A HORRIBLE DAY AFTER

This text was published in the Aquatic Encounters – a glossary of hydrofeminisms (2024) edited by Elina Suoyrjö & Anastasia A Khodyreva. The story is founded on previous work with Tea Andreoletti and our submissions for the book were presented next to sculpturesque injections by Monika Czyżyk & Elina Vainio. It was written at Örö Islands Öres Residency during our stay there with the Institute of Coping with Destruction. In part it ushered the development of Wypij Morze!

As a young sailor I ventured to the guest harbour of Örö and took a drink from the bistro by the peer. I caught a glimpse of a fellow, who looked as if they had ventured to the sea before they could walk. As they gazed back at me, a slice of pickled herring slipped from their fork landing on the muddy peer. Without hesitation they picked it up, swirled the fish in their beer and ate it. They took note of my concerned expression and signaled me to step closer.

I see you are concerned of what you witnessed. I assure you there is a lot to be learned from dirt. Sit down, share a beer with me and I’ll tell you a thing I’ve learned living by these waters.

The wind stood still and I felt a fleeing concern. I pulled a chair to their table and listened. As I was not yet seaworthy, I had trouble following the names of the islets and bearings of ports they spoke of. Noticing my waning concentration, they leaned forwards and began their story. Whispering, they told me of the alarming events that took place at the remote Bodö island guest harbour, deep in the archipelago sea.

A young entrepreneur took a risk and opened a guest harbour with a dock bistro in Bodö. They renovated its only building, an old border station and built all the infrastructure themselves. They devised a kitchen, modest living quarters for a staff of five and a warm dining hall for visitors passing the barren sea. The guest dock had previously been a cold service station for fueling vessels and offering shelter when the weather took a turn. But they had seen potential in the place and put in effort inviting mariners to dine and spend nights docked by the shore. Their first summer had been a success and their menu was celebrated. For the safety of their clients, they had to advise a contingency plan for every scenario and condition the sea would throw at them. The weather demanded that they secured everything to bedrock, kept emergency supplies to last two weeks and instead of keeping a generator and fuel in reserve for an emergency, they maintained two. In bad weather it would take a day to reach them from the mainland. The bistro had been opened on an exceptionally hot summer but now the fresh autumn winds had arrived and the entrepreneur only had a staff of three for the rest of the season.

Oddly, on the morning of their final week, everyone in the crew began to feel weak. The cook reported that their tongue tasted faulty, the cashier and the waiter complained of sudden piercing headaches and feverish tremors. The entrepreneur felt these too and sensed a strange odour when they relieved themselves but did not bother the staff with this detail. They had only each other to consult and as a new crew they experienced the strange symptoms escalating over the morning. Suspecting food poisoning they closed the kitchen and had to send their only clients of the day sailing forwards hungry. There can be no lying at the seas, so apologetically they turned to their remaining guest anchored at the dock, asking if they experienced strange symptoms: Difficulty to concentrate, drowsiness or dry sparks in their tongues. They were relieved to learn that the lone sailor had not experienced such. The guest thanked the staff for their honesty and headed towards Marienhamm. The crew and the entrepreneur were left by themselves and decided to retreat to their quarters until they could figure out what was the root of the cause. The chef took to their bunk and opened a beer. The cashier tried to sleep but they felt as if the world was spinning and had to lay on the wooden floor to keep grounded. The entrepreneur, desperate to find the cause, searched medical databases for clues, while planning their evacuation to the mainland.

But the waiter sensed an urge and went to the east shore of the island for a swim. Despite their nausea and the fatigue of their limbs, they swam far into the horizon. Floating on their back they felt cold by their feet and savoured the warmth of the surface. The blue-green algae reported on mainland shores was of concern. Yet, despite their best knowledge and everything they had been taught of the archipelago, they suddenly felt they had to drink the sea. They halted, turned towards the shore to see the roofs of the kitchen and the hall and opened their mouths allowing the water in. The water passed their throat with ease and as it did, they felt an ecstatic rush. All fatigueness and aches evaporated from their body. Their confidence grew and they took a long dive. Under the water the taste of the sea revealed itself and returning to the shore they knew exactly how to heal the crew. With insight to the remedy, they rushed to the quarters but were surprised by loud music and opening the door, they were met by a very happy chef cheering the rest of the lot to drink more beer with them. Everyone was smiling and laughing. Their nausea had passed, health restored and they welcomed the waiter back with cheers. During their swim the crew had experienced a revelation.

