Guernica Magazine

Iceland

The whole right side of Nancy’s body, the side closest the ledge, prickled with horror and disgust. The wind lifted and tugged at her hair, and her head echoed with her own ineffective shouts. She stood frozen by the ledge that the baby bird had just tumbled off. The post Iceland appeared first on Guernica.
Photo: Swedish National Heritage Board.

Lately, Hitler followed the Felds everywhere. Not just in the biography Ben was reading, but in the news, the global refugee crisis, western elections, the endless discussion of The Wall. He had gone from being a general avatar of evil to Nancy’s personal enemy—the reason her husband was not fully present at the dinner table or in conversation—and a spectral national portent. Ben was obsessed; not as a right-wing lunatic or a neo-Nazi, but as an open-minded, liberal-hearted Jewish parent with actual members of his family who had perished in the Holocaust.

Why do you want to read about such a vile person? Nancy had asked at the beginning of this obsession. Can’t you just be glad that he’s dead?

But for Ben, that was not enough. He wanted to understand.

Understand what? Nancy asked.

How he persuaded a nation of civilized people to follow him into the abyss.

Ugh. Nancy shivered. Apparently, it wasn’t rocket science.

Now Hitler was following the Felds to Iceland. They were going to celebrate their twelfth anniversary. It was their first trip away from their sensitive, eight-year-old son, Quinn; their first trip out of the country since his birth, their first time anywhere alone together overnight in as long.

On the airplane, Ben sat in the window seat reading as the island’s ravaged surface appeared beneath the clouds.

“Time to put the book away,” Nancy said, “we’re about to touch down.”

“Uh hunh,” Ben nodded without lifting his eyes.

Nancy dug an elbow into his ribs. “Seriously. Look.”

Ben looked. “Iceland,” he pronounced, and continued reading.

It had been Nancy’s choice to go to Iceland. It seemed a fitting place to mark twelve years of marriage—a land crusted over with the lava of exploded volcanoes, dotted with warm, geothermal swimming holes, and cruel, impenetrable glaciers, all springing form the same mysterious source. It was Nancy’s habit to look for metaphors. Or not habit, really, which implied orderly impulse, but compulsion, a kind of nervous tic.

Ben on the other hand was a person. He dealt in observed realities rather than inferences and suppositions. He wore the weight of the world like a coat that fit. From the beginning, their love affair was a celebration of opposites. Nancy was from a large, Italian American family in Hartford, Connecticut. Ben was the only child of a single mother in a suburb of Dallas. “The only Jews in Spring County” was how he described his family. He had a teenage son from a marriage to his high school girlfriend, and at twenty-three he had gotten divorced. Nancy fell… Nancy liked to joke. She taught pre-school to “at risk” children, and before having Quinn, she had tap danced.

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