Copenhagen and the Vikings

In three weeks it was going to be her birthday. It would be her first one spent in Europe and she was determined to celebrate by going on holiday. She already had the time booked off work; she just needed a destination.

It had been several weeks since she and the Viking had parted ways in Berlin. Though she was back in London and he in Copenhagen, they were emailing and texting almost daily.  Despite the distance, she was still enraptured by him.

She messaged him for advice knowing he was well travelled. The man had backpacked across Australia, gone on Safari in Africa, taken boys trips to the United States and for fun, was a ski instructor in Austria. The Danes notoriously loved their holidays and he was no exception.

She had narrowed down her list of choices to Lisbon, Paris and Reykjavik when she cheekily suggested he should accompany her. When he explained he couldn’t get the time off work as he had a month long trip to Brazil already booked in the near future, he surprised her by suggesting she should visit him in Copenhagen instead. She hadn’t even thought of that.

At first she was hesitant. While it felt like she had known him forever, in reality she had known him for just a few weeks. For all she knew he was trying to lure her to a strange country and her impending death, something mother and father would certainly frown upon. Then she thought; what if he didn’t kill her and they had an amazing time just like their one night together in Berlin? The thought of regret was greater than the fear. Plus she knew it would make a good story so long as she lived to tell the tale.

“What’s in Copenhagen?” she wrote to him.

“Me and a warm bed” he replied.

She booked her flights right then and there.

Later that night she was at work cocktail waitressing for an upmarket steak restaurant in the heart of the city. It was the kind of establishment where the guests were an eclectic mixture of suits, celebrities and tourists.

She had gone to fetch a bottle of wine from the store room only to return to the cocktail lounge and find three young men had sat in her section. There was something about the way they looked and their accents that reminded her of the Viking.

As she approached the table to introduce herself as their waitress she discovered they were not only Danish, but they were also from Copenhagen. They were living in London for a semester studying as part of their Business Master’s degrees. All three were tall, blonde and handsome. Bloody Scandinavian genetics she thought.

She was enjoying their drunken banter and dirty jokes when they asked if she’d been to Denmark before. She told them she had literally just booked flights to Copenhagen that morning to visit a man she had recently met, and that it would be her first time to the Nordic country.

“You know it’s just fucking right?” the drunkest one blurted, triggering the second one to chortle.

“Excuse me?” she replied, half shocked and half amused by his bluntness.

The third and more sober of the three interjected.

“Excuse my friend, he just meant dating is super casual in CPH. You might start sleeping together quickly, but you’re usually not exclusive until after a very long time”.

“Well been there, done that” she said with a wink.

“Girls make most of the moves as well”

While she wasn’t sure what it was that she had with the Viking, she didn’t like the thought of beautiful Danish women pursuing him while she was stuck in London.

“If he’s invited you to Copenhagen then I’m sure he must really like you” the third said kindly, almost as if he had read her mind.

There was something about this particular Viking that she liked in a platonic way. He was warm and well-mannered and she felt immediately at ease around him. The company he kept however, now that was slightly questionable.

She thanked them for the advice and walked back to the bar to organise their drinks. They stayed for only one round before saying goodbye and moving on to the nightclub next door. Though only sitting there for a short time, they had planted a tiny seed of doubt in her brain.

A few weeks later, she was working her final shift before her holiday when the same three Vikings reappeared.

“Oh no! Not you guys again!” she joked and feigned concern.

“Have you been to Copenhagen yet?” the previously drunk-now-sober one asked.

“The day after tomorrow!” she replied excitedly.

“We need to teach you a few words for your trip” the second exclaimed.

“Tak! Means thank you” the third advised.

“But the one thing you really need to know is how to say “Cheers!” which is…”

Skål!” they all yelled in unison and clinked their beers together.

“Ok! Tak!” she responded, and they all laughed with approval.

She left them alone and continued serving other tables only to be waved back over a short time later. They were going to a house party later that night and invited her to join them after she finished work. She was interested but didn’t know what time she was finishing. She exchanged phone numbers with the third Viking and promised to message him when she was done.

“I don’t even know your name sorry” she said.

“I’m Jacob” he replied and they left.

By the time she finished work it was 1am and she was exhausted. She messaged her new friend to let him know she wouldn’t be making it to the party. He responded it was ok and to have a great time in his home city and that they should go for a beer when she was back so she could tell him about her trip. She agreed about the drink, thanked him and told him to have a good night.

