The Mall

Part IX

The dark was coming soon. The light was fading from dim to nonexistent. We arrived back at the farm just before total blackness arrived in the afternoon. In a way it felt like a total eclipse. In a way it felt like it was simply much later. It was confusing, but I loved it. Iceland was so completely different from anywhere I'd ever visited that I had nothing to compare it to. It was one of a kind.

We thanked Georgia, helped put the horses in their stalls to be fed, and took off. I'd always cooled down, wiped down, and brushed horses after riding, but Georgia said that she didn't bother in the winter, because of the cold. I learned a lot on Georgia's farm.

The darkness fell early because it was late February. It was as simple as that. I was used to short days in winter. In Connecticut the sun came up after 7 am and went down around 4 pm part of the year. But it was shorter. I knew that it could cause depression to live in that environment, but I found it was fascinating. I'd found the whole long day short day phenomenon fascinating since I'd moved to New England many years before.

"So, what do people do on these long nights in winter?" I asked.

"Most people do what they normally do, just in the dark," Erich said. "I think people watch more TV and spend more time on their computers, but I'm not sure if I'd blame the dark or the weather."

"That makes sense," I replied. "What about drinking?"

"Alcohol is different here than most places," Erich explained. "We just started making some of our own liquors en masse, and everything else is an import. That makes it expensive, so a lot of folks avoid it."

"So, what you're telling me is that there are just a bunch of hearty local round here," I said.

"Yes maam," Erich said with an enormous grin on his face.

I watch the sky as we drove back to Reykjavik. What light there was was fading and the stars were coming out in a wave as though some celestial body was pulling a star covered blanket over the world. I could see the glow of Reykjavik taking shape on the horizon and growing as we drove closer. I remembered my Las Vegas wedding. My husband and I didn't want a proper wedding. Neither one of us had ever been particularly religious, and both of our families had driven us nuts, so we'd run away to Las Vegas. We'd dressed up like King Arthur and Guinevere and been married by Merlin at Viva Las Vegas. But, I babble. The glow of Reykjavik growing in the dark reminded me of the same effect that occurs when approaching Las Vegas across the desert at night.

It's strange what things will remind us of one another. It's strange that anything in Iceland would remind me of anything about Las Vegas. As my mind drifted to far away parts of my memory, we approached the city. I was pretty sure that Erich was entering the city by a different route than the one we had exited by.

"So, why are we headed back on a different route?" I asked.

"Wow, you're observant," Erich said. "It's easier to go by the old mall at rush hour. That's all."

Something struck me. "Old mall?"

"Yeah, right before that mess in '08, some firm from Norway had just finished building a new mall. They had contracts for store to fill it up and everything. When the economy crashed, everything went bankrupt including the firm that built the mall. They said it was all because of junk bonds. Long story short, we have an empty mall." Erich turned a corner. "And there it is."

I looked in the direction that Erich was pointing. The mall was still lit about the perimeters. It was huge. It wasn't a strip mall. It was what appeared to be a three hub mall with a parking garage.

"Is it completely vacant?' I asked.

"Completely," Erich replied. "Never used at all."

My mind was racing. Walmart was a company that was very set in their ways, but the mall was fabulous and I couldn't help but think of the possibilities. "I have an idea," I said.

"What are you talking about?" Chad asked. "We're here to find a place to build a Walmart, not fill up a mall."

"I just want to look at it," I snapped. "Now, you're here to assist me, right?"

"Yes," Chad groaned.

"Then call your real estate guy and asked him if we can see the mall tomorrow."

Chad called the real estate agent and made arrangements to look at the mall the following day. Chad kept asking me why I wanted to see the place, but I decided to keep my ideas to myself for the time. He didn't like that I refused to talk about it, but I figured he would just have to deal. My idea was amazing. A Walmart mall. Instead of departments, they would be separate stores. Beyond that I hadn't worked it all out, but I would have a better idea when I got to look at it. I knew full well what I was supposed to do, but I wanted to do things my way. I really didn't care if the powers that be at Walmart didn't like it. They claimed that they always considered new ideas. This would be their chance to actually do what they said.

I watched out the car window as Erich drove us back to the hotel through downtown. Erich said he was giving us a tour. I told them that I was tired and wanted to have some room service and go to bed.

Downtown Reykjavik is pretty at night. It's brightly lit and the buildings are colorful. It naturally has a festive atmosphere, even in the middle of winter in the dark. I was dying to check out the city, but the boys were a real drag, especially Chad. He was all business. He was less frun than my elderly parents were.

We passed a very bright building with lots of lights and activity. I couldn't take my eyes off of it, because it looked like it was the place to be. All the people going in and out were dressed pretty nicely. Then I saw the sign. Casino. I wanted to go. I thought I would go back to the hotel and ditch the boys and sneak out after. I felt like a teenager sneaking out of my parents' house, but a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do.

"Well, I'm very tired," I announced as Chad and I entered the lobby. J"I think it may be jet lag."

"Well, I'll see you in the morning then. The real estate broker said he would meet us here at nine."

"Great. That will give me time to have breakfast. See you then."

I left Chad and went to the desk to get my key card. I asked for a wakeup call and headed upstairs to my beautiful suite. Reykjavik was beautiful at night. The city lit up in bright colors. It was a shame that it wasn't really night. I wasn't sure what I thought about these long nights. Did people work shorter days? Did the city streets slow down earlier? Did people sleep longer? How did it work? I wanted to find out. But first, casino.

I put on some clothes that did not fit my old lady practical tomboy personality. A sequined blouse and slacks with a beautifully decorated cardigan style sweater was my choice. It was all part of my theory of starting over. My sweater had metallic orange in it. That was so not me. But here I was in a whole new country and it was time for them to meet a whole new me. I put some minimal items in a beaded clutch purse and put on makeup, which I rarely ever do. I did my hair. I could not remember the last time that doing my hair didn't just mean that I threw it up in a pony tail. I grabbed my key car, my bag, and my coat and headed out into the night. I stopped at the desk in the lobby. They kept my key card, but they gave me another card. That card had the name, address, and phone number of the hotel on it. They said that if I got lost to give it to a cab driver, and they would bring me back. I thought it was a nice thing to do. Then they called me a cab. They said that the bus was great but their hours got a little ambiguous at night. They sent me outside to the taxi stand and told me to have a good night. They promised not to tell Chad on me.

I was free. I was dressed to party. I wondered if anyone still said that. I wondered if they'd ever said that in Iceland. I was on my way to have some fun. Free at last.