Last month I submitted a short vignette to a writing contest. This contest was put on by the Iceland Writers Retreat, and the grand prize was a free ticket to the conference in April. I did not win (*sob*) but I’m glad I participated, and I send all congratulations to the winner. (You can read the entries by the winner and the two runners up here – which I encourage you to do, after reading my post here, of course).
The rules were simple – write 500 words inspired by an image of the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik. I won’t put their image in my blog post, of course, but I will give you a similar image that I took when I was in Reykjavik a couple of years ago (too long ago! I need to go back!)
Anyway, here’s my little piece, and a lovely picture of Harpa to go with it. Enjoy!
“If anyone is suicidal, they should come here,” he says to me.
“What?” I turn from the view of the bay and stare at him. “You are so insensitive.” It’s been a few years since my cousin died, but still…
“I am not. I mean, my God – just look.” He waves his hand at the vista before us.
A fierce wind is blowing, turning the water into a basalt gray; mere moments ago it had been a rosy yellow like the sky. I know it’s a fierce wind because I see the boats jumping on the water, but we’re safe inside this concert hall of glass. No, it’s more like crystal. Great blocks of manmade crystal, all glass-smooth, put together like a giant puzzle. Stairs, walls, ceilings – you can see through everything. It’s half mathematical wonder, half art masterpiece.
“We may be a hundred feet up, but it’s not like anyone could get through this,” I say finally, laying a hand against one of the clear cubes of the wall. “And I didn’t see any balconies on this place.”
He looks at me. “Now who’s being insensitive?”
“You brought it up.” The sky is turning white with clouds. I’m glad I wore my thicker boots today – by the time we leave, it might be snowing.
“So, you just…oh, never mind. You’re a jerk sometimes, that’s all.”
I expect him to get huffy – or maybe just laugh off my insult, which is more annoying than when he gets huffy. But instead, he does neither.
My hand is still pressed against the cold glass wall, and he suddenly covers my hand with his. “I’m not being a jerk,” he says quietly. “Don’t you see it?”
I look at him. “See what?” I ask.
“This. Everything.” He grips my hand. “Stop being so pragmatic for just a minute. Stop thinking about how we’re probably going to get caught in a snowstorm, or how much our coffees cost earlier, or how a jumper could actually get outside this building so they could fall to their death in the water.”
He’s never talked like this before. His face is strangely bright in the gray light coming through the glass. I want to ask him what he’s talking about, but suddenly I don’t know what to say.
“If anyone is suicidal, they should come here,” he says into my silence. “The water, the sky, the mountains, the light… There’s too much beauty, and you feel like you’re on top of the world. There’s no way you could end it all here, no way you’d want to anymore.”
The snow starts, tiny crystal flakes dancing just past our fingertips. The overcast grayness has suddenly brightened into joyful white light. Now I understand him.
“If anyone came here wanting to die,” I whisper, “they’d realize that they could live forever. And that it would be beautiful.”