The day finally came for her to see her Viking. It was 4am, she was packed and patiently waited outside her Stoke-Newington flat to be picked up by the private car she had booked to take her to the airport. She was so nervous with anticipation she peed nearly ten times in the space of an hour. When there was no sign of the car she started to feel sick in the pit of her stomach with anxiety. She called the car company barely containing her frustration when the man down the other end of the line informed her that daylight savings had ended overnight. She was ready an hour early and wasn’t going to miss her flight. She felt like an asshole and an idiot.

As promised the car arrived on time and delivered her to Stansted Airport. After a one hour and fifty minute flight she arrived in Copenhagen. She loved the proximity of everything in Europe, especially compared to back home where one can fly for two hours and still be in the state of Western Australia. It was still morning, but the sunlight somehow made everything look like it was 5pm as if the sun was just about to set rather than rise. It was the end of October and she was in Scandinavia. Apparently daylight was a scarce commodity in that part of the world at that time of year. She couldn’t imagine what it’d be like in January. Vampire country maybe she thought. The Viking had told her to bring gloves and she was grateful for the recommendation. It was also so cold her nose was burning.

He couldn’t meet her at the airport because of a party at his apartment the night before and he wanted it clean in time for her arrival. She followed his instructions and caught a train from the airport to the suburb of Svanemøllen where he promised he would meet her outside the station.

As soon as she arrived at the final station she was overcome with nerves. What if he’s nothing like the man I met in Berlin? What if it’s really awkward for the entirety of the next two days? What if he doesn’t show up and this is all a sick joke? On top of the legion of possibilities that plagued her, her phone had refused to pick up any signal. She had no way of calling him or even checking maps for his address. She was about to have her very first panic attack when she heard a beeping noise coming from her bag. Her phone had finally connected to the country’s communication service and she had received a message. It was from him; Look up.

When she did she saw him across the road walking towards her. Everything she had been feeling just moments before faded away.

She met him half way at the median strip in the middle of the road. He was just as attractive as she remembered him, even rugged up in a not so flattering navy duffel coat. They exchanged hello’s and kissed for a solid minute in the middle of the road. He took her luggage in one hand and her hand in the other and walked her to the other side of the road. She was telling him about her flight when he stopped her in front of a bakery.

“Have you had breakfast?” he asked with a grin.

“No I haven’t actually” she replied.

“Well, seeing as you’re in Denmark now you should start with a Danish pastry, or as we say here “Wienerbrød”, although they’re maybe not as popular here as overseas” he said with a wink.

He began conversing in Danish with an elderly lady behind the counter and as she watched she found herself immediately turned on by him speaking his native tongue. Accents had long been her kryptonite. She watched as four different types of pastries were placed into a brown paper bag whilst he paid the lady. Having purchased the pastries they continued down Østerbrogade towards his apartment.

When they reached his building, they went up to the top floor in potentially the world’s smallest elevator. What’s this, an elevator for ants? She mused to herself. It was so tiny they were squished against each other, not that she was complaining. She made a joke about getting to know the neighbours well in it and he admitted to her he had to carry all his furniture up the stairs when he first moved in because it was too small to use. She was impressed since he lived on the fourteenth floor and also glad she wasn’t around for move in day. He was inclined to not move again for quite some time.

His apartment was delightful and the definition of Danish Design. The space was bright thanks to large windows, natural lighting and plain white walls. The furnishings were minimal but modern and appeared to be hand crafted with great attention to detail. The appliances in his kitchen were in various pops of colour and the shelves in the living room weren’t cluttered. He seemed to have only the things he needed and she liked that. She was drawn to a peculiar 3D box shape mounted on the wall. It was a Snellen eye chart that also doubled as a wall lamp. He noticed her looking at it and explained his father, who was a Doctor, had given it to him.

He ushered her out onto his balcony while he made her a coffee. The view was breath taking. In front of her was a sea of red, brown, orange and charcoal coloured roof tops and just beyond, the autumn trees marked the beginning of Fælledparken. It was a Sunday, so the streets below were extremely quiet. Only the occasional ring of a bicycle bell, the chirping of birds and the laughter of children broke the silence.

The Viking joined her and they sat eating pastries and drinking coffee, catching up on each other’s lives. She learnt he lived with a police officer who she would meet sooner or later and by all accounts was a little crazy, especially when he drank. What was it about Danes and Alcohol she wondered, although being Australian she was the pot calling the kettle black.

She was please to find he was just as kind, witty and intelligent as he was the first time she met him in Berlin. Her stomach couldn’t stop doing somersaults.

