A Personal Narrative Assignment
“WE’RE GOING TO ICELAND BITCHES!” My friends Lawrence and Victoria jumped around in excitement; their voices echoed throughout the airport terminal.
We were … going to Iceland.
I took a deep inhale, scrunched up my toes, and bit the inside of my lip. The corners of my lips crept into a smile whilst my breath waivered.
“AHHHHH! I can’t believe it! We’re really doing this!” I jumped around in excitement over what had seemed to be a distant dream, now being realized.
Was I really doing this? I didn’t just come out of a quarter-life crisis.
I tapped on my Bank of America app. I was clearly in defiance of any and all logic. But, YOLO right? I was finally going to Iceland, the grand trip of solitude I’d been craving all summer.
“You guys get in! We gotta take a selfie.” Lawrence threw on some shades and puckered his lips. Vic and I followed suit.
TERMINAL INTERCOM: Good evening passengers. This is the pre-boarding announcement for flight FI614 to Reykjavik.
“What seats are guys in again?” Victoria examined her boarding pass.
“010A.” I held up my phone.
“AWE, I’m in 035C.” Lawrence gave us a big frown.
Was I wrong in being eager to sit next to a stranger?
“I’m in 035A,” Victoria replied.
“Yaaas, okay good.” Lawrence looked at me. “ Maybe you can switch seats.”
TERMINAL INTERCOM: This is the final boarding call for passengers on flight FI614 to Reykjavik. Please proceed to the gate immediately.
“It’s okay. The flight seems full.”
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to sit with them — I just needed to be ALONE.
We boarded the flight, parting ways en route to our seats.
FLIGHT CAPTAIN: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard! On behalf of IcelandAir, I ask that you please direct your attention to the crew as we review the emergency procedures. There are six emergency exits on this aircraft. Should the cabin experience sudden pressure loss, stay calm, and listen for instructions.
I don’t know if I deserve this.
The lights dimmed; I said a silent prayer. I might have even cried a bit. Pressure had been lifted.
After a nap, I had awoken to the sound of my ears popping from the cabin pressure. I looked around the cabin to find my neighbors asleep. A little groggy, I peeked at my reflection on my phone camera. My eyes were heavy, a little red even, and my face covered in acne. I lifted up my window panel to find us flying over Greenland, ironically covered in snow. It was beautiful.
I closed my eyes again.
We made our final descent.
FLIGHT CAPTAIN: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Iceland. The local time is 6 AM, and the temperature is 4 degrees celsius.
The spontaneous trip I’d booked in a state of defeat had actually worked out. Go figure. Lawrence didn’t think I’d actually book a ticket. I did. Vic had just managed to purchase hers. It was almost a solo trip. Almost.
“WE IN ICELAND BABY!” Lawrence yelled at the top of his lungs, and Victoria joined.
The head of every person in the airport snapped in our direction.
So much for solitude.
We gathered for a quick landing selfie and proceeded to pick up our car rental outside. It was gloomy, but not like New York. The air was fresh, crisp, a light hug after heavy wind and rain. The land was covered in jagged rocks and densely overgrown with moss, the centuries-old aftermath of volcanic activity. I was ever so slightly disappointed. I’d expected an immediate brush of wonder, but I was instead met with a lingering gloom. The cool caress of the wind was a warm hug.
“Abusadamente, BOOM boom BOOOM booom BOOOM!”
Bass as thick as the clouds disrupted my pulse. Len and Vic had begun blasting Brazilian rap from the tiny speakers of the Toyota Yaris we’d rented — a STARK contrast to the lofty haze.
Home. My mind’s already there.
Lawrence hit the gas. There was no posted speed limit, but I was almost sure we had gone over it. Midway through the race, we were coming up to a fork in the freeway. There had been an accident, and traffic officers were directing drivers towards the exit. We were going too fast. Lawrence missed the exit and tried to swerve over the gore onto the exit. He hit the breaks.
“OH MY GOD!” Lawrence’s mouth dropped.
