There’s this cliff about 24 kilometers – I don’t know the conversion of that – away from the tiny town of Isafjodur, in the West Fjords of Iceland. It’s on a sequestered peninsula known by very few as Hornstrandir, (that’s where I was), a barren land of artic foxes, quicksand, glacier rivers, rising plains like unraveled rolls of wrapping paper thrown towards the horizon; speckled shards of faraway lakes gleaming like my ex-boyfriend’s drunken eyes when he would romanticize his Philadelphian derivative with packs of Camel Blues and repeats of Beach House. It’s the northern most territory outside of Svalbard – which belongs to Norway – and this cliff in particular – is the northern most cliff of that peninsula. It stands at the end of the world. And I only had two days to get there.
This cliff was to be the ending point of a month and a half long journey that had me hiking across the entirety of the country all by myself. I’d gone and done this to make headlines on Facebook, to make a video that’d get 1,002 views on YouTube, and to see if when I finally started to follow through with wanting to kill myself, I’d find revelation in the snow and the sky and the romanticized self-endowed faux-altruistic optimism one usually finds when they’re alone for such a time. And then I’d actually save myself.
I followed through for the most part. I lost my compass, intentionally. I never bought gloves. I never picked up as much food as I knew I needed. Every slab of Ice that would thunder like barges of aluminum with every step taken over it – I would be sure to cross.
In two days, I would be picked up and taken back to Reykjavik by a fisherman I’d met before my journeys into the highlands. Sometime after we fucked and swallowed and got hooked on Icelandic phoenix, he promised to pick me up in his boat, from the bottom of this cliff, and take me back to his wharf, where he’d let me into his wharf. Icelandic men don’t use words when they’re coming. I don’t think they have words for coming. They only have nice stories about kayaking around fjords and getting drunk at bars called ‘Harlem’ with Bjork and the Country’s head historian on Scandinavian sodomy. The fisherman had nice hands. Thick. Smelled of rope and callus and he was good at mooring his boats because he was good at mooring me, I’d be moored onto his bed, that’s how I knew what his hands smelled like, because he’d press them over my face. His last name, like all Icelandic last names, was named after his father and so I figured he was somewhat secure in his relationship with him. Beers with him meant $10 beers with the major, band members from Of Monsters and Men, and on one particular occasion, a car ride with the US ambassador where they both put their hands into my pants en route to a reception with world leaders on a German Warship. He also allowed me to forget about my alcoholic ex-boyfriend, who wasn’t an ex, but was, but wasn’t, because he taught me that even cheeks can remember things, especially the imprints of knuckles, and that I didn’t really mind that so much.
I thought I was in love with this fisherman, and because I wasn’t sure if he belonged to me yet, I would do all that I could to overcome the mountain pass so that I could get back to him in those next two days. I would try harder than if I had known that he already belonged to me, because that’s not what happens when you don’t know whom it is that you love.
And so I woke and I packed my tent and my bag and my can of cat food I punched holes into to make a makeshift stove, I plugged on my boots and hoisted the pack over my back – all forty pounds of it – and turned to face the mountain I was set to climb.
At that moment, it became apparent that covering the pass was this fantastical fuck storm of a wall of fog. Suddenly, the fisherman’s words of caution echoed through my head as if they’d been proclaimed by the mystics in The Dark Crystal. ‘Do not travel into the fog.’ ‘Grindr’.
But I had no time to waste. And I’m kind of an asshole to myself. So I decided to go up anyways.
I walked barefoot along a splintering shore to the side of the mountain I would be able to climb. The moment your shoes get wet, they’re soaked for days and reinstate themselves as micro freezers for your feet. Glacier water makes a crumb of sand against your feet burn like a knife digging into your sole. The fog was looming nearer with every meter I climbed. The thicker the fog, the harder it was to spot the stacked cairns made of rocks by traveller’s past, the higher I climbed, the more the rivers remained frozen and the wider the quilts of snow became. The more I found my own footsteps in the snow the more I felt lost.
But I didn’t stop, I couldn’t, I moved onward – like the Snowpiercer; ice stuffing the insides of my boots, soaked toes curling and curdling all at once from purple to mauve and into gangrene, until – Dead end.
I had come to a wall of ice. I craned my neck towards what I imagined was the sky and all I could see was white and white and white and the sun looming like a firefly behind a sheet of plastic. I had recalled a patch of ice sloping down from the lip of the mountain pass, the pass I needed to climb over to get to this cliff, to get to this fisherman.
And so I climbed. I kicked my feet and my hands into the snow and I climbed. For an hour and seven minutes, I climbed. Building a ladder into the Earth, every fourth step would slide me down seven feet, the higher I got, the more snow and rock and sheets of ice would topple over me, gashes of red on my forehead, fingernails corked off of my finger beds from having dug straight into the rock.
When I had finally reached a summit – quicksand mimicked the earth and for forty-five minutes I searched for a way down; on all ends, but there was nothing, no way, no safe passage, nothing that wasn’t a cliff, or a cliff, or a cliff, or the way I’d just come up – !
In a frenzy, I crossed over a patch of snow and FELL through into an icy sewer, every ounce of my body soaked in bone-shattering numbness that once I crawled out I stripped off all my clothing and standing bare-ass naked while the sun pretended to be a moon and while the wind beckoned me to lay dead into the Earth I bellowed:
‘YOU FUCKING IDIOT. YOU FUCKING GODDAMN LOSER. LOOK AT YOU YOU SACK OF SHIT GODDAMN IT WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO NOW!?
‘I DON’T KNOW-
‘YES YOU DO YOU FUCKING DO’
‘I CAN MAKE A FUCKING GOOD SANDWICH YOU SON OF A BITCH’.
And so I FUCKING did. I made my fucking sandwich. I got my pita and my cheese and I got my mayonnaise you son of a bitch, and I made myself the best fucking sandwich ANYBODY’S ever had when they’d been stranded on top of a mountain.
And then I put on my clothing. And then I stuck my hiking stick into the ground and tied a ribbon to it so that I’d have a marker as I scouted the summit.
And I found the path down and I scrambled down it.
And when I finally reached the opposite shore, there, I saw, the cliff.
And so I was no longer tired.
And so I walked another 6 hours to get to the tip of it.
I walked upwards through the fog up the outer thigh of this cliff; the light turning from silver to mauve from crimson to blue until the clouds were beneath me and the wind was applauding me and the sky was beaconing me to give up and fall to my knees for I’d never seen a sky so clear. The clouds were encompassing the rest of the world as far as the horizon had decided to choose itself and yet, here I was, above it.
There was no one to laugh with, but I laughed. No one to smile to, but I smiled. No one to lay on the ground with, though I did. No one to own the end of the World with. Every ounce of my moment on that cliff I wanted someone there with me, and so in that sense, I wasn’t on that cliff at all. It didn’t belong to me. It belonged to the idea of the Fisherman. And that made me loathe him. It’s astounding how the lack of something or somewhere that nobody’s ever known to see, carries a greater weight than what you have. We’re never pleased with ourselves. Not really. And so that’s why I didn’t go home the next day with the Fisherman. His boat came. And I hugged him and told him, ‘no’. And I went back to that cliff to try and make it mine. It never really became that. I was unable to separate him. The fisherman and I never saw each other again. It’s funny how sometimes we try as hard as we possibly can, only to realize in the end, at the dissatisfaction of it all, that it was never for another person, that its moments are gone.