The fellow paused, took a sip of their beer. They retreated back, leaning to their chair, savouring the moment and investigating my reactions with pleasure. I nodded and cleared my throat a bit, as I was anxious to know what had caused the strange symptoms and bizarre behaviour. Before I could ask it out loud, the fellow winked their eye and continued.

The beers the chef drank had relieved their nausea. This and other signs lead the entrepreneur to suspect that there had been something wrong with their water supply and rest assured… The reverse osmosis system which they used to turn the brackish water of the sea drinkable was to blame. In their efforts to make everything served on the island safe and clean, the entrepreneur had set the device to remove everything but the molecule of H₂O from the sea water supply. The device had worked as instructed and produced purified water, which didn’t provide them with electrolytes nor minerals their bodies needed. Instead, the purified water extracted minerals from them, causing —what the chef recognized from firm experience— symptoms of morbid hangover. The relieved entrepreneur then set the machine to include salts and minerals of the sea in its product, which removed their symptoms at a glance.

Revealing their gold teeth with a grin the fellow concluded.

And since then I’ve always trusted my tastebuds over my eyes and am not shy to add mud to my fish nor grit to my drink.

Dandelion

They were looking for puzzle pieces under the sofa. The green piece which father called nallen kenkä was the last part missing. But they only saw a yellow ball and soft cloth there. “This cloth you wear around the neck” they remembered, with the white hapsut which feel neat to roll between fingers.

Someone was doing the dishes in the small room. Metal bowls chimed in the sink, the tones muffled by soap bubbles. They wanted jam their hands into the white foam but felt an urgency to find something. The yellow ball was too far to reach, so they gave up and sat legs straight on the rug. It tickled.

They needed to scratch their leg bends and as they did they felt wet noodles between their fingers. Pulling on them hurt so they turned and saw spaghetti coming out of their feet. It wiggled coming out and they could feel the tips of the treads moving fast, looking for cracks to settle in.

It was exciting. Mother would be proud of them because they grew in size. They shouted in delight and stood up. As they stood they reached high, they were all grown up and the spaghetti was blasting from their fingertips towards the floor. The tips crawled into cracks seeking for moisture and they felt their throat opening at ease.

The cry had severity to it but mother remained calm. Being alarmed by every alarm would be too much, so they dried their hands before attending to it. The shout had not been that of pain but excitement. While passing the narrow corridor leading to the living room they heard something curiously scraping the floor.

Entering the room, they had to support themselves by touching the wall. They knew they were too late but still shouted the child’s name before dropping to their knees. This cry was of pain but muffed to not to alarm what remained. They looked around for support but we’re alone now. The child had turned into a flower, standing tall on the living room floor.

They saw proudness in the sadness and felt accomplished. Mother sat down with their eyes in awe, then placed their hand on their chest, all fingers pointed out and nodded with approval. This helped them to spread their petals out evenly. Every leaf fresh and soft. New buds formed on their shoulders and they settled their chest leaves towards the sun.

A week passed and they were planted to the garden. From there they gained a way to travel, surprising their father and sister by quickly pushing through the soil with a smile. Sister cried in delight every time. Father too, but they had a concerned expression as if they had lost something. Occasionally they turned a patch of the meadow yellow, appearing right before mother passed it.

Wobbling in the sun.

Frosty blue scars

They climbed on the mounts of a nearby forest and took stand on a peak which had an engraved forehead reading PIMPELIPOM. The chill of the night had reached them and leatherpants were not enough. Dead dried trees around them, some climbed by children only last year.