The traffic officer was fuming. The officer walked up to our window and began yelling at Lawrence. We let out a series of frantic apologies, and eventually, the officer let us go. A wave of relief washed over me, then Lawrence hit the gas, and once again, the bass rolled in.
“OH MY GAWD LOOK!” Lawrence had stopped at a light off the highway.
A colorful promise had revealed itself on the canvas in the clouds.
Vic took out her phone and took a video. I did the same.
“We’re in Iceland. We just got pulled over by the cops, but it ended up with a rainbow.” I smiled at the outrageousness of it all.
“I didn’t mention that part.” Victoria laughed.
“Are you okay with this being online?” I raised a curious eyebrow at Lawrence.
“Yeah, post it on Instagram,” Lawrence cooly replied.
Why couldn’t we just take it all in?
We drove for another ten minutes before arriving at our host Sigga’s apartment complex. Lawrence dropped us off and sped off. The environment was surprisingly … “normal” I suppose. It was a regular apartment complex in a small city. Bushes lined the building parking lot. Confused and without service, we wandered around the complex for a while, knocking on a few wrong doors.
“Psst! Come on! This way!” Sigga, our host, popped up, gesturing for us to follow her.
Now late morning, the thick gloom we’d seen leaving the airport still hung in the air. After a brief detour, we were finally in Sigga’s apartment. Notes of cinnamon and pecan filled our noses from the pastries she had prepared for us in advance. Sigga gave us a quick tour before we ate. Starved and weary-eyed, we crammed into her cozy banquette and savored the sweet welcome. After finishing up, we took another look around. Our room tidy, everything was neatly tucked into its exact place. Nature paintings hung above my temporary bed, one of them featuring a blood-red sun setting over a lush lavender field with mountains for a backdrop. Another featured the lonely deep blue sea being caressed by the morning sun. Last was the golden shimmer of Gullfoss falls.
Soon enough, we’d collapsed in our beds. After a quick doze, I awoke to a streak of sunlight scratching at my eyes. I squinted and took a glance at my phone. Lawrence had texted us to meet him outside in half an hour.
Brightish and semi-early, Lawrence, Vic, and I drove for about an hour and a half before arriving at Gullfoss. Along the way, we stopped for some photos, but this time, Lawrence had brought a series of Instagrammable looks that changed with the scenery.
Back on the road, we eventually made it. My legs had grown so numb that I had to learn to walk again. Once we reached the waterfall, I found my breath suspended in the air. I floated in a cloud of white noise created by the rushing water. White liquid gushed around the earth’s textured past, flowing passionately around its eroded bodice. Every drop of the current seemed to be fighting for the honor of the fall. The deep chasm beneath devoured them all. The beautiful aftermath was a glimmering mist that floated at the base of the fall’s plunge pool.
“Can you get it from this angle? Make sure you get the entire look.” Lawrence and Vic had wandered off in search of their next backdrop.
How could they not see it?
For a moment, I thought it might swallow me up. Large rocks peaked from the vast white as liquid memories cascaded down the earth’s crust. I felt the thunder of God’s voice in the wind. I became humbled in His grandeur, consumed by the majesty of His omnipotence. My hands lifted themselves into the air, feeling what was boundless and pure.
“God, you are … wow!” Words struggled to escape my enamored lips. I closed my eyes and began to pray, “In all your glory, I’ve never seen something more magnificent than your creation.” The wind howled. “Your perpetual gaze in the deep blue of the sky penetrates me.” The sky stared at me. I felt myself drift with the wind. Water rushed to the brim of my eyes. “Out of all creation, we little human beings are your most beloved.”
I took a deep inhale and held my breath.
“Can you take a photo of me?” Lawrence waved his phone in my face.
I let out an exhale and said a silent farewell to God.
“Sure.” I grabbed his phone and took a million photos.
I recollected the divine encounter on the drive back. The sky seemed to change directions — an unexpected vacancy in my heart. It was the kind of space created when you throw out a bunch of useless treasures. Nightfall crept in like a thief in the night.
Would I finally be free?
We drove on for the rest of the night, hearing only the deafening silence of God.