After an hour of settling in and several make out sessions like they were teenagers again, he decided to give her a tour of the city. They visited the Little Mermaid statue based on the Hans Christian Anderson tale which she found to be sad and lonely, followed by a walk of the grounds of the 17th century star-shaped fortress Kastellet, where he gave her a Danish military history lesson.

From there he took her to see Frederik’s Church, a beautiful 18th century Evangelical Lutheran structure which happened to be the oldest in Scandanavia. They walked down the street away from the church and its near Tiffany-blue dome and past the various embassy’s until they came to Amalienborg. It was known as the Four Palaces and the home of the Danish Royal family including Australian born Princess Mary. She was surprised by how open to the public it was and how few guards there were. She took the opportunity to document the moment with her camera, asking a passer-by to take a photo of her and the Viking.

The final stop on the personalised tour was Christiania, the former military barracks turned self-proclaimed autonomous hippie commune in the heart of the city. It was started in the 1970’s by artists and squatters and she had never seen anything like it before. The buildings were coated with different styles of art, the air smelled of marijuana, and tiny DIY homes surrounded a lake which was sat so still it reflected the sky. At one point a Rastafarian on a bike cycled past them with a heart shaped rainbow speaker blasting reggae. It was one of the more surreal moments in her life.

He took her home and cooked her dinner. While he cooked she drank red wine and curled up on the lounge to watch a Premier League game. He was impressed she liked to watch sport. The rest of the evening was spent getting to know each other further; verbally, as well as in the bedroom. At some point late in the night she awoke to hear his housemate come home but immediately fell back asleep.

The next time her eyes opened she was officially twenty five and she couldn’t think of a better way to start it; in bed with a handsome Scandinavian. It was 7am on a Monday and the Viking had work. He didn’t have curtains so the sunlight pierced through the window like a sword through flesh. As he got dressed, she hid herself in the darkness and warmth of his covers.

He wished her a happy birthday, told her to make herself at home, wrote down the address of his work for her to meet him at later and left. His elusive housemate had already snuck out before meeting her, allowing her to potter about alone to check her emails and Facebook. Australia was six hours ahead so she had already received a few birthday messages.

After a few hours she gained the courage to leave the apartment and walk solo around the city. The weather wasn’t as pleasant as the day before. The morning had started sunny but the day gradually progressed into wet, grey and gusty weather. The artic winds were excruciatingly cold when they found their way to her. She managed to locate Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park in the world. It was way too dangerous to go on any of the rides so she just wandered about the park and people watched.

She stumbled across Strøget, a pedestrian shopping strip where she fell in love and wanted to buy almost every item on display in the windows. She loved the fashion in Copenhagen. Everyone looked effortlessly stylish using a predominant combination of black, white and grey. Flattering and hardly ever out of fashion she thought to herself. She had always preferred winter clothes to summer so she thoroughly enjoyed seeing the array of scarves, boots, coats and hats worn by the gorgeous Danish women walking or cycling past.

She was nearly struck down by a young woman on a pale blue bicycle, after accidentally walking across a bike path. She knew Amsterdam was famous for being the biking capital of the world without having been there, but Copenhagen must have been a close second. Cyclists reminded her of bee’s buzzing about a hive, which was the city. If she wasn’t careful she was going to be stung by one.

She found it was a pleasure to see a city so “green” and environmentally conscious which helped her understand the Viking’s thinking a little better. After all, he was an Environmental Planner.

After a quick bite to eat in an empty restaurant she found Nyhavn, the picturesque port with blue, green, yellow, red and white house’s lining each side. It was probably the most photographed part of the city. The sight of the coloured houses contrasting with the grey sky was astounding. She was interested to see what it would look like in summer with tourists spilling out of the bars and restaurants as well.

She headed towards where the Viking worked which was opposite three large rectangular lakes. By the time she got to his office she looked like someone who had been standing in front of a wind machine after a bucket of water had thrown over their head. She was extremely embarrassed to meet him in front of his colleagues who stared at her from their desks. They all wore matching expressions on their faces as if to say who is this Australian mess? The Viking didn’t seem to care though, scooping her up and kissing her for all to see.

They said good bye to his co-workers and walked for twenty minutes down Fredensgade, past the hospital and across Fælledparken until they reached his local supermarket to buy groceries for dinner. Even though it was her birthday she decided to cook dinner for him to say thank you for having her. Luckily the weather was perfect for her signature dish; lamb stew with mashed potato. The saying ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’ was not wasted on her.

Once home they jumped immediately into the shower together to warm up. It was like Berlin all over again. Once they were finished she began preparing dinner. As she busied about the kitchen, he answered work emails at the dining table, all the while explaining how he was going to save the world one environmental policy at a time.