Where they stood, there was no horizon. Every direction covered with brown branches. Rooftops peaking behind them, faking to be a distance away. Red roofs, appearing as sea. Assessing the direction of the wind was easy. They worked against their instinct, turned to confront it and shouted into it.

The words travelled forward, then solidified in the cold breeze, returned backwards with added speed, entering their mouth and piercing past the back of their scull. They continued shouting, having their voice slam trough to their body, inscribing passing words to flesh as permafrosted outlines.

After passing the words continued deeper to the dark and mixed into other distant cries. They were not alone but not with anyone. The concern was not what they felt witnessing this, rather that everything witnessed made them incapable of feeling anything at all.

The Patient Sauna

They were entered through a thick wood door leading to a dim corridor, connecting two separate dressing rooms and a spacious washing area covered with light gray tile floors and walls. The Sauna chamber was accessed from the washing area and sealed with a glass panel door supported by a bulky spruce frame. Transparency enabled parents to watch over children and condemn them if they soaped the floor tiles to slide flat across the room. They considered themselves a modest and modern Sauna. They didn’t exhibit any traces of hammer hits missing nail heads as the interior panels were attached using iron nails shot from a compressor driven nailgun.  The panels expressed a warm yellow colour and covered the insulations and ceiling neatly, modestly hiding the surrounding concrete walls.

The rooms of the Sauna had very small windows at ceiling level which faced the inner yard. The window frames were angled towards to the floor, echoing times when coal had been poured into basements and electric lights were scarce. The two current electric lights of the Sauna chamber were covered with wooden shades. Ten thin straight pine sheets angled light downwards, so that the people sitting on the birch benches stretching the back wall would not feel exposed. The stove was generous with a deep pit of fist size stones, safely distanced from the corner panels and surrounded by sturdy birch handrail. The glass of the outer window of the Sauna was textured to resemble water droplets allowing only light trough.

Like its sibling, they were in a basement but not ashamed. They were in different buildings, numbered 35 and 37 of the same housing company, located in A district which was a moderately fancy neighbourhood. The siblings were only made distinct by their usage. 37 also housed weekly jogging-saunas but these were seldom attended, even though like the annual Christmas Sauna, they were free and open for all occupants. Most people either reserved a weekly Thursday shift or signed up for vacant Saturday shifts by writing their last name and apartment number on a schedule by the door. Shifts were an hour. On Saturdays both Saunas heated for seven hours straight, welcoming seven families, individuals or groups. Because of the latest energy crisis the price of a reservation rose from 2€ to 3€.

The two buildings had been constructed for the employees of a nearby hospital. This explained the small apartment size. They were for single nurses and worked to keep them this way. Some of the first occupants still lived in the house. The small apartments were balanced by big shared spaces such as the Saunas, a hobby room which could fit fifty occupants, fully featured laundry and drying rooms. These were the expressions of the collective desire of the housing company owners.

Because of a particularity of the building’s memory system, it took time for new occupants to learn the buildings behaved. News concerning the free and open jogging-sauna events and other details regarding shared spaces were conveyed in bulletin board literature, a niche style of fiction which required excessive efforts from younger readers. Elders understood that this literary form was appreciated by observing how pins holding the changing prints gradually frayed the soft fibres of the bulletin board. This process offered great comfort for the initiated. Not reading also spared the younger occupants from complicated questions. It was a blessing that they did not know that nobody, not even landlords owned the apartments. Owners only had shares in a collectively owned housing company, which could take any form.

“A text of the agreement would make their experience less tangible”. The Sauna reasoned though a process which took countless bathing cycles to compute and to store in a spruce panel colour change. If the people had learned that their comfort was based on an agreement which took the shape of two separate buildings, they would have been stressed by the responsibility of maintaining them.

