Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Perhaps the cinnamon shop was the only mystery left in this world

We'll just pause the second crash for a moment to go back and think about the old woman who crashed into the big van earlier on. She's crashed into a van, she's waved away some ladies in white coats, but what no one knows, other than us, is that this is the last day of her life. And yet she's not going to play a bigger role in this novel than that, she's just going to float in the water, just like the novel's only little log. All she does is wave off some ladies n white coats and then: disappears from the story, which is quite symbolic, really, given that the day we meet her, this day, is the day that she dies. So what about this old lady? What about this old lady's entire life? What about the fact that she's taught French grammar at the University of Bergen ever since she got her degree, that she likes coffee with brown sugar, that she doesn't have children, that she's sharper than most people and that her specialty is the French imparfait tense, which can be translated as the "past continuous," and that she'll shortly have a fatal heart attack in a parking lot, possibly triggered by the stress of crashing into another car, and thus, forever, pass into the passé simple, the "simple past" tense? And what about what she was doing early this morning, not knowing that it would be the last time she's do it, those little, everyday things, like drying herself with a hand towel? What about the fact that the old lady, as she walked to her car to drive into town and find a lot that was slightly out of the way, which was where she was heading when she turned onto the road and hit a reversing van, what about the fact that she was thinking about something she'd dreamed during the night, something very strange: that she was at home in Ørsta and that is was December and dark and there was snow everywhere. And that she walked down the small pedestrian street with shops on either side, and everything was closed and there were Christmas stars in all the windows and plastic spruce garlands with yellow and red lights strung between the shops on either side. And these crisscrossed the street with their yellow and red lights as far as the eye could see, and she passed a shop she'd never noticed before, a small green storefront squeezed between the other stores, with a sign that said CINNAMON SHOP. And she went over to the window and looked in and saw that it was true, there was cinnamon everywhere. Cinnamon in small glass bottles in the window, cinnamon in small glass bottles and small paper bags on the shelves behind the counter. Cinnamon in kilo bags. Loose-weight cinnamon under the glass counter. How, she thought, does a shop like this survive? Don't people buy cinnamon in the supermarket? Where they can buy whatever else they might need, cookies, coffee, and bread, she thought in her dream as she stood in front of the window. How much cinnamon would you need in different forms and weights to make you go to the cinnamon shop to buy it? This is what the old lady was pondering, very much awake now as she headed to her car for her last drive in this life. What does one say, she wondered as she pulled her car keys out of her pocket, when one goes into a cinnamon shop? I'd like some cinnamon, please? Isn't that obvious? Or should you say: Do you have any cinnamon? Not, that would make a mockery of the cinnamon shop. The person standing behind the counter would give you a look that clearly said: Idiot. This is a cinnamon shop: of course we have cinnamon! Perhaps, for that reason, it was a silent shop, where there was no need to say anything other than please and thank you, which could be alternated, depending on which transaction was being made (handing over money) (handing over cinnamon) (accepting money) (accepting cinnamon)? The old woman didn't know, but she thought about the feeling she'd had in her dream as she walked away from the cinnamon shop that stood alone in the middle of the pedestrian street, in the December dark one evening in a dream, after closing time, with Christmas stars shining in every direction, and the cinnamon shop's green wooden facade gently illuminated by all the stars: perhaps the cinnamon shop was the only mystery left in this world, and thank goodness for that, thank goodness for the cinnamon shop, thank goodness that it was there, squeezed in between the multitude of other consumer stores, and only sold the one thing, cinnamon, and was so baffling, so utterly baffling, and yet at the same time totally banal and simple and obvious in its existence.

Yes, what about that? What about the fact that the old lady was thinking about all this before she died? And, taking a wider perspective, what about the role that such dreams play when you're going to die? What kind of existence could one say they'd had? They've existed, because they've been in someone's head. But they've never been shared with anyone else. They've existed, they were vibrant and vivid in their existence. What happens to the dreams on's had when one forgets them the minute after one's woken? What happens to the dreams one's had and never told to anyone because one dies before one gets the chance? Did they fly out of her, did she forget? Did they fly out of her like small butterflies when her heart crashed, when all that remained of her was a dream about an absurd cinnamon shop, something invisible that disappeared out of her body, along with herself? Sadly, we will never know the answer to these questions.
— from Wait, Blink, by Gunnhild Øyehaug

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