He introduced her to the Danish artist Agnes Obel who played on loop in the background, setting an equally romantic and melancholic mood. The fact she had to fly back to London in less than twenty four hours was already on her mind. If she could of, she would have stayed with him in that apartment forever.

She had her back to him and hadn’t realised he had temporarily snuck away from the table. As she was stirring the stew he surprised her from behind, placing his left hand on her hip and dangling a gift in front of her with his right. He kissed her neck and whispered Happy Birthday into her ear.  She hadn’t expected anything from him and it was the first time she had ever received a present from a man.

It was a Danish designed fish mobile. The wire was gold and the four fish, each varying in size were made of differing coloured cardboard. It was simple and delicate and she loved it. He told her it was identical to the one he had bought for his soon to be born first nephew.

“It’s for above your bed, so you’ll always think of me while you’re lying in it” he added.

“Tak!” she said, followed by a kiss.

Two minutes after they had sat down for dinner his housemate came home. He had just finished a shift and asked to join them, bottle of wine in hand and looking ready to party. She remembered the Vikings warning. They had thrown a party for his birthday the night before she had arrived, but his birthday was actually the day after hers, so they decided to celebrate both with red wine, white Russian cocktails and anecdotes.

“Skål!” she said as she initiated a clinking of drinks. They seemed impressed with the few Danish words she knew.

The stew was a hit and both men helped themselves for seconds. When their bellies were full and the apartment ran dry of alcohol they decided to don their coats. They walked down to a pub two blocks over where they taught her Danish Billiards and she played ACDC songs on the jukebox.

It was around 2.30am when they called it a night as the Viking had to work again in the morning.

Along with the sunlight came the ringing of his alarm and the reality of her impending departure that day. Both of them were a little sombre, though neither tried to show it. The night before she recalled how they had talked about when they were going to see each other again. In a week and a half he was off to Brazil for a month. By the time he’d get back it’d be nearly Christmas and there was no way she’d be able to get work off again until after New Year since December was a ridiculously busy month for the hospitality industry in London. They toyed with the idea of him visiting her in January, or meeting on mutual territory somewhere else, but nothing was set in stone.

He went to work and she spent the morning on the balcony drinking coffee. The weather had improved from the day before and was once again sunny and cold. She was impressed with what she saw of the city and Danish people but wished she had more time to explore it further.

His housemate didn’t wake until close to midday, but offered to drop her off at the Carlsberg Brewery on his way to work. She took him up on his offer and spent the first half of the afternoon there before meeting the Viking in the city centre.

He took her on a romantic stroll through Kongens Have, also known as The King’s Garden, which would become her favourite place and memory of the city. It was enchanting in the autumn. They went back to his and spent one last time together in his bedroom before he drove her to the airport.

It took at least ten minutes for her to leave the car and for him to allow it to happen. They were both a mess. Finally, she confessed to him she had left a present for him in the apartment, but didn’t tell him what it was or where he would find it. She kissed him one last time, thanked him for letting her stay, got out of the car and walked into the airport without a glance behind.

On the return flight to London she fought back tears the entire way. She had a gut feeling she wouldn’t be seeing him again.

She was on a transfer bus home from the airport when she received a text message from him

‘I miss you already too’

Before she had left his apartment to head to the brewery she had placed a pocket sized Portuguese dictionary on his kitchen window sill. She had studied it for fun a few years earlier and thought he’d get some use out of it in Brazil. On the inside cover she had written ‘Eu sinto falta de voce’ which translated to “I miss you”. He had found it.

Over the next few weeks they talked, even while he was on holiday in South America. He asked her to fly down and join him and as much as she wanted to, she didn’t have the funds or time off work to do it. As the weeks passed communication between them slowly faded. Christmas and New Years went by. She booked flights to Prague and Stockholm in January while he went to Austria.

By the end of February he admitted he had started dating someone else in Copenhagen. What could she do? Damn those beautiful Danish women she thought when she learnt of the revelation. A year and a half later she would hear he had become a father. She knew he’d make an incredible parent.

She concluded she wasn’t in love with the Viking; she just loved the way he had made her feel. She had been broken for a long time before she had met him in Berlin. He had somehow not only healed her, but also brought her back to life just by showing her kindness and respect, giving her the knowledge that there were decent men still out there. He was a brilliant, sexy, smart and funny man in a different stage of his life compared to her which she happily acknowledged and accepted. She knew deep down even if they had seen each other again she could never make him happy long term and only hoped he had finally found it with the other woman.

From there on, her standards in men would always be higher because of him and the way he had treated her. She would always remember turning twenty five as her favourite birthday.

