Ben was working on his science/geography project one night. The next morning he flies out to Iceland, expecting to meet his cousin and his sister, but is greeted by his cousin with the news that his sister is missing, feared dead. The following night is completely sleepless. And the next morning, he can’t settle on anything:
Gerður leads Ben off the main Reykjavik high street and up and up a small side street towards the cathedral. A few doors up, they stop. A plain, white-washed and rendered building with a green door and a small painted sign pronouncing the offices of the childrens’ activity charity where Gerður is working these mid-uni summer months.
“This is me,” she tells her cousin, “I’ll meet you for lunch yeah? Blikki’s?”
Ben nods. Blikki’s. He’s there again in an instant, sitting across the table from, laugh and joking with, his sister. Helen. She pushes back her hair behind her ears, smiles at his joke. That smile…
“Yes?” Gerður repeats the arrangement. She nudges her cousin, “About one?”
Ben doesn’t answer, still partly drifting in his own thoughts he only slowly becomes aware of Gerður’s persistence in arranging their lunchtime rendezvous. He agrees: Blikki’s Bar, one o’clock. What is he going till to then she asks. He shrugs, naming a few options, the museum, art gallery – a swim maybe. She nods. She hugs him affectionately, gives his hand a comforting squeeze, and lets herself in through the door.
Suddenly Ben is standing alone in a side street off Reykjavik High Street, with absolutely no idea of what to do. He should be tired. He should sleep. Two nights ago, he went to bed in the small hours fired with ideas and possibilities for his project, only to rise again to catch the seven o’clock bus out of Oxford to make his flight to Iceland, and…
Less than twenty-four hours on he is as at a complete loss and unable focus his mind on the most trivial of things. As for his project, he finds it difficult to recall what he has been working on. He stops. Looking up, he’s standing in the middle of Reykjavik high street with not a single idea of how he came to get from that door back there where he left Gerður, to hear outside this fashion boutique. He can’t even remember how he gets twenty yards. This whole event has destroyed himself. Ben feels the tears on his cheeks, unable to stop them. He sinks down beside the wall, lowering his head into his hands feeling completely vulnerable.