Broke as shit so we start eating at Indian buffets: four pounds each. Margot stuffs her cheeks with samosas and curses when she realizes she didn’t get any sauce. Olaf starts retching before we get out of the place and soon we’re all kneeling, vomiting outside of a cathedral that Margot says is famous, but Olaf doesn’t believe her. Find a drug dealer named Tony looking for his contact lenses in the street. Tony invites us to his place and we try coke. Olaf likes it better than Margot does. We sit on the roof of an apartment building. Someone has a sharpie so we start writing letters on the concrete. Margot writes: Dear Mom, it’s cold here at night but Olaf packed an extra blanket so we are okay.
Margot is afraid of the sound the air makes in your ears on the plane when you first ascend into the sky. Olaf keeps her head close to his shoulder. Her hair looks very red against his navy sweatshirt, and it smells like oranges. We listen to the same music on our ipods but Olaf is three measures behind. Get to the hostel, smoke pot with a Belgian who feeds us hot dogs with too much mustard. Margot and the Belgian spend hours debating Marxism which Margot says she supports but can’t bear to give up white chocolate mochas. The Belgian doesn’t respect that but wants to sleep with Margot so he nods, but she is repulsed by how strongly he smells like mustard. She tells him we’re in love, kisses my cheek. He doesn’t believe her. Margot’s lips are sticky with peach gloss. We use her coat as a mattress pad. Go to a discotheque but Olaf gets a migraine. We leave and Margot wraps his face in her scarves to keep his world dark and quiet and warm. He shakes so we keep our hands on his temples until he lies still.
When we get off the plane in Copenhagen Margot stops abruptly and says, Look, there are wood floors in the airport here. We take off our shoes and feel the wood against our toes. Try the metro system but when Margot realizes there is no conductor she starts screaming. Olaf puts his hand over her mouth. But the Danes are nosy, or maybe just caring, and they start asking questions. They all speak English so there’s no way out. There’s no conductor, she says. We’re being moved entirely by a machine. It’s safer that way, someone’s mother insists and we get out at the next stop. Try sushi but the avocado is underripe. It makes Olaf homesick and Margot tells him we can go on an adventure and search through the supermarkets for the perfect avocado, but he yells at her that isn’t the fucking point. I can’t even use chopsticks right, he says, his voice shaking. I got a splinter and I don’t know how to get it out. And— but Margot cuts him off. It’s okay, she says. There are forks here.
Margot gets worried it will rain so she buys ponchos and we huddle, waiting for the storm. We crinkle loudly when we shift our weight from side to side. It doesn’t rain but we keep the ponchos on. Margot says she loves us repeatedly. Ditch the ponchos and go to a restaurant named Laundromat and wander through a giant library where everything is organized by color. Olaf hears French horns. We think he’s getting another migraine but it turns out to be an Icelandic jazz quartet across the street. Meet some Lithuanian girls who are smoking pot next to us. They share and try to tell us their names but we can’t hear it over the brass. Olaf falls for the plump one wearing purple eyeliner and lots of gold bangles. Margot communicates with the little one by making cat noises that make everyone else uncomfortable. Olaf whispers to me: They are perfect together, in a feline sort of way. The other writes her name on a napkin and holds it up for us to see: Salomeya. Her eyes are blue, her nose is sharp. We leave and smoke in a park. Olaf and Emilia, something like that, start to fall in love. Salomeya kisses too hard and moves her head abruptly, rhythmless, unknowable. Margot and the little one keep purring and clucking until Margot nuzzles her and the little one scratches her cheek with her nails. She breaks Margot’s skin and starts apologizing profusely. Go back to their apartment where Olaf and Emilia lock the bedroom door. Little one falls asleep on Salomeya’s lap. Margot can only find 8 1⁄2 in the DVD player so we turn it on mute and drink a bottle of wine she finds in a cabinet. We sit next to each other with our elbows almost touching. Drink too much. Margot takes a brick of Brie out of their refrigerator but can’t find a knife. Her fingers are dirty but don’t protest when she breaks off a piece. Brie is supposed to be room temperature, she says apologetically. Her cheek is puffy and pink.
I think that she’s my soul mate, Margot says. Who? The little one, Niele, I think that’s her name, do you know? No. I mean, not my soul mate, but like, my soul itself, a duplicate of my soul… like, I used to believe that someone with an identical soul was walking around and one day I would find that person and look into her eyes and I would know. How is that different from a soul mate? Because a soul mate completes you, right, but this person is me, is me in another body. You think Niele is a duplicate of your soul? Are you fucking mocking me? No, just asking, Margot. Well, yeah, but don’t look at me like you think it’s crazy. It isn’t. You know, I wouldn’t know if I found the other person that was you, I feel like I don’t know who you are, even though I’ve known you since we were twelve years old and we kissed that time at Sarah’s birthday party and I trust you, I trust you completely but I don’t know what you believe in or how you think. What do you mean? What do you mean? What do you mean? What do you mean? Just tell me who you are, I want to know you as you know yourself, if you know yourself. Kiss her but she slaps your face. That’s not what I meant at all, she says. We eat the rest of the Brie in silence and fall asleep as Fellini explores outer space.
