Letters from PohjolabyLauren Hynde©
And if your life is not too turbulent I would be very happy to get a letter from you. Just one.
-- Bret Easton Ellis, Letters from L.A. (1994) --
20 Oct 2003
You will never guess.
As I write you these lines, I'm travelling at a snail's pace across the low hills of northern Belarus. It feels like I've been drifting aimlessly forever. Vitebsk is now behind me, I suppose, and the Russian border is closing in. A frail sun hangs low above the eventless horizon, frozen, and draws long and dreary shadows that really ought to be confined to the pages of Goethe and the rocky slopes of the Harz-Bröcken.
So. Yes. Against better judgment, I'm taking the long route over, because... I don't know... I guess I needed the extra time to think.
I've been obsessed with you for so long, and that night we spent together -- my last night at home -- was so perfect. So unexpected.
It changed everything.
I should be in Finland by now, doing research and focusing on my book. That was the plan. That was the original purpose of this journey.
Instead, even as I watched you sleeping that night, exhausted, even as I watched our mixed sweat and saliva evaporating from your skin, even as I washed the remnants of our love from my body the following morning, and even as I called a taxi and kissed you goodbye, I was contemplating the enormity of the mistake I was making.
I ought to have stayed with you.
Instead, I have wasted the last three weeks, almost to the day, jumping from train to train, from country to country, trying all the time to persuade myself I really was enjoying this eastward slogging about cities old and new.
Instead, I have found myself in places like Père Lachaise or the banks of Saint Martin Canal. I met a group of friends from university and followed them to Amsterdam and in and out of coffee shops, where the coffee was shit but no one seemed to be drinking any anyway. I got lost somewhere by the Keizersgracht and got to Central Station. Then there I was in Berlin, strolling along Leipziger Str. and amongst the new high-tech buildings of Potsdamer Platz, still in a haze.
I kept buying tickets for trains like the EUROSTAR and THALYS and EuroCity.
I just kept moving east.
All through this, you were the only thing in my mind, robbing me of my usually flawless rationality.
Locked in these old trains' micro-lavatories, I relived that last night in my mind and on the tips of my fingers.
I would sit naked on little counters with my panties stretched down between my knees and all of my other clothes neatly folded next to me, feeling the cold surface of mirrors on the warm, moist skin of my back, and pressing the soles of my feet hard against these dull grey doors covered with Czech obscenities in black ink.
I would grasp onto countertops with my left hand, knuckles white and trembling with the increased pressure. My breath would be rising, falling in time with my heartbeat, in time with the vibration of the diesel engines, in time with the two fingers sawing at my cunt.
I would be teasing my clitoris with the pad of my right-hand thumb while sinking my fingers deeper in me, throwing my head back, my hips thrashing violently.
I would moan and call out your name, and at times someone would rap at the door or try the knob despite the Busy sign and I would start calculating the odds of that person being you, and as I felt my orgasm building up, I would think 1 to 6 thousand millions would be worth it and next time I would leave the door unlocked, maybe, the sign would say Vacant, would say Available to you, maybe next time. Maybe.
I reached Warsaw before I lost control, though. I forced myself to stop, to breathe, to just think clearly.
I waited for you the whole summer; I can wait few weeks more.
It was not too late, yet. I could tell my editor I had decided to take a short vacation before sinking my teeth into the job.
So. Again. Here I am now, decidedly on my way to do what, after all, I'm being paid to do. I made a few calls and I'm meeting her in six days. Until then I have more than enough time to check into a nice hotel and pull myself together.
That pale sun I was telling you about is now setting. You can almost taste the cold stillness in the air.
Please don't worry about me; I will be fine. Another six, seven weeks at the most, and I'll be on my way back home, back to you.
The train should reach St. Petersburg early in the morning and I will mail this letter first thing. Your reply can probably beat me to Helsinki if you send it right away.
31 Out 2003
You naughty boy! It has been ten days since I wrote and haven't heard back from you yet!
I hope my letter didn't upset you. I'm aware that we haven't really known each other that long -- or that well -- but I just feel so close to you already, as if we've been together all our lives. That night was more than just sex. It was special, for both of us.