On the days the Sauna in building 35 was not heated they were only interrupted by scheduled cleaning or distant noises of people passing by in the basement corridor. Five days a week the Sauna rested and contemplated its existence peacefully. This kind of slumber was common for housing company Saunas in the city, who all had a lot of time to think. Despite this vast computational power, their processing was very slow because it was affected by a specific type of amnesia. The housing company Saunas only retained residual memories. This meant they could only keep track of their thoughts in material changes such as chalk formations near water outlets, appearance of rust on their nails or screws and by following seasonal changes.

This Saunas chalk formations were cleaned diligently and the nail heads were too deep in the panels to see. So, it kept track of its thought and retained coherent memories by observing slow changes in the colour of its spruce panels. This slow thought was paced by occasional wood rattle and pops, caused by the panels undergoing seasonal changes. The Sauna knew it was owned collectively and was very forgiving to itself. It had very few responsibilities and keeping ludic thought was a self-indulgent side project. It enjoyed making observations and storing them patiently in the panel colour changes.

Despite its best efforts it could not distinguish between its guests. All the people had soft cheeks and were too similar to keep track of. All the guests returned the two blue plastic and the one steel bucket on the same bench of the washing area. Because the Sauna was pacing its thoughts slowly, it was as if the three buckets never moved. Between each visitor, even the löylykauha and white plastic kippa were positioned the same way, to relieve water and traces of use. The only thing notable about the different users was how few traces they left. Even on Saturdays, when occupants and families used the Sauna in turns for hours, each returned the buckets and tools on the bench between the shifts. A kumilasta was used to clean the floor tiles of soap and excess water.

None of the residents, the Sauna nor the janitor could explain why the buckets were kept in their particular order. The contract had been silent and maintained too meticulously for any thought to occur. The steel bucket, intended for löylyvesi on the right by the window, the plastics to the left and löylykauha and kippa on the front. For the uninitiated these tools appeared as they had been dropped in their place. Placed this way the containers would take the least amount of space on the bench, allowing people to sit before bathing and being close to the radiator they would dry swiftly. There was no guarantee that this the plan but it was maintained. The Sauna was reset every time it was used. It was a beautiful non-ornamental composition which the Sauna enjoyed.

The Sauna was not bothered that it couldn’t remember how many years it had been in service. When it needed assurance of the passing time to form some coherent thought, it observed the changes in the yellow hue of the wooden panels. Judging from the current hue, it assessed it was at least 30 years old. In conversations with its closest neighbour the Air-raid shelter, it knew it had been first built on this site in the fifties and had always been intended for the building. It was part of the design, a self-evident feature, outlined in building plans without any mental strain.

Over the years The Air-raid shelter had been largely converted into a bicycle storage, but it maintained core features, the iron doors, ventilation shafts and the small room for protective gear, insulations and air pumps. It was an exhausting neighbour, constantly making noise of itself, claiming to be on a holy mission, responsible for raising the final generation of men. In moments when the Air-raid shelters’ rants and dark grunts bothered the Sauna, it took slow comfort in witnessing rays jumping across the panel seams. In the winter it followed frost forming on the outer windows. It smiled patiently.

Unlike the Air-raid shelter, eagerly waiting for deployment, this Sauna… Like its peers, the armada of modest Saunas scarred in housing company basements in Helsinki, they were marked by regular use. This regular use was only made remarkable by how little evidence of the use was left. As if the people did not exist at all and were characterized by what they could not be remembered for.

20231214

Suffocating the academic and student solidarity movement for Palestinian liberation in Finnish higher education (2023) Anaïs Duong-Pedica is a warning of an arriving regime. It maps out how the Palestinian Solidarity Movement in Finland is being shunned and how people asking for a ceasefire for Gaza are silenced by public institutions they serve. We are now witnessing proper censorship acts for example at Aalto University, where a students course work was removed before it was evaluated by the teacher. I imagine similar cases happening in the press too. There is too much happening to plot out what is taking place in the domain of art but it appears that presenting opinions publicly, which work against a mainstream narrative and against a definition dividing people as terrorists or human rights advocates, based on their usefulness for western powers, are made more difficult then before.