Wake up in the middle of the day. Our Lithuanians make us some cross breed of pancake and crepe with fruit and something which no one can really identify but is delicious. Olaf and Emilia pantomime to each other with lots of smiling and rubbing while Margot and Niele start crinkling their noses and planting each others’ cheeks with kisses. Salomeya stays quiet and refills everyone’s glasses with orange juice and vodka. Margot turns on the news and discovers it is two days later than we realized. She and Olaf both have class the day after tomorrow and we are in Copenhagen. Olaf gives Emilia his full name and his phone number and cell phone number and his home address and his school address and draws a picture of a kangaroo and a three-legged cat dancing on top of a rootless tree. She likes it and kisses him on both cheeks. Salomeya clears the dishes and disappears in the kitchen. Wait for a minute but she doesn’t come back. Why isn’t she coming back? Emilia and Olaf rub their noses together while Niele and Margot giggle and purr. Look at the texture of the wooden table, uneven and sullied with splotches of discoloration.
Then bolt to the airport. Margot doesn’t mention last night and complains about going back to women’s studies and Spanish, which she hates, and Olaf chimes in about how he dreads his seminar and that Socrates is irrelevant today. But Margot disagrees and they are still bickering about it when it is time to get on board. Margot calls him a troglodyte and he calls her a bitch. Split some leftover valiums among the three of us. Columbia and NYU start earlier than UChicago, semesters versus quarters. Have to head back home without them, back to San Francisco, alone— alone. So we run to baggage claim and then to the connecting flight, hugs and kisses, see you in May, I mean June. I love you, Margot yells. I love you, whoever you will be. I do. Olaf gestures towards Starbucks and they both wave goodbye, goodbye.
Miss the smell of Margot’s hair on the seat next to me in the airplane, the corner of Olaf’s wool sweater that itched the entire way to London. Remember that night we sat outside of a cafe, years ago, Margot wearing Olaf’s collared shirt from the winter concert while he shivered in his undershirt at dusk. The bench was cold and wet and he asked, Do you think things will be different after high school? and no one answered, the traffic filling in the silence of our contemplation. Think about what she said yesterday, whether it is possible to know something intuitively like a soul twin or what anyone’s soul would look like, anyway. Watch the clouds below the plane, stretching out like a glass barrier, into infinity.
Wait. Wait for the right suitcase to emerge in the baggage claim. Wait to get used to the sunlight after so many hours of artificiality. Wander through Union Square and start to dread pushing this heavy fucking suitcase onto the crowded, tourist filled cable cars with little kids chattering in their own languages. Like Margot but not thinking of that, not thinking of anything. Pass the first, second, and third H&M and walk into an anxious teenage girl with black eyes. Can’t remember what to order from Starbucks, so buy a triple espresso that tastes like pure acid. That must not be the kind that Margot orders, hers is always topped with a mound of whipped cream that looks too appetizing to have originated from a can. Trip on an uneven piece of concrete and end up knocking into a homeless woman’s shopping cart, full of discarded clothes and trash bags of aluminum cans. Look at her tiny, emaciated frame, the way she sits curled into the side of the building, like she’s trying to melt into the graffiti. Her skin is wrinkled, like the paper in a notebook that has gotten wet and dried.
Her lips quiver, as though she is trying to say something to me. She trembles, eventually gesturing to her plastic cup. There are three pennies and a nickel inside. I watch her, unsure why I am noticing her, unsure why I can’t stop seeing the hole in her sweater or the grayness of her thin neck or the smell of her unwashed, thinning dark hair. The homeless woman blinks at me, waiting expectantly. She wheezes, then tries to compress herself into silence. I rummage my pockets, coming up with thirty cents and a gum wrapper. Lean towards her and see the slight flicker in her eyes, a faint smile that she exhibits for my benefit. I want to say something profound, but the words won’t come. Put the dimes in her palm and squeeze her hand. I don’t know what to do after this. Start to feel sick from all the contemplation and exhaust fumes. Fight off the urge to call Margot because there is something that seems wrong about asking someone else for confirmation about recognizing yourself, in someone else. I keep our hands locked together until she closes her eyes and I watch the veins on her eyelids, tiny and blue. She breathes and I breathe. We are breathing to the same rhythm. And then she lets go of me for a passing stranger, who bends down to place another coin in her hand. He can probably offer her more money than I can. He tries to make eye contact but I keep my focus on the small fold of skin next to her earlobe. I don’t know where to go so I keep my feet parallel to hers, the edges of my sneakers aligned with the worn toes of her grey bedroom slippers. I can’t shake the feeling I am unraveling into her, suddenly, ostensibly, while the city blinks neon streaks around us.
Amy Feltman is currently pursuing her M.F.A. in Fiction from Columbia University. She has been published in The Believer, The Sonder Review, The Millions, The Rumpus, and Columbia: A Journal of Arts and Letters, with work forthcoming in Electric Literature. She works at Poets & Writers Magazine and is finishing up her