But tell me. How have you been? Have you been missing me at all?
I only arrived to Helsinki's sub-zero temperatures last Sunday because I decided to play the tourist. Once I got to St. Petersburg, I had to. All that neo-Byzantine 18th-century decadent opulence was too glamorous to resist. There's something terribly alluring in State-sponsored self-indulgence. It's like going back through time to the years of Imperial Rome, in a way.
The sheer scale of it all... the richness of the architecture, the museums and the long promenades, the canals. You can truly feel the history in a place like this. It's not only about the age of things; it's the weight they carry.
Anyway, after a few days of cultural debauchery, I was ready for that legendary ice-coated Finnish Spartanism.
My first day in Helsinki: Monday morning, as soon as I stepped out of the hotel lobby, it felt as if I had landed on some freakish planet populated by humanoid robots. You could almost hear the low hum coming out of their clockwork viscera. Ok, I'm exaggerating. Probably. But let me tell you: for people like you and I, not even used to being fully awake before ten, all this activity at offensively early hours seemed extremely suspicious, at the very least.
Still, I spent that morning strolling about, exploring. The best thing about this place, I thought, isn't the technology, the profusion of cultural equipment or the general neatness, impressive as those things may be. There is something else. Nature is all around us, here. The sea is everywhere. You can feel it with you all the time, even in a town of this magnitude.
And the light! Oh, Victor, the light is just amazing. You would love it here. You should visit, sometime. Really! Wouldn't that be great?
I met Liisa, my editor, for lunch -- at 11.30 AM, for fuck's sake! What a sweetheart. She helped me to plan out my stay and a work routine that would suit us both and, that afternoon, introduced me to everyone at the Aalto Foundation, the Academy, and the Archive, effectively cutting off every opportunity for procrastination.
Then we just talked and talked. I told her all about you, about us. She was very supportive. Being on my own for the most part of a month, I had almost forgotten what was like to have an intelligent conversation. It was so invigorating.
Over the last few days, then, I have been progressively adapting to this new mindset, to work -- the research, interviews, the occasional fair copy paragraph -- and to life.
Liisa is taking me to a party tonight, on some club by the South Harbour, and introducing me to Helsinki's weekend nightlife. I am almost looking forward to it.
I must go dress up for it, now.
Victor, I hope you realize how much I miss you and what would mean to receive a letter from you. Please write back. For me?
7 Nov 2003
Today I got to see my first full-blown snowstorm since I arrived in Finland. I woke up at 6:30 (I know!) and looked out the window, and there it was: a thick, heavy, power line short-circuiting, tree branch bending, cold blanket of pure white snow.
Up until now, all I had seen was the occasional light flurry, with most flakes melting on contact, or the usual thin layer of ice coating the ground after a frosty night.
But today, today it was a blizzard! It eventually became weaker with the afternoon and died out altogether just before the sun set.
God, you should come to Helsinki just once to see this, if nothing else.
I'm writing this letter from the City Conservatory, which has become one of my favourite hangouts, especially after a long day's work. Imagine a huge glass castle filled with lights and sounds and scents, exotic flowers and trees. Imagine canaries, budgies and chaffinches twittering, and now imagine you're there, comfortably sit, drinking the warmest, most aromatic tea you ever tasted, and outside the glass walls, as far as your eyes can reach, nothingness. Just the blackest moonless night and the softest bright snow.
That's right: Heaven.
In less than two weeks, I've done more than I could have thought possible in a month. The research is coming along with incredible smoothness, and if I don't watch out, I have a feeling I will soon have gathered enough material for not just one monograph, but for several of them. If all continues to go this well, I am sure I will be able to return to you even sooner than I expected.
The ease with which I got sucked into this machine, got comfortable with the frugality, the self-discipline is almost frightening. The ruthlessness, I sometimes wonder. No, I don't think so. But, there is something. A clear sense of purpose.
I said it is almost frightening, above all, because the time I spent here so far has been enough to give me an insight into Helsinki's hidden face.
