head aega

Head aega! This is the all-purpose Estonian goodbye. It is more sincere than the forced nägemist which implies that you might see the person again, and though you most likely will, there is the possibility that you won’t. (There is also the presumption that you might actually want to see the person again). Then there is the androgynous nägemiseni. I once used this with my friend Mart, but he blushed a bit and said, “Justin, men don’t say nägemiseni.” That’s nägemiseni. It’s for little girls. Yet head aega! It just means, literally, “good times.” Isn’t anyone worthy of good times? I can still hear Nile Rogers’ chinkalink guitar on Chic’s old disco hit “Good times/These are the good times/A new state of mind/These are the good times.” The funny thing is that for the Estonians, head aega is something an older serious person would say to you. The cry of the old men. For Americans, it sounds like leftover stoner. “Good times, man.” “Same to you.” Like you should be munching on chocolate chip cookies in the corner of a college keg party in Connecticut listening to Chic. Not that I know anything about that. Gotta run now. Head aega!

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when the heart corrects itself

All of life is a process of tuning in, and a process of making decisions. I can find the very places in my old journals where certain decisions were made. These are silent, internal decisions. I wonder sometimes to what extent the Estonians around me have mastered these kinds of facts. Many seem to be experts when it comes to the human condition. I recently asked K. and M. at the cafe if they believed that it is possible to feel another person’s feelings, even if they never express them, even if they are in another city. Both of them looked up from their coffees and said, in unison, muidugi! Of course. M. is a woman and so a witch. Most Estonian women see an equals sign between nõid (witch) and naine (woman). There is no separation between the two. If you are an Estonian woman, you are a witch. So, yes, we are dealing with some ‘next-level’ stuff here. The idea that your heart can correct itself, can choose to tune into something, if it so decides, makes perfect sense in this eerie place. The twin enemies of these things are fear and doubt, I’ve learned. If you can ignore your doubt, accept your fear, you can get somewhere.

when the heart goes silent

A morning where it’s hard to get out of bed. I used to have these long ago, before and after. After school, too I would come home and just try to sleep through the rest of the evening. And then the morning too. I felt myself in free fall without any catch. You cannot expect anyone else to bail you out in your life, but what if you can’t be bothered to catch yourself? I realize this is depressing, but that’s how I feel. There is something truly isolating about this country too, and this feeling does come to other foreigners here. The distance between people is greater, the embraces are not genuine, at times, or feel awkward, and beautiful women run roughshod over your heart, like one of those primitive plows they use out in the countryside. But what do you do when the heart goes silent? You try to tune in, but it tunes out. The signal is lost. No frequency.

where’s your seal?

N. needs a man with a hammer, but M. is a höövel sort of man. This was related to me recently by an estranged yet amiable couple, one that cooperates at all levels, and yet whose personal life is that of sister-brother, not man-and-woman. I had to look up höövel. It’s a carpenter’s plane. M. would prefer to slowly and easily work his wood into shape, but N. wants it all done, now. She wants a man with a hammer to take over and nail things into place, not some easygoing höövel. “I don’t even know what I want,” I tell this troubled duo. “Maybe just some kind of Inuit woman, in a warm igloo, with a lot of sled dogs,” say I. “And we just lay there in the furs and have a lot of sex and that’s pretty much it.” As if caught in a dream, I end my vision of the perfect relationship. “You know, you don’t need hammers or a höövel if you live in an igloo.” “You still have to provide,” says N. “Are you really willing to go out and tackle some seal, pull it out of the ice, and eat it?” “It doesn’t sound so complicated,” I say. She squints. My seal-catching talents are in doubt. “Ready to come home to an angry Inuit woman grunting to you, “Noh, kus su hüljes on?” (Where’s your seal?) This idea sours me out a bit, leaves me cold. I was there with the steamy igloo sex, but demanding iglunaised are all the same I guess.