Once in Finland we went kayaking on the river. Paddling upstream I realized too quickly that I’d never had to fight strange one-sided currents before, the grasp of silent water constantly spinning me out of control. The air was too cool for almost-July. While the brightness of the naked sun called to bare my arms, the cold peeled the layers of knitted nylon back over my too-hastily exposed skin. People washed mats by the side of the river, scrubbing their rough surfaces out in hard vigorous strokes, beating them to compliance on the wooden racks. The water flowed by in rich orange brown, a shade I’ve never associated with water before, dyed from the rich minerals ground up by melted ice. Unencumbered by my clumsy strokes.

Later that day, I press my nose against the curve in the glass on a balcony in a converted silo, watching a slowly burning sunset glow persistently like a fading ember. A sudden hand on my shoulder, from which it has been absent all evening, spins me. Much like the river, its inertia pulls me back to the cool cement interior, closer to the four other bodies, held together by invisible social strings, their one-sided conversation leaves me clambering against an impenetrable current of softly muttered indecipherable syllables.


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