It was a glorious afternoon in Reykjavik. The writers conference I was attending was over and finally I had a few hours to myself. I hit the streets and developed a spontaneous routine: walk without direction, get lost, take lots of pictures, breathe in the fresh air, recognize a landmark or two, find my bearings again. Repeat.
The sun broke through the clouds painting the grey sky with a layer of deep baby blue. I peeled off two layers of clothing, sat on a bench in a park and basked in the sunshine. I felt truly content. Could I live here? I asked myself as I snapped pictures of an intergalactic rainbow unicorn painted on a wall in the Old Town area. Maybe. Maybe not.
Later, I walked to Hallgrímskirkja, the largest church in Iceland. In a couple of weeks, the Hallgrimskirkja’s choir would perform J.S. Bach, Mass in b-minor. I wished I could stay just to hear the two massive organs reverberate inside this 270-feet structure. On my way out, I noticed the four archangels, Gabriel, Michael, Rafael and Uriel, inlaid on the inside of the door.
As I walked along Austurstraeti Street, a pedestrian party strip, I was thinking about the four archangels when I spotted D. T. He was a few yards in front of me, wearing electric blue jeans, a red tie and a fashionable black jacket. I squinted in the sun, put on my reading glasses, and looked closely. A group of four locals wearing D.T’s face cutouts, horse played in the street. The scene didn’t amuse me. After all, I was in Iceland, 2800 miles away from the Washington circus, and this distance made me feel entitled to forget about this global tragedy named D.T. for a day or two. Then a fifth man with a Putin’s face cutout joined in. Okay, so they were making fun of the two presidents. Fine. Time to relax and appreciate a display of local humor and political perspective. They pushed one another, they wrapped the red tie around its wearer’s neck, then they had a group hug. Donald the Clown, listen up, Iceland is making fun of you, I thought. I took my camera out and just when I was about to snap the first photo, a group of American tourists joined in the fun. The two women posed with the group while their male companion, who had stood in front of me completely blocking my view, snapped away.
I wanted to ask the local men what their real views of D.T were, but the American women started to chant: Build the Wall. Build the Wall. Build the Wall. Build the Damn Wall. Their photographer joined in the chant, and so did the four D.Ts and Putin. Were all of them drunk, high, or just cruel and stupid? The chant grew louder and the chanters got more creative. Make the Mexicans Pay. Make Mexico Pay. Make them Pay. I looked around and it dawned on me that I was, most likely, the only Hispanic in the vicinity, and although I’m not Mexican, their callous chant insulted me. Did they see me? And if so, did they think I was Mexican and were therefore spitting their venom at me? And what if they didn’t see me? What if they also thought that D.T. was a global tragedy and were simply letting out some steam by imitating the stupidity of his followers at a rally? What if I was being too sensitive?
It was ten pm and the sun was still up. A wave of exhaustion came over me as I walked towards my bed and breakfast on Fischersund street. I wished it was dark. I wished I could remember this moment and say: Oh, it was so dark, I’m not sure if I saw what I think I saw. But it wasn’t dark and I had seen and I had heard the idiots of Reykjavik with painful clarity. I walked mindfully, focusing with every step I took on the four archangels on the door to Hallgrímskirkja.