Though the Viking was never truly hers, he had done something for her that no man in her life had ever done before; he had given her hope. He enabled an ever growing chain of events to unfold before her and brought about the endless bound of opportunities she would soon experience. No matter where she was in the world, she would be forever grateful for meeting him.

A few days after her trip to Copenhagen she walked into a bar in Soho. At a high table with a pint in hand Jacob was patiently waiting for her. He had messaged her to see how her holiday was and if she had liked his home city and she agreed to discuss it over beer. He would become one her dearest friends and the reason she’d go back to Copenhagen over and over again until she eventually fell in love with the city and its people.

Advertisements

Endings and Beginnings

She had always tried to fix the broken ones but in the end they’d always broken her a little instead.

They met at a mutual friend’s boat party. All the girls had noticed him except for the laughing, carefree girl who had jumped off the bow of the boat with a beer in hand. Her lack of attention had fascinated him and he was drawn to her like a moth to a flame. He went straight for her as she grabbed another drink from the esky and introduced himself with a cocky pick-up line. Once he was on her radar she saw he had a bad boy vibe and a hint of sadness to him, which she quickly discovered she couldn’t resist.

He was the stereotypical Aussie footballer type; athletic, light brown hair, blue eyes and tattoos. He was private school educated, raised with money and had that slight sense of entitlement one sees in a person when everything is handed to them on a silver platter. He worked in the family business with his father who cheated on his mother most of his life. To him it was natural behaviour and he emerged emotionally stunted.

She was raised with laughter and two loving parents but not a lot of money. She moved out of home at seventeen and worked two jobs to put herself through university. She refused to get any Government assistance. If she wanted something she worked for it. Nothing in her life came for free. When it came to men she was an optimist, always wore her heart on her sleeve and always thought things would work out in the end.

They started sleeping together the night of the boat party with neither of them interested in a ‘relationship’. She had an indefinite trip organised long before they met so there was always an expiration date on whatever they were from day one. It was the first time in a while she wasn’t looking for something serious so her emotional walls were up. Despite their different personalities, social backgrounds and the warnings from various people, the arrangement suited them both.

Within weeks she was acquainted with his friends and family and when they were out he insisted on paying for everything. To everyone who knew of their arrangement they were carefree friends. At night however, behind closed doors, he slowly revealed to her his soul. She was surprised by his words and trust as it made her question the casualness of the situation. At the same time she was unsure of their status, she felt like she was a positive influence on him.

One night he picked her up from her bar job and took her back to his house. She hadn’t been feeling well all day so he offered her some pain relief. Whatever he gave her was strong, prompting her to ask what it was. He revealed he had spent some time in hospital for a bone eating tumour in his skull and the medicine was from that time. It had affected his blossoming football career and she could tell he didn’t divulge that information to many people. She was touched he had opened up to her about something so significant to him.

Later that night, unable to sleep from the humidity and feeling ill from the strong medicine, she lay awake next to him thinking he was sound asleep. She moved and he nervously asked if she was awake.

“Yes” she replied

“I love you” he whispered. Was she hallucinating? She wasn’t sure. An awkward amount of time passed before she spoke.

“Can you say what you said again to me?” He was silent. She rolled over, placed her chin on his bare chest and looked at him. “I’m not sure if I heard what you said correctly, you need to say it again”.

He spoke again repeating the same words which left her speechless. Because she had kept her guard up she hadn’t allowed herself to have feelings for him.

She didn’t know what to say so she kissed him and he kissed her back. After a while he realised it was a distraction and stopped to go use the bathroom. For twenty solid minutes there was silence. No flush of a toilet. No running of a tap. Nothing. He had gone in there to escape. When he finally returned he ignored her, got into bed, rolled on his side so his back was facing her and went to sleep.

The next morning he was brushing his teeth and walked out of the ensuite to find her sitting on the edge of the bed. She looked at him still confused and unsure if it had all been a dream.

“You said something to me last night and I don’t know if it was real or not” she said.

“Was it something good?” he responded

“I think so”

“Then it probably wasn’t a dream” he said before walking back into the bathroom. That was the last time it was mentioned. From that point on he pretended like it had never happened and she was too embarrassed to raise it again.

It took her a long time to pin point the very moment he went cold on her. Later she realised that the night he said those few words, the night she said nothing back, that was it. That was the moment. He had opened up to her and without realising it she had hurt him. When she had hurt him, he began to withdraw like a tortoise in its shell.  To make things worse, the moment he began to build his walls, she saw it as the moment to finally let hers down.

