locks unlocked

when i arrive, the house is unlocked. one can just enter. i do, i have permission to. i am the first one, the house is vast, the rooms are lit by the dark yellow afternoon sun. i circle around the two floors, go up and down and up again several times before i am able to decide (“first one gets to choose”) which of the three bedrooms will be mine for the next four weeks.

soon i will learn that the door to this particular room is the only one that you actually cannot lock, even if you want to. when a arrives, she chooses the bedroom next to mine. she will not use her lock either, will always leave her door just a tiny bit open.

the house has good spirits, we agree, any demons will be appeased here, i think. and indeed, during the first night i have what seems to be a nightmare, from which i awake though with a feeling of defiant unafraidness unknown to me so far (“it’s a really safe place”).

we remain a and c, there is no b, but not like a lack, not like a gap in a formula or series. we inhabit the house as if it was made for two, not just, but exactly. during the days we split the floors naturally, sharing stories when we meet in between. during the nights we abandon the ground floor and the basement, retreat to sleep in our bedrooms, locks unlocked.

there is an air of abundance in this house, around this place, an abundance which i know is about to create a lack, in a time afterwards. i realise this while i am still here, that’s why i consciously indulge.

it’s the small things, the ordinary ones, finnish normalities. the white and pastel paint that makes everything, even the floors, more welcoming, and you, stepping onto them, carrying yourself in a lighter posture.

outside the snow is high, but it’s so dense that you don’t sink in when walking on it. the locals are walking over the frozen surface of the lake. after easter it’s 16 degrees, the lake’s surface is melting at the edges. there’s a sense of farewell as the sunlight is getting more forceful, farewell to winter, farewell to my notion of the north. there are still people walking on the ice. the mere sight of it makes me uneasy. they must know, i try to consol myself, they must have done it their whole lives.

snow avalanches are sliding down the villa’s roof in gentle rumbles. sounds of an emerging spring. a faint notion of potential violence soon forgotten (“it’s a really safe place”), less abstract but similarly subdued as the danger implied by the fire exit stairs on the outside of the building.

commonplace places, places you pass. an abandoned house that still has a desk in it, a travel bar that marks the stop of the only bus, a closed book store that will be opened just for you. the shop owner is also a farmer, he gives a discount (“because you’re also in the book field”). things that grow on you, things you find. in a kirpputori, one of many. arabia cups and blazers (“freeze them to kill bedbugs”), books, a set of small mirrors, that will make the zipper of your suitcase almost burst. in the end though one and all can only comply with abundance.

is this why there are so many closets in the villa, so much space behind doors. is it secrecy or mere utility. a cupboard above the sink to leave the dishes drain, out of sight but never far.

open questions. also like, what was the man thinking who walked through the villa’s garden in the middle of a snowstorm with a briefcase in his hand. why did he return with a single rose in his other hand, leaving another set of footsteps in front of our kitchen window. did he take a shortcut in order not to freeze the flower.

or, is the weather the only thing erratic around here. shoveling snow with a body full of itching mosquito bites, watching the first snowdrops grow from below the last snowflakes.

the squirrel living under the villa’s roof has a clear routine. the janitor identifies it just by its habits (“i don’t know the name, let me show you a picture”). it (“orava”) wakes us every day with bumping morning jumps. the customs of the seagulls flying across the garden however remain a mystery to me.

one day my lock does lock. the keys i had deemed useless are safely stored behind the door. a dials a number, says some sentences. we are sitting on the floor midway between our rooms. ten minutes later we are found by a person who effortlessly reopens the door and disappears again. we had not even started waiting.

Cornelia Hülmbauer, April 2022


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