Do you remember that party I mentioned I was going to with Liisa, in my last letter? It was Halloween, that night, and I had completely forgotten about it. I ended up having a great, fun-filled night, but mostly it was... well, instructive.
In a sense, it was as in all those J.G. Ballard books. If you take any society that is so well regimented, restrained, almost obsessively focused on a given goal, be it efficiency, security, or leisure, you will get a group of individuals on the brink of exploding.
The only way to maintain a level of sanity is by finding a way of slowly releasing the accumulated societal pressure. What better way to do it, other than methodically engaging on therapeutic, transgressive behaviour?
What I found was an underworld of suspended moral and aesthetic judgments, even if only for a few hours. The same reserved, industrious people I pass by everyday on the street, transformed into weekend reckless drunkards, blithe drug dealers, leather clad nymphomaniacs, as well as attractive but shy Mediterranean girls.
So, worry not. In spite of the multiple solicitations, I didn't yield to temptation.
Speaking of which... Are you seeing someone? Is that why you haven't written?
Please. I don't know what to think, Victor. I don't know what to feel.
Write me sometime soon and let me know how you are, what is happening to you. Just a quick note. A line or two. Anything.
24 Nov 2003
Hi! Did you get any of my other letters? I'm not even sure, anymore. I don't even know if the time we spent together really meant the same to you as it did to me. I can't believe it has been eight weeks already since the last time we spoke.
I talked to Liisa (my editor, remember?) and she said there's a very good chance that I could be offered an extension of my contract for another volume, maybe two, so you can easily infer everything is going well for me. If that were to happen, I would have to prolong my stay for a few months, at least. I don't know... It would be a great opportunity, and I am having the time of my life, but could I really let go of so much? I have been dreaming day and night of seeing you again.
I'm afraid, I think. Afraid of what may come if I stay.
As I write this, I'm sitting on an almost too comfortable leather-lined sofa of the Fountain Hall, at the City Conservatory, sipping a strong cup of tea. It's the most relaxed atmosphere in the world, protected from the crowd as in the midst of a rain forest, listening to the wonderfully soothing, unpredictable and therapeutic sound of falling water behind me and the cheerful chirrup of the birds above. Beyond the glass curtain in front of me, snow falls silently on the now frozen lawns, oblivious.
Last time I was here, three days ago, something happened, and I don't know if I can explain it, or even if I'm ready to do so.
Maybe I'm changing. With this increased efficiency, this ability to remain focused on a task, I am also becoming somewhat more reckless. More impulsive.
Three days ago, I sat in this same sofa, listening to the soothing water and the cheerful chirrups, watching the snow fall outside, unwinding after an entire week of solid work. I felt more and more relaxed, sensual.
I felt the fabric of my clothes clinging to my skin, tantalizing. Through closed eyes, I saw you in front of me, your confident smile, your eyes scorching with desire and anticipation. My heart quickened.
Where I was didn't matter anymore.
My face felt hot when I touched it and it were your fingers that touched my lips, my neck, trailed down my body. You squeezed my breasts roughly through the fabric of my blouse, and my nipples hardened against the palms of my hands, against the palms of your hands.
There was no way back from there.
I curled one leg under my skirt and felt the warmth and moisture permeating my satiny panties. I moaned softly, as my calf rubbed against my aroused clitoris, my slick labia, my mons pubis. Awareness as the ultimate aphrodisiac.
On the conservatory glass wall I saw myself reflected, the exposed, sweat-covered skin of my thighs gleaming under the hot yellow lights, a portrait of lasciviousness and dissoluteness.
And then I saw her. A slender figure drawn against the backdrop of bright white snow, a gorgeous young woman stood there, clad in a white, pinch-waist, full-length coat, with her back to the glass and wrought-iron structure. Her hair was golden, her skin pale and unblemished, her lips full and curling into an inscrutable smile, her eyes the deep blue of a thousand lakes.
I should have frozen, but I didn't. I couldn't.
I slowly started to undo the first few buttons of my blouse, tilting my head forward and a little to the side, coyly.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her move a hesitant right hand down over her body to one thigh, then back up to her face, to her ablaze hair.