For the next few months she battled with him to show his emotions again. She felt he ignored her unless he was drunk or it was late at night; usually both. He also liked to flaunt other women in front of her. After all they weren’t exclusive.

Every time she was on the verge of giving up he would somehow reel her back in with words or an act of kindness. Sometimes it was a display of jealousy or a drunken deep-and-meaningful conversation. He’d show the old him and her hope would go on. She would always ask him how he felt and about their situation to which he would always respond with “this is what you wanted”. She was a fool.

Any sane woman would have walked away but she felt too invested. She saw moments of greatness in him and held on tight to them when he was cruel to her. She thought he was punishing her and eventually it would end. It wouldn’t, because she couldn’t fix something that was unfixable.

The one great thing that came of it all was that it made it easier for her to leave when the time came. One night as they were walking through a car park with friends the subject of her trip came up. He said something about when she was back and when she told him she didn’t know if she’d even be coming back the look he gave her was forever burned into her memory. She saw then and there the realisation that crossed his face. He finally understood she wasn’t going on a holiday, she was moving countries.

On her last night in Australia she spent it with him. He even offered to take her to the airport. Towards the end he became kinder but at times was still distant, like he was phasing her out. Despite all that had happened she completely understood why. When she left she thought things had ended on good terms and they would at the very least remain friends. As she boarded her flight she sent one final text to him. It was her goodbye.

– SIX MONTHS LATER –

She was curled in a ball on the bed in her dank London basement flat. Her eyes were swollen and red from crying and the bed sheets were soaked in patches from where her tears had fallen. She had received an email earlier that morning which had devastated her. Though thousands of kilometres away, part of her was still in love with him. When he had reached out to him he had told her to move on and to forget they had ever happened. Despite being on a different continent on the other side of the world he had managed to once again hurt her.

He was in a relationship with a ‘friend’ of hers. She had found out thanks to photos of the two being posted on social media and not from the friends who knew of its beginning merely weeks after her leaving. She felt betrayed by many people despite them telling her it was withheld to spare her feelings. He had stated time and again he didn’t want a relationship but it turned out it he just didn’t want one with her. She felt like damaged goods.

When she found out she emailed them both to ask what was going on. He couldn’t have been nastier and her so-called friend declared “I have no loyalty to you”. Well that was that then she thought.

It was already going to be a long day before she had received the news. She worked as a bartender in Broadgate near Liverpool Street Station. There was an exhibition of expensive cars outside her bar that day which she knew would draw people in for lunch. Her clientele were mainly bankers and half of them were truly wankers; funny how they rhymed. She wasn’t in the mood for their shit.

In the middle of a busy lunch service she dropped an unopened bottle of red wine which shattered at her feet. A cut in her hand began to bleed from where the bottle sliced her and matched the shade of her now soaked socks. Her day was going from bad to worse and she was on a double shift. She still had to work the night shift which turned out to be equally as busy as the day.

Three guys had come in early in the evening and tried to lift her mood throughout the night. The first was obviously keen on her, the second was too good looking to be real and last seemed a little crazy. The one keen on her was a music executive for an international label. He was nice and attentive but she just wasn’t interested or attracted. The good looking guy was a personal trainer and the slightly crazy one worked high up for an airlines company. They were all English and friends from school, and all determined for her to have a good night.

When she finally knocked off the trio asked her to join them for a drink. It had been a long day and she needed one, so she agreed. They invited her to get a taxi with them to Shoreditch, the hipster, happening suburb of east London. Usually she didn’t accept or share rides with strangers, let alone three men, but this time she didn’t care; she needed the distraction. They ended up at a seedy nightclub which was open until 3am. All of her drinks were bought for her but she kept a close eye on them to make sure they weren’t being ‘roofied’.

The music executive kept making unwanted moves on her on the dance floor so she ran away to the bar. She was in line when the personal trainer popped up next to her. They began chatting and she discovered the slab of muscle was also heartbroken. The next thing she knew he was kissing her and she was allowing him to. When they came up for air she saw the music executive was watching them before storming off. She grabbed the personal trainer’s hand and led him out of the club.

In the cab on the way to her flat they established it was just sex. It was what they both needed despite being emotionally attached to other people. She went into stealth ‘Seth Cohen’ mode to sneak him in. Unfortunately for her, not only were her two Scottish housemates wide awake at that hour ever for the first time ever, they also had all their male friends over. The personal trainer received an absolute grilling.

When she got him to her bedroom he was so drunk he couldn’t get it up. They tried countless things before he pretended to fall asleep. No way in hell are you staying here mate. She knew he was faking sleeping because he lived on the other side of London. After ‘waking him’ she eventually convinced him to leave, booked him a taxi and walked him outside. It was eerily quiet.

