I have a houseplant. His name is Thor. I wanted to spell it the Icelandic way—Þór—with that impossible little thorn, that jaunty laminal voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative, but my boyfriend said it was too pretentious. He said medievalists have no business naming things, that we should make nothing new.
I’m Jörmungandr to my Thor (Þór, I think), the evil force that droughts it and chars it on the windowsill under an unsetting sun.
Thor won’t last the week.
Three months into my Fulbright and Iceland is still the slightly warped version of life one expects from a low-level nightmare. Our bread is normal but cooked by cask near hot spring. Women open their mouths and release the damp language of mermaids. The beer is brief and $15. The road is a circle, the sun a constant. We whisper to lamb with lamb breath.
I was a Victorianist, which killed our sex life. I studied trauma in literature and haven’t been in the mood since. One erotic page of illuminated manuscript led me to the bared genitals of the fabliaux. I felt a tingle.
To no avail. We are roommates who disappear each night behind our sleepmasks, and wake surprised that the other and world are still here.
What exactly is a moor? I think this scrambling through greened-over lava fields. Low-lying green, quiet, empty. Not even clustered pellets of sheep droppings. Fog sits thick as a hat.
It’s amazing what the mind finds once released from the Papar of western Iceland. I’ve forgotten to water Thor. I slip on a stone, brace, catch on my palms. Splayed, beating heart like a love-struck knight or maiden dwelling on the sensation of the horse between her legs. I lie down, stiffen, release. I am a tourist consenting to the loving-trick of an elf. I won’t include this in my report.
My boyfriend is asleep, having failed again to separate day from night. I go to the toilet. I stand. A quincunx of debris—lint, lava-moor sand—rests like stained glass on the water. Rose window signaling apocalypse, nothing to do with heath-and-wood Icelandic Christianity. More thoughts to keep hidden from the committee. No, I first saw something akin to the Icelandic sweater’s yoke. I belong.
It’s glitter swirling down the drain.
We pass more months, I pass more glitter. It is painless and beautiful, the glitter and our time here. I suspect he’s met someone in town; his trips to the library are frequent and return him flushed. I don’t mind. I feel full all the time. My belly even swells.
It does not belong to him. I carry it with me, even in search of the site where Njáll’s farm finally burned. The baby, I know, will have elvin ears entirely unlike those of my boyfriend. He will have lavafield eyes, a taste for small flowers. When he is born I will rinse the glitter and heath from his face, name him Þór.