay.” Kyösti had waited for me, beckoned, and said, “Come on, let’s go.” He had a kind face—youngish looking, brown hair, blue eyes, a nice smile—though in his 50s and a grandfather.

After customs we went to duty free, then he stood with me, helped me on the plane, told me of a store in Helsinki called Stockmann’s. He drew a map. He helped me board the plane, always beckoning me ahead of him, as a guardian.

On the plane, I was next to a large blond Finnish woman who works in Moscow, rather taciturn. During the flight, Kyösti came back to find me and give me the in-flight magazine with a map of Helsinki.

Got to hotel okay, and in comparison with Moscow, it was like paradise—clean, quiet, functional, efficient, circumspectly beautiful, as things Scandinavian are. I showered, called to tell Steve I was in Helsinki, and had a glass of vodka . . . .

Went down for breakfast, which was like the most delicious meal I’ve ever seen: bowls of plain and raspberry yogurt, granola, oat bran, other cereals, a bowl of large raspberries in juice, bowls of apples and oranges, sliced honeydew melon, 4 or 4 types of bread, including slice-your-own dark flat bread rolls, eggs marked 6 and 8 minutes, platters of sliced meats and cheeses, bowls of jam, butter, coffee, tea, milk, and cream. All was extraordinarily neat and incredibly good.

After breakfast, I checked out . . . walked more, checked in, and got onto the plane. We’re now en route: I feel absolutely awful. The only bright spot has been meeting another Finn who was very nice—a broad, sympathetic face. He, too, gave me his card. He’s en route to L.A.

My resolves for all to be radically different waver, come and go—mostly because where I’ve been for so long is simply unimaginable. I don’t lack resolve, if that word means determination: it will be different, because I can simply not continue to live as I do now . . . .

But imagination’s the problem. How? How to proceed? Where to go with the resolve? Where I can’t go is either back to miserable self-reproach and hopeless mere hanging on. Nor can I continue in a frivolous holding pattern in which I fritter time and energy while I avoid bringing together the two very disparate aspects of my life that have so long been held in soul-splitting tension. Only connect, E.M. Forster says—and now is time.

What I desperately need is the ability to live one moment, one step at a time. If this horrible trip has taught me anything, it’s that. And surely that was what yesterday was all about. Would I even be here now, if I hadn’t gone step by step?

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