The Indian and the Finn
I’m getting accustomed to life in Unhappistan. Waking up in the middle of the night. Shuffling through the emotions that range from terror to despair. Plus the squalid stuff; self pity. Not noble. Not nice. The best I can do is not expect too much from myself. That’s all.
So I’m sitting at home on Saturday night wondering how many episodes of House of Games I can stuff down my media gullet at one sitting. And I get a text from my friend, the Indian, who lives up the street.
“My neighbor and I are going to Barbes to hear music,” she wrote. “Want to come?”
It wasn’t a difficult choice. Netflix can wait. That’s the beauty of it. I slapped on some makeup grabbed my jacket and went out to join my friend.
On our street the Indian introduced me to the Finn, who is her neighbor and running buddy. The Indian likes to run. Their idea of a good time is to run for 26 miles together. They go all over the world to run. This year they’re going to Riga. The way they decide where to run next is that the person who most improves their time in the last marathon gets to choose.
The Indian is petite and beautiful with long, curly black hair. The Finn is Scandinavian blonde, north of six feet tall, with the body of man who likes to run long distances for no particular reason.
I asked the Finn how far they’d run today. “Not far,” he said. “Only seven miles.”
Barbes is known in our neighborhood for its live music. It’s a tiny venue with an always amazing lineup of musicians. They play for tips, so they’re in it for love. I’ve never not had a good time there.
There’s nothing better for us Unhappistan-dwellers than to hear somebody do something only for love.
The first act was a couple who are from Georgia—the country, not the state. They had a lot of songs to sing, all of them gloomy.
“Can’t they find something that’s not in a minor key?” the Finn asked, half way through the act. He was being sarcastic. Like most Scandinavians, he can be snarky in several difficult languages. He was clearly enjoying himself.
I decided Georgia must be next door to Unhappistan.
Then the Georgians asked us to sing with them. Georgians like to sing together, they said. So we sang with them, or rather we chanted. Like Gregorian monks. Or Georgian monks. It was a moving experience. I like to sing. I went to a posh private Church of England school where it was mandated that we sing in chapel every day. I especially enjoyed the singing part of school.
It’s hard to be unhappy when you’re singing, even when the song is sad.
The second band was a Mexican brass band. There were 10 or so guys, all playing complicated-looking instruments, some of which I didn’t recognize. Tight, they were. Great. More cheerful than the Georgians, but the bar wasn’t that high. Cute they were too, but more on that later.
I don’t know the Indian that well, although I like her a lot. She’s great fun and has the dearest little terrier dog named for a classical Greek hero. She has a polite, modest, unassuming nature.
The Finn and I were chatting. I noticed that he wore a wedding ring so I asked him about his wife and family. His wife lives in Helsinki with their two children, he said. He lives in Brooklyn. He is operating under the assumption that their marriage is headed in the direction of rocks, although he isn’t sure. He only sees his children about once a month. I said I was sorry.
Marriages, it appears, end in all kinds of ways.
While we were chatting, the Indian disappeared. And then we saw her. The Mexican band was on a break. The Indian had chosen the cutest guy in the band and was making her play. For a trumpet player. Looking good in a tight, white tee shirt. Right up there on the stage.
I was impressed. Deeply impressed. And told the Finn so. “I don’t like his hair,” he said. Too fluffy.
But look at his biceps, I said. Dude had a commendable set of deltoids as well. Holding a trumpet aloft for several hours a week, something to do with that, probably.
The Finn remained unimpressed. He didn’t think the trumpet player was worthy of his running buddy.
But the Indian didn’t agree with his assessment, because while we were chatting, she whisked the trumpet player away. Right under our noses.
I was impressed. Audacious, bold, decisive. Didn’t even say goodbye. Just whisked him away.
The Finn and I walked home, and it snowed.
It was a lovely evening. I like walking through Brooklyn in the snow. I like making new friends and realizing that life can change, even in small ways, just like that. And somehow the actions of the Indian inspired me. She reminded me of a younger me. Someone who knew they could get the own way with men. It made me feel good to remember that I was once that person. A long time ago.
But that’s not the end to the story.
I wanted to end the story this way: Before the Georgians finished their act, they had another song to sing. It was specific to Georgia, they said, a country with a long and difficult history. So difficult Georgians have found it necessary to write a song that draws pain out of the body.
The song was beautiful. They way they sang it, even though I didn’t understand the words, tears ran down my face. The song drew the pain out of my body.
I drank cheap beer with new friends, and I sang, and I walked through the snow. And I felt better.