I don’t know where I am” he said. A three legged albino fox ran past.

“You’ll be ok” she said turning away to go back inside. “We all will be”.

The next morning she pulled out her laptop searching for a much needed holiday and to get away from everything. She couldn’t go immediately, but at least by booking something then and there she could have something to look forward to. She clicked confirm and it was official.

She was going to Berlin.

 

Berlin and the Viking

It was her first night ever in Germany and she was sitting in a dark, smokey bar in Berlin’s hipster suburb, Kreuzberg. She was accompanied by the strangers she had just met that day at the hostel where she was staying. She hadn’t been fussed about going out, but a fellow Australian had convinced her to accompany him and a couple of American girls for dinner and drinks.

When they had first walked in, a large English buck’s party was leaving. They’d taken one look at her before shouting “Agnetha! Agnetha!” implying she looked like the singer from ABBA. Her blonde hair and blue eyes had always thrown people wherever she went. On the flight over the Air Hostess assumed she was German and started indecipherably rambling to her. Sometimes people mistook her for Polish, even Irish, usually some sort of Scandinavian; definitely not Australian.

There were just enough people in the bar to make an atmosphere which was exactly how she liked it; crowds and drink queues annoyed her. It was a run down, minimally furnished establishment which resembled a large living room more than a bar. She’d forgotten smoking inside was still allowed in some parts of the world as a thick layer of smoke blanketed the top half of the room. There were clearly no smoke alarms in the building. She made a note of the exits.

They had made their way to a group of couches surrounding a coffee table and close to the door. It was good to be near the entrance. Every time it opened it allowed fresh, cold air in and countered the smoke. It was September, but summer was already well and truly over in Europe.

She was too enamoured with getting to know her new friends to notice she was being observed. It was after the fourth round of drinks when the Australian man nudged her.

“That guy keeps looking over at you” he said as he gestured to her right. She sharply turned her head to see another set of couches next to them occupied by six men. When she looked over, her eyes locked with a man’s and she quickly looked away. She shyly looked once more and the same man immediately asked her something in a foreign language.

“Är du Svenska?” which turned out to be Swedish for “Are you Swedish?” She started laughing and told him where she was from. He was shocked and she was intrigued, so they began a conversation from his couch to hers.

He hailed from Denmark. The only two things she knew about the country was that it was Scandinavian and was where Mary Donaldson went to become a Princess. He was an environmental planner for the city council in Copenhagen, into kite surfing, skiing and tennis and could speak Danish, English, German and Swedish perfectly. The only languages she knew were English, Australian, sarcasm and bullshit.

While it was her first night in the city, it was his last. She explained to him how she had moved to London eight months earlier. He wasn’t fond of England, but liked Australia and went on to explain how he had travelled the east coast of the country once to visit a girlfriend who was studying there at the time. She was from the west. Not as many people ventured that side.

How had she not noticed him in the bar sooner? He was a 6’3” blonde with a warm smile and the most incredible eyes she had ever seen. They went from blue to green to yellow. He looked tan in his long sleeve white t-shirt and when she got closer to him, could see his skin was lightly dusted with freckles. To her, he was a modern day Viking.

Why on earth was this man interested in her? She felt he was way out of her league. She was in her mid-20’s, only had a bag of clothes to her name and spent her time wandering the earth. She was attractive but didn’t consider herself a knockout, nor did she think of herself as very mature. Being eight years older he definitely was and seemed to have his life together. She was half convinced he might be a serial killer. The other half thought he might be a figment of her imagination. She needed and wanted someone exactly like him and so he had somehow manifested like a sexy genie. She was grateful though, it had been awhile since she felt a spark with someone.

They were immersed in deep conversation for two hours before the Australian guy and American girls interrupted and announced they were calling it a night. She was so enthralled with the Viking she had forgotten they were still there. They asked if she was going back to the hostel with them. She looked at the Danish man. There was something about him that was niggling at her intuition. It was also his last night. He quietly asked her to stay. She agreed without hesitation.

While she said goodbye to her new found friends from the hostel he went and bought her a drink from the bar. It was some sort of watermelon flavoured cocktail with enough alcohol to subdue a ship full of sailors. It was disgusting. His friends decided enough cocktails had been consumed and enough time had passed for them to gate crash the conversation. Who was this Australian girl talking to their bachelor Viking buddy? She quickly learned the Danish were a cheeky bunch and they were on a boy’s trip before one of them was to become a father.