I relaxed back to the sofa and threw my head back with an audible sigh, and ran my left hand along my neckline and down to my cleavage. My right hand played with the hem of my skirt and caressed the soft skin of my inner thigh.
Time stood still as I peeled the damp fabric of my panties to the side, exposing the glistening, puffy folds of my cunt to her and slowly slid two fingers inside.
I could feel my whole body trembling with excitement and lust.
She struggled for breath, her hands lost in the folds of her garb, her hips moving fluidly, her eyes fixed on mine, iridescent diamonds piercing me, branding my soul.
I closed my eyes. My breath came in ragged gasps, every breath a moan. I let go of myself, my body drowning in the stream of sensations, my hips thrashing uncontrollably with the first ripples of my orgasm.
I lay languidly on the sofa, afterward, the leather wet and warm and glossy with my juices.
By the time I opened my eyes again, she had vanished.
If you ask me why I did it, or why didn't I stop when I saw her standing there watching me, I wouldn't be able to answer. I can't even understand what am I doing here again now or why did I feel the need to tell you about it.
It felt good, though, I can't deny that. It felt too good.
Write back, Victor. I so want to hear from you.
PS: After rereading this letter, the expression 'therapeutic, transgressive behaviour' came to mind again. I should be worrying.
5 Dec 2003
Another two weeks have gone by and not a word from you. This is what -- the fourth, fifth time I write? It's starting to feel more as if I were writing a diary than actual letters to someone I care about.
My whole life prior to coming here is starting to feel more like a dream, to lose that structured, textured tangibility of reality. It's starting to fade in comparison to this accelerating spiral of events.
I feel more alive than ever before, immersed in a high-definition photograph of an alien landscape.
Aura. That's the name of the woman in the Conservatory.
Every night after I wrote you that last letter I would walk around town, trying to get my mind off her, but I always ended up in that same place, looking for her, my heart missing a beat each time I saw those blue eyes.
Every night we would play this game, pretending that we weren't really expecting to see each other, that we weren't trying, pretending that we were just turning up in the same rooms by accident, over and over, each time a surprise, a sparkle of recognition lighting up in quickly diverted eyes, but not so quick as to hide self-incriminatory smiles.
Every night we would end up in that same protected niche behind the large fountain and seduce one another without a word, and I would sit on that sofa and pretend I didn't see her there with her back to the glass wall and her eyes fixed on me.
I sometimes wondered what the two of us would look like to someone, if there were someone, standing outside, watching us from the snow-covered lawn, watching us in our warm, yellow-lit display window.
Instead of inhibiting me, however, that vague possibility only added thrill to the overwhelming rush of my orgasms.
Today we talked for the first time.
I shouldn't call it an accident, but it was at least unplanned, or another of those reckless spontaneities in which I'm getting so prolific, lately, and one as capricious as simply looking up to the young starless night sky for a second, as I walked out of Liisa's office into the busy Mannerheim street, and lowering my eyes again to find her. She held two black canvas bags in her arms, filled with Christmas presents elegantly wrapped in silver, and when our eyes met, she froze as stunned as I was, as stunning as ever.
Her mouth opened as if to say something, but slowly closed again. We stood there in the middle of the holiday shoppers' flux, silent, lost in each other, and after what seemed like an eternity, but could have been just a few seconds, her surprised expression warmed up to a smile, and we could both breathe again, and my heart resumed its beat.
She whispered 'Hi' in a husky voice that sent my heart racing once more.
All I could say in reply to that was I had just found out would have to go to Jyväskylä over the weekend and stay there for a few days.
'Come with me,' I breathed without thinking.
I still can't believe I said that.
Her eyes gleamed and she squeezed the bags she cradled in her arms tighter, and hid her smile behind them. And then she said yes. I'm to meet her tomorrow in the Senate Square, before the students' torchlight procession.
She only even told me her name as she was starting to walk away, still facing me, still smiling.
God, I'm too high to even think about it. I wouldn't know what to think anymore...
Anyway, Victor, I'm going to be away this week, and the plan was to wrap up the last loose ends of the monograph, check some facts, visit one or two interesting sites. Liisa will forward any mail I receive in the mean time.