I become very uncertain when I see that there are two Haukeli Expresses waiting at the bus terminal. I do not like that, that I have to choose. Without dwelling I opt for the bus I arrive at first, before the situation degenerates any further. Just in case I ask the man before me in line:
-Do you know if this bus stops in Høydalsmo?
His face lightens up.
-You’re getting off in Høydalsmo? Could you please take this package with you?
-Sure… But what shall I do with it?
-You’re delivering it there. Someone’s coming to pick it up.
I am caught somewhat off guard, I cannot well say no either. But I am afraid I may make a mistake. I may screw up royally with that package. Høydalsmo, that place is a little off the beaten path. Every time I drive through that village, which does not even qualify as a village, I think to myself that it looks like they are Sunday closed all week. However, I do not want to be difficult, so I ask:
-What kind of person are we talking about here?
-A guy between 35 and 40. If he doesn’t show up, just leave this right there.
I look at the small package the man is handing me. It seems a little sad. I know it will be hard for me to just leave it there in Høydalsmo if no one comes to pick it up. But then I think of all the possibilities I now have if only I accept this mission. It is rather odd that I should choose this bus, that I should ask the man before me in line instead of the driver if the bus stops in Høydalsmo, and that this man has this package that needs to be delivered in that insignificant place I am getting off, on such a long route with so many stops. Can this be a coincidence? Hardly. I get worked up.
And there I stand with the package in my hands. I read on it. «To Tor Anders». This should be exciting.
I am delighted that what I had thought would be a long and uneventful bus ride turns out to be a meaningful mission. An immediate need presents itself to share this unexpected turn of events with someone. I put the package dialogue with the stranger in my status update on Facebook. «TAKE THE PACKAGE! TAKE THE PACKAGE!» someone suggests. And I will admit that this was my initial thought. Not that I would keep the package for myself, but that I could have kept it. That this was quite a declaration of trust from a total stranger. There might be nothing of value in it. The package may contain only rubber bands or at most a cable to some electronic device. The package weighs almost nothing. But whatever it may contain, someone made the effort to come down to the bus terminal with it, and someone is waiting for it in Høydalsmo, and I have been made accountable. That, in it self, is serious. Even if thin air is what I transport, getting this thin air to Høydalsmo is imperative.
Someone on Facebook wonders if I may have turned myself into a smuggler now. That I may get in trouble because I was naïve enough to accept this delivery job. Maybe there are drugs in the package. Or a bomb. Or body parts. It dawns on me how easy it is to get into trouble. How little it takes before life as you know it is over, you are thrown in jail because of an idiotic impulse, and in jail you might be recruited, as the naïve nut you are, into a network of tragic fates you think you can save, but who ends up sucking out your decent soul. I sniff the package, I try to perceive it as best I can. It smells like cardboard. But what a potentially catastrophic thing to do! Just agree to this! What do I really know about the human being who gave me this mission? Nada! To be fair, he looked like someone working in my father’s office. He could be an engineer in the water supplies sector. On the other hand, I could have said that about the two Irish fellas I met in Dublin as well. They were so nice and father-like. Then one of them must have been a little loose-tongued about something I thought was a joke, that is how horrible what he said was, and then apparently it became necessary for the other one to show me his murder weapon, a pen of steel he carried in his pocket, and which according to the owner himself «goes straight through your skull». Three glasses of whiskey came and went before an alert friend of mine whispered in my ear that we had to go, I was letting no other than the IRA buy me drinks.
So the truth is that I know nothing about the man who asked me to bring the package to Høydalsmo. But I think I know something about Høydalsmo, this place which by and large consists of a bus stop. Not in my wildest dreams can I imagine Høydalsmo being a terror target. The possibility that the package sitting in the seat next to me should contain explosives seems just as foreign to me as someone’s wish to blow up the Nevada desert. Granted, a criminal network in Norway’s capital might have unsettled business with this Tor Anders, regardless of the disarming effect his thick Telemark dialect may have, but to send a bomb with a girl on the Haukeli Express? I like to think that criminal minds are wired somewhat differently. I like to think that criminal minds send a shabby Volvo into the County of Telemark if there was something they wanted to be said or done.
If the package contains drugs, the odds of me getting caught are miniscule. It must be a niggardly catch a suspecting police force will get their hands on if they were to wait somewhere along the road, considering the size and weight of the package. There are no control posts on the route. Tor Anders is probably waiting with excitement for the package, and has no reason to do me any harm. To the contrary, Tor Anders may be a handsome, nice guy who takes no interest in drugs whatsoever. As for age, he is perfect, and I already know that his rough Telemark dialect will make my knees weak. What a great story I could tell our children. Me climbing into the Haukeli Express with a package I do not know the least about, him waiting there at the bus stop, our hands touching as I give him the package. How natural it is that I say my name when he confirms that he is indeed Tor Anders.
-Imagine how much I’ve been wondering what’s inside that package. It could have been anything!
-If you want to, we can open it together, Tor Anders suggests.
And there is nothing I rather want, we open it, and it turns out to be a key ring. A beautifully engraved key ring. «To Tor Anders. From Dad.»
