I moved to Trondheim, Norway, a month ago, to live with my fiancé. It’s just about the last place on earth I imagined I would end up, and I’m still not wholly convinced of my permanence here.
I’ve been here before, plenty of times, for three month stints as my visas allow. I’ve seen winter, and I brought sufficient sweaters. I’ve grilled in the summertime with our friends, and even laid out tanning in the park. I’ve gotten used to what I can and can’t have, the freshest salmon you’ll ever eat and the four or five shades of lipstick sold in every store.
I have many international friends here, but none are American. I’ve started to wonder if we’re not cut out for it, or more specifically, if I’m not, with my sharp tongue and apparently excessive enthusiasm. The first question we’re always asked is “how did you meet?” They assume it must have been in the United States. It was in Lisbon: a writing trip for me, and a vacation for him. “As the Norwegians do,” I say. They nod and ask me how I’m doing with language. I’m not, really. There never seems to be time.
The first time I saw the aurora was Andreas’ doing. He woke me in the night to say “my app, it’s at a 6, we have to go now!” The scene on his phone was a globe with a crown of glowing green, like Maleficent’s magic stroking the atmosphere. We bundled up and drove the car out to an empty field, stomping through snow. I’m never prepared for these things. There’s only so much I can bring with me on the flights, and my winter boots never make the cut. The sky flickered with emerald, in tiny patches over the water. There is so much water. And everywhere, it is beautiful.
The last time I saw the nordlys was the most spectacular. Well pre-gamed and half-stumbling toward another concert (Trondheim’s college crowd brings in surprisingly good artists) it bloomed overhead brighter than the scanning spotlights of the UKA festival. It washed across the sky, outliving all light pollution, painting its own milky way and then shifting quickly. A 9 on the app. After the concert we ran through the park, arms wide, whooping and shrieking, and collapsed, the four of us, close in the grass and singing. I’m surprised at how often I hear Let It Go, here, in English. We run back to the afterparty and dance to Cascada. “You know all the words,” they exclaim. You know all the words, I think. My friends, Andreas’ friends, are leaving soon, in the mass exodus of the post-college years, taking off for Bodo and Stavanger, buying houses and having children. I’ve only just arrived.
The city has become more familiar now–I turn into the right alleys without much thought, cross the King’s Square and veer left toward my favorite bar–but I’m still mastering the daily rhythms. I wake up late, confused by the darkness ensured by my partner’s thick curtains, which are a necessity in the long hours of summer daylight, and mimic the perpetual dark of winter I will experience in a few short months. I forget lunch entirely, and scramble to catch the correct bus toward the gym as my partner leaves work. I’m late for everything. I’m still working out the continent’s sleep schedule to which I’m most loyal.
I’m trying to find work. I’m editing and writing, and staying up late talking to my friends and team-members back home. If what I tell you is fleeting, it’s only because I have no grip on it myself, yet. This time, there is no return ticket. We make do, and blame the weather. We make new friends where we can. We look up to the heavens for some kind of magic. We sing, and we try to learn the words.