“You’d think there would be greater loyalty,” I said. “After all I had done for Norway.”
His head turned slowly, our eyes met and locked. He looked confused, as if he had just awoke from a deep sleep in a foreign place. He shook cobwebs from his head, rubbed sleep from his eyes.
“I know you,” he said.
I knew him as well.
“You are Jon,” I said, though I do not know how I knew his name.
“You are Snorri,” he said to me. “I’m dreaming. How wonderful to have a dream about my Snorri.”
I had been with Skuli and then was in this place, unknown to me, called a dream by a stranger whose name I knew, whose face I knew and felt as if I had always known.
“I have a ship,” I said. “The King will be greatly angered but I am going anyway, there is nothing for me here and my Iceland is falling apart.”
“Yes,” he said. “Orlygsstadir. I know all about it, I wrote about it here in the book.”
There was no book to see.
“Rudy is reading that chapter. I must have fallen asleep, I must be dreaming it as he talks, dreaming about you, my Snorri.”
‘My Snorri? How is it that I am his Snorri? As if he possesses me in some manner.’
“You’re name is Jon,” I said. How did I know that?
“You got a ship and blessing from Earl Skuli and you’re sailing back to Iceland,” he said.
“Even though I have been at odds with my brother Sighvat and even more so with his boy Battle Sturla, I did not wish them slain. Even though the blows came from my own sons-in-law, the deaths were Sturlungar. I must return.”
“I know,” he said.
All things come from or go into the body politic. All things in life are absorbed by episodes of time. Things that bring pleasure and pride, joy, fear, mistrust, anxiety, pain and even love.
I lost both my children by Herdis within weeks of each other. Two young souls gone from life too soon. Hallbera stolen by a personal malady and my boy Jon trout taken by his own drunken bravado. A father feels this pain no matter how estranged he has become from his child. There is no greater suffering and though she never spoke to me of it I know the pain was even greater for Herdis. With the loss of Sighvat and Battle Sturla, and my other nephews, and the savage torture of my Oraekja, all these painful losses to bear are like strips of flesh torn from my body.
“I studied you, wrote volumes about you, taught students about you and others. In a way, your life was my life.” His voice was young and clear, his eyes could see for miles and the sounds from well beyond sight came easily to his ears, in this place.
‘Dreaming,’ this Jon thought. ‘Wonderful. I wish that life were like this dream that I could be full and vibrant and eternal.’
“I’ve seen you before,” I said. “I know you. I know you well, better than I know any kinsman. But who are you?” I couldn’t tell if he was young or old, the vision of him kept changing, melting into and out of itself as if he was made of cloud, yet the sight of him in moment after moment was as clear as if he stood directly in my presence.
“I was just thinking about my brother Sighvat. About the battle at which he was slain. I wasn’t there of course but I imagined it just as if I had been in that place beside him. Then you came to this place. I was here in this place though I don’t know where I came from to be here.”
“I was somewhere else too, in the Sunroom with the folks.” Jon said. “I’m dreaming. You are my dream.”
“I am no dream.”
I was no dream. But there were pieces of memory lingering at the fringes of my thoughts, at the edges of recollection. I was in Norway, received word of deception and strife in my Iceland, a great battle between my kinsmen; I was on the ship striking west through rough water and then I was with Hallveig, just beyond my view. I remember those things but I do not remember coming to this place and being with this man who was so familiar, yet I did not know him.
I remember, Hallveig had grown weaker, frail, so that her clothing hung loose from her, though she still had spark in her eyes and fire in her action and words. We talked about the dissent, the elevation and escalation of conflict.
We sat together, this strange, familiar man and me and we looked upon the battle, as if we watched actors playing out in theatre, but much more real. At times we stood in the midst of the conflict, with violence all about us, the combatants did not know we were even there.
There is no difference in time, the past is the future and the future is the past all at the same time, all at once as if all of time were laid out before us and the immeasurable instant of the present is the portal through which we view it. In this place of all things together, mixing, blending, melding, as if all things, all places, all times were one.
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