Everything was going well until the Viking leaned in and said “I have to tell you, you look just like my mother”. Geez thanks, she thought. Talk about a buzz kill. She wished it was a ‘lost-in-translation’ moment, but his English was unfortunately too good. He quickly realised the effect of his comment when she started to withdraw from the conversation. He apologised and explained how it was just a compliment, and that she looked Scandinavian.

He was back in the game.

After a few more rounds the rest of the Vikings set off to find a kebab. No matter where in the world one travels to, the kebab is the international symbol for curing late night hunger.

Once they were alone the Dane took the opportunity to move closer and in one swift, suave move, he kissed her. She melted. At that point she was ready to move to Denmark and have his blonde multi-coloured eyed babies. He was very good at kissing.

After an intense make out session they both stood. No words were spoken, but it was apparent they were going back to his accommodation.  They walked out of the bar together and stopped for another kiss. As their lips were locked together they heard cat calls. His friends were gaping out of a taxi stopped in the middle of the road, kebabs in hand yelling at them. Awkward. Four guys crammed into the back seat while another jumped into the boot. German taxi drivers were mellow fellows. The Dane hopped into the front and she slipped in to sit on his lap. With his long legs and her head bent by the roof, it was an uncomfortable ride. His German to the taxi driver was impressive though.

It turned out the Vikings were staying at a Hostel as well. It wasn’t as nice as hers but was larger and had a bar on the ground floor. They’d saved money on accommodation to spend more on beers. It suddenly dawned on her they would all be sharing a room together and there wouldn’t be any privacy. Luckily, the Dane realised the same thing. As the men went one direction down the hallway, they peeled off and went another. It was past 3am by this stage, so fortunately the majority of inhabitants were already asleep.

After trying a number of locked doors to linen cupboards and empty dorm rooms, she was led to the communal bathroom. It was here or nowhere. Now or never. When in Rome she supposed, or in this case, Berlin. It was a small bathroom, just a single shower, toilet and sink. He grabbed her and started kissing her furiously. She started removing both of their clothes. It was cold so they moved into the shower and let the hot water pour over them. Things were getting heated. They were too drunk to realise the shower drain was clogged with hair. It started overflowing, flooding the bathroom and soaking all of their belongings. They were too busy laughing and exploring one another to care. At one point they heard giggles from a couple who had briefly stopped outside to listen to them. She was pressed up against the sink while she looked at him behind her in the mirror. As he slowly entered her repeatedly he touched the front of her softly. It was the first time in her life someone had made her orgasm. Not the ideal setting, but definitely the ideal man for the challenge. She had only ever encountered selfish lovers who never bothered to help her get over the line. She was definitely having at least ten of his children.

It was 5am when they decided to call it a night. He wrapped himself in wet clothes and ran to his room to find her a dry shirt. When he came back he asked her to stay with him. He didn’t want it to end just yet. They snuck into the room and climbed into a top bunk. She found it hard to sleep due to the lack of room, the fact she was in bed, being spooned by a stranger and was surrounded by random snoring men.

She was restless and kept moving around. To soothe her, he started touching her again. By this stage it was daylight. She opened her eyes and looked around to see her surroundings while trying to stifle her moans. The father to be who rested on the bunk opposite them was looking at them half asleep. She saw the flicker of understanding register on his face and he turned to face the opposite wall clearly embarrassed.

A few hours later and after a total of 15 minutes sleep, a chorus of phones began ringing. It was time for the Vikings to get up, check out and fly home. They silently and quickly left the room, bags in hand, giving her and the Dane one last moment of privacy. They were in the middle of very intense sex when a maid walked in. She thought everyone in the room had already checked out and, when realising her mistake, hastily backed out so they could continue to finish each other.

They jumped down from the bunk. There was regrettably no sexy way to do it. She dressed herself slowly, while he packed. The awkward farewell chat kicked in and she hated it. When he was finished packing he walked her down stairs and into the street. It turned out she was only a 5 minute walk away from her hostel. He handed her his business card and kissed her. If she was living in London he wanted to see her again.  It was only around an hour’s flight away from Copenhagen. He held her face and kissed her again, told her to enjoy Berlin and turned to make his way to the nearest U-Bahn.

In that moment she had no idea if she would see him again.

Little did she know that she would.

She also had no clue about the chain reaction of events that had just started.

She pulled out a yellow IPod from her bag, fixed the earphones in her ears and put Bloc Party’s Kreuzberg on repeat as she walked toward her hostel. From then on, every time she listened to that song she thought of him, and that one night she had in Berlin with a Viking.