Written By Eva Ferguson
As the last episode of the Norwegian web series ended, I breathed a sigh and closed my laptop. I started fiddling with my blanket and stared into space, trying to create order in my mind. My friend Tommy was sitting next to me, his eyes locked on my computer. A sheepish smile slowly spread across his face. I waited for one of us to say it. As I gave him a knowing look, he immediately spat out, “Hey what if we went to Norway?”
“What if” — I don’t think a more exciting phrase exists in the English language. It is infinite, ambiguous, thought-provoking and just damn beautiful. It’s the catalyst for new adventures. It awakens the wide-eyed, imaginative child in all of us and, for a split second, anything seems possible. These two words have the power to change tomorrow, indefinitely.
Besides- I know you know. You know that feeling that itches at you, that tries to tell you something, but out of stubbornness you ignore it. Or maybe out of ignorance, maybe out of spite. But for whatever reason, you move on; blissfully unaware of what it was trying to signal. It seeped into my mind one day, chose a comfortable corner, and stayed there for years.
Norway was this itching feeling for me. Four years tucked away in a corner of my mind would eventually turn into ninety-six hours born from serendipity. Five minutes spent in the university library turned into new streets, new faces and a new perspective on life.
And so Oslo was the chosen destination.
No expectations, no rules. Just four days: me, my friend Tommy, and our apartment.
It was 9pm. Aker Brygge was our first taste of the city. The moon reflected ominously over the water of the harbor, casting a ghostly sheen over the boats that swayed calmly from side to side. The streets were empty. The shops were closed. It was quiet. So quiet. Almost immediately, something about Oslo felt special. I have yet to put my finger on it, and truthfully, I don’t think I ever will. Maybe it was the crisp arctic air, the stillness, or simply the break it gave me and Tommy from the (albeit, invigorating) hectic rush of uni life we left behind. Or, maybe it was simply part of the “first night” feeling you get when you arrive somewhere new. It went something like this:
First, the tiring journey there. This may have included (but was not limited to): the coffee I spilled on myself at the airport, intense anxiety as people watched me try to fit my suitcase into the overhead compartment without it crashing down, the ever-persistent feeling that I forgot something, the need to pee at all times, the sticky airport sweat clinging to my neck.
All of this was wiped out the second I set foot in Oslo.
It was as if someone had poured hot coffee on me that stung my skin and set my heart racing. The first night was full of anticipation, thinking about the (unnecessary) amount of pictures that I would take, the sights, the food, and all the giddy nervousness that came with mentally planning my outfit for the next day.
The quiet nothingness of Oslo we were welcomed to that night was much needed. I almost found myself talking in a whisper so as not to disturb the stars or the moon as they began their night shifts. While cloaked in darkness, it felt as if I wasn’t really present. Both my feet were planted firmly on the ground, and yet, I wasn’t there. It was as if I were looking through a fog, trying to make sense of my surroundings. This darkness, this quiet haze, felt like a bizarre combination of the distant and intimate. It is a memory I remember in exquisite detail, and yet it feels as though it belongs to someone else. There is nothing I can do now but feel the tang of nostalgia with my whole being. Maybe it will make me cry, or laugh, or simply recognize it for what it is: a snippet of my past that is gone now, forever. I was to end my first year of university in a matter of weeks, and yet I felt like I was beginning again.
The quiet is perhaps why Oslo felt so special. It represented so much in that moment and in the coming days that I had yet to realize. Feelings of a new life, a new beginning, new people, new air, new hopes, new dreams, a new future. All born out of the quiet. All that was with us that first night were the pebbles under our feet, the velvet swoosh of the water hitting the boats in the bay, and the stars. Stars that would disappear into a clear blue on our last day.
That last day, my feet dangled off the edge of the port while Tommy snapped pictures with my camera nearby. The sea stretched into a vast expanse that sparkled like stardust with the reflection of the sun. For a moment, I forgot about the beautiful city behind me and looked into the sunset in front of me. Small islands dotted the horizon with little cabins and fishing ports huddled throughout.
I was happy. So utterly happy. So free, so content with what would happen after, whether good or bad. Oslo gave me the breath of fresh air that I so desperately needed. The sunshine on my skin felt like nothing I had ever experienced. And with that, I stood up and smiled lovingly at Tommy. “Ready?” I asked, and walked back into my life.
If I were to return I don’t think I would find what I left behind. Cities may stay more or less the same, but I refuse to believe that people leave them unchanged, themselves. I know that I left part of me there. In Oslo, in that quiet. The London I visited for the first time when I was fifteen was not the same London that I returned to at nineteen. Maybe this was the message that Oslo solidified for me; why it felt so special. So peaceful and freeing. Even with two feet planted firmly on the ground, my white sneakers slightly dirtier, I still felt a little lost. After Oslo, I have resolved that the best way to fix this is to never plant my two feet anywhere for too long. Best to leave a little piece of me everywhere I go.