-I have inherited my father’s farm. It lies just up the hill here. Gorgeous view, surrounded by a silence so complete it almost makes an own sound. This probably seems quite strange to you, but I have been looking forward to this.
He picks up four separate keys from his pocket and attaches them to the special key ring.
-I sorta imagined a little ceremony when inserting the key in the door. But it’s just going to be me. Father just moved into a nursing home. Would you mind coming with me? A pot of lamb stew is waiting for us on the stove too.
Never in the world am I able to say no. Just like when I could not say no to the stranger who probably works in the water supplies sector, and who handed me the package for me to bring to Høydalsmo. Someone hit a string on Fortune’s harp, and the tone that followed will sing through the rest of my life.
There is still a certain chance that the package contains body parts. I shudder by the thought of it, pick up the package and give it a little shake. Not a sound. The fingers or toes or organs which might be inside the package are carefully wrapped, neither smell nor sound escapes. Are the body parts maybe a warning to Tor Anders? Blackmail? I worry about what Tor Anders may have gotten himself into. Whatever it is that he has done, such means can hardly be proportional to the mistake he has made. There is so much cruelty in this world. The human imagination is endless when it comes to vicious ideas. I become somewhat disillusioned right then, my gaze leaves the package and wanders out of the bus window instead, across the purple hills layered against the horizon. The bus drives through Notodden, the autumn leaves of the trees have set the hills around the lake on fire. A couple of swans with bent necks look like something out of this world in all their grace, their black silhouettes cut two long wounds into the still surface. The hills and the sky are mirrored in the water so shiny in the clear October air, the afternoon sun, it is hard to tell what side of the world is up, and what is down. In that moment I am convinced that there are no body parts in the package. The day is simply too beautiful, nature completely innocent in its obliviousness of all world’s evil.
I am aware of the fact that I make an erroneous inference. I infer from beauty to safety. Nothing justifies such an inference, other than blind faith. A blind faith in an innate goodness in the world, because for me to imagine something beautiful existing side by side with something grotesque is simply impossible. Once again I look at the package. Its label is terribly anonymous. A bar code and «To Tor Anders». This package communicates absolutely nothing. It is impossible to say what is inside those brown cardboard walls. Nor do I have any information about the sender, consindering how wrong I am about people. About the receiver I know that he is a man between 35 and 40 years of age, and his name is Tor Anders. But not even this information is very indicative. Tor Anders is a common name, so common that I have probably forgotten it on Sunday. And even though he is supposedly between 35 and 40, he can be significantly younger or older as well. This is the age when you have to count on genetics for real, and just hope that the years will treat you well. In other words; Tor Anders can be anyone. If I were to make an equation of my mission, the equation would look more or less like this: x sends y to z. To me that is an unsolvable equation.
I send the package an irritated look. Its non-communicating being is getting on my nerves. In layman’s terms: I am struck by a problem of faith. I doubt whether the package exists at all. Because how can something exist which does not have any relation to anything else? Can something exist by virtue of itself? No, if it had not been for me, this package would have found itself in an existential vacuum. If I had not been sitting here in my seat and related to the package, made it temporarily mine so to speak, the package would mean nothing. And upon that thought I remember that I am not God, and that what I engage in is linguistic ludicrousness. Adam did not create the world when he named everything. If it were not for all the things God wanted him to name, Adam could just as well take a nap.
In an attempt to distract myself, I take a sip of Fanta Orange. Everytime I drink Fanta Orange, I think that it does not taste like orange. It tastes like a little overripe clementine. But the bubbles in this soda are quite pleasant. And while sitting there thinking a little more about Fanta Orange, I see the blue road sign welcomming me to Høydalsmo. I push the stop button. In a compact mirror I check that I do not have anything in my teeth, and I fetch a mint from my purse to freshen up my breath. Fanta Orange has not managed to quench the excitement I have felt throughout this journey. It has not succeeded in extinguishing the traces of the entire emotional registry I have gone through in these four hours that have passed since I sat down in my bus seat and now will exit in Høydalsmo. Tor Anders is waiting for me, and I have to say something. All these hours, he has to understand that I have not been completely indifferent to the trust I have been shown. That I have taken this mission very seriously. But that I have risked something too. All the thoughts I have had along the way flood into my mouth, they wriggle to get out. But I know that I will probably have to be brief, despite all the things I would have wanted to say to Tor Anders.
I climb down the steps from the bus, a pickup comes driving up to me, the driver and I get eye contact right away. I smile and hold up the package demonstrably. Yes, it is me. I have it, I signal to Tor Anders. He does not get out of the car, he just pulls down the window. I get nervous. He says hello and grabs the package. I refuse let go of it.
-I don’t know the man who gave me this package. I don’t know the content of this package, and I don’t know you. Anything could have happened!
He smiles this charming smile. It is a fact: Tor Anders is a handsome guy.
-I was just told that some girl was coming to deliver a package…. Thank you!
I have to let go. Does he not know what is inside the package either?
And then he drives off, before I get the chance to say something more. Before I get the chance to suggest that we open the package together so that he can attach his four keys to his beautiful key ring, and open the door to the farm and have lamb stew with me. He just drives off, and all this could just as well not have happened.