Thursday, March 28, 2024

Spring break in Iceland: A hookup with a Nordic god

Augustana, Junior Year

Augustana was a small college, so there weren't many choices for Modern Language Majors: Spanish, French, German, Swedish, Latin, Greek, and occasionally Russian. We had to "become fluent" in two languages and "competent" in a third, so I chose Spanish and French, which I studied in high school, and German, because I spent the fall quarter of my sophomore year in Regensburg. 

We also had to participate in at least one language club, but the Spanish, French, and German clubs were kind of boring, with bake sales, foreign-language films, and field trips to the Goethe Institut or the Alliance Française in Chicago.

Everybody joined the Scandinavian Club -- they had an endowment from a wealthy alumnus, and paid most of the way for members to go on annual field trips to Scandinavia!  A different country every year, alternating between Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland.

In my junior year, it was Iceland.  I would have preferred Norway, but I wasn't about to turn down ten days in the land of the Old Norse sagas and Nordic hunks.

There were 12 of us, eight boys and four girls, plus two chaperones. We stayed in a youth hostel, four to a room, but everyone got a single bed, so there wasn't any late-night fondling, just a couple of less-than-spectacular sausage sightings.

No one came out willingly in the 1970s, so if any of the other guys were gay, they didn't let on.

Iceland was interesting, but not quite interesting enough for six days.  After you see the National Museum and the  Árbæjarsafn, an open-air museum of Icelandic history, there's nothing but glaciers, geysers, rocks, and scraggly mountains.  I've never found natural wonders as interesting as museums.

We never made it to Akureyri, famous for its annual strongman contest.
One day we took a bus to Hveragerði, about 45 minutes from Reykjavik, to visit Reykjadalur, "Steam Valley,"  an unearthly-looking region of volcanic boulders, spurts of steam, rocks, waterfalls, pools of water, and hot springs with wooden footpaths around.

Our guide told us that some intrepid souls jumped into the hot springs, but you had to be careful -- in some of them, the temperature got up to 80 degrees (175 fahrenheit), and would scald you.

None of us was brave enough.  Besides, it was cloudy and damp, with a cold wind blowing -- who wanted to strip?

When it came time to get back on the bus, we discovered that Erik was missing!

He was a junior Scandinavian Studies major, short, slim, sandy-haired, blue-eyed, with a round handsome face.  We had known each other since high school, but we didn't interact much: he was a fratboy, several levels above me on the social scale.

We went up and down the paths, calling his name.  No answer.

He couldn't have fallen into a crevice.  It was all open -- we would see him.

Could he have wandered off the path, into the wilderness of volcanic rocks?

We searched for 45 minutes.  Then, just as our chaperone suggested we drive back to town and stop at the police station, Erik appeared -- on a path we had just searched!

Seeing our anxious and angry faces, he said "What?  Chill out -- I was just looking at something.  We're only in Iceland once, right?"

He didn't believe that he had been gone over 45 minutes: "I guess I lost track of time.  Sorry."

More after the break

Augustana's 20th year reunion

I run into Erik at our 20th year reunion, and then again at JR's, Rock Island's gay bar! He's still slim, sandy-haired, and strikingly handsome, now teaching Scandinavian Studies at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.

After a few beers (Diet Cokes for me), we talk about that long-ago trip to Iceland:

"I didn't tell anyone what really happened, because it was erotic.  I didn't want to out myself."

That afternoon Erik wandered off by himself on a wooden-plank pathway.  Suddenly it got very quiet.  He couldn't hear our voices anymore, or even his own footsteps.   Everything seemed distant, yet sharply focused, like in a dream.

He crossed a little pathway, and came to a pool.  There was a man standing waist deep in the water, naked, muscular.  Massive penis.

He stared at Erik in surprise, and then smiled.  His eyes were piercing, hypnotic.  He gestured for Erik to come into the water with him.

"I was terrified.  Why should I be so afraid of a hot guy asking me to skinny dip with him?  I became aroused.  My feet started to move.  I wanted more than anything to be in that water, to be kissing him, going down on him.  He was aroused, enormous."

"How big?"

"Huge. He walked toward me, water dripping off his penis.  I got on my knees. I hadn't been with anyone before -- it choked me!  I pulled my head away to cough.  Then I heard a noise -- someone calling my name.  I turned away.  I saw you guys in the distance."

"But what you describe took only a few seconds," I point  out.  "You were gone for almost an hour."

"That's one thing I don't understand," Erik says.  "And another -- when I looked back, he was gone,  He didn't have time to run away, and there was no place to go."

I'm living in Manhattan, the paranormal capital of the world, and I'm an expert on missing time and paranormal events.  "Maybe you had a close encounter with the Huldufólk, Hidden People, the  magical inhabitants of Iceland.  They're usually harmless, unless you disturb them."

55% of the Icelandic people believe that Huldufolk exist.  Public works are often delayed because the workers don't want to do any construction on their land.

 "But some of them like luring humans off the path and seducing them," I continued.  I didn't think it wise to say "then keeping them a prisoner forever."

"Seducing them, yeah," Erik says.  "What do these Huldufolk look like?"

They are as big as humans, as beautiful as Tolkien's Elves, lithe and androgynous.  They appear as beautiful youth with long blond hair, usually naked.

"Well, there goes that theory," Erik says  "My guy was no androgynous prettyboy.  He was at least fifty, maybe sixty, balding, with a white bead and a hairy chest.  More my type anyway.  I was always into big, burly bears."

"Oh, ok," I say, disappointed. "He must have been just an aging hippie looking for some boy toy action."

But then, why the missing time? And what would have happened Erik finished the hookup?

 Maybe the paths are more dangerous than they look.

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