First and foremost, so as to prevent anybody to be mistaken by my strange idea of birthdays, I have to disclaim that yesterday was my own birthday. I'm still younger than you thought.
It is a chance I accept with a sort of relative indifference becoming insane, at that point where normality and absurdity are the very same. So I put on a dress, changed my handbag for a fancier one, put on lipstick--oh my, hadn't been doing it for ages it seems--and headed downtown for an imaginary birthday dinner with myself. A colleague at work had pitied me and given lunch coupons, so--at least the dinner would feel like a present of circumstance.
At last the storm had broken on that day, the office although fully staffed felt so much like Friday, so more relaxed, not really busy, talking about this and that and standing by the window looking at the welcomed rain and obscured light.
In the evening, only the relieving remained, and a fresh wind at last. There was far too many people for that time in the city centre, as shops are open until late. I walked for a while, lazily undecided about which restaurant to choose. This is not as if I was in the mood for any special kind of food, this also I lost, and making up my mind upon criteria such as vegetarianism proved not very effective. I wanted something really nice, not a packed-up place with noisy people staring at a dressed-up girl eating alone, some place with softened lights, regular table service, and atmosphere, somewhat French way.
As I walked along Aleksanterinkatu, and perhaps that's the only reason worth telling all this, I thought back of that day which I had spent calling analysts, and eventually meeting some of them at a presser. Strikingly similar young guys with their suits and their ties. I imagined calling them for dinner. Hello, can I speak to...? He's in a meeting at the moment? Fifteen minutes? Okay, thanks a lot, bye... Hello, Julie Breton from Reuters, would you be available for dinner? We would sit face to face at a lover's table, he'd be all nervous in his suit, and I would ask: Can you comment on that pasta dish? And he would give me his outlook for the pasta market in the second half of 2008 and his estimates for 2009 taking into account a possible further rise in the ECB's interest rates, and the loss of profitability for pasta dishes in regard of the increasing raw material costs such as of tomatoes and pork, and detail the risks ahead for the pepperoni production, and how the Finnish parmesan market is pressured by Italian imports.
I bursted into laughter in the street, and fortunately no one cared around. The idea sounded tremendously funny to me. The laughing came from a bit deeper than before, lasted a bit longer. Felt strongly insane though.
My final decision stopped on Rafaello, in the same Aleksanterinkatu. They had salmon soup and fancy desserts as expensive as the main dishes. I was seated at a single table near the door, but it was nice. Not many people around. Quiet. And on top of all, it felt like a real restaurant where you have to wait a life to be served your dish. The salmon soup was decent, not the culinary extasy I imagined, but perhaps I am wrong thinking there could be much more or better. Maybe I'm happy and I just don't realize it. The bread was fantastic nevertheless, Frenchy baguette straight out of the oven. In contrast to the dish, the dessert was notably excellent, a top in restaurant desserts so far.
While waiting between dishes, I read through the messages on my phone, the oldest dating back to almost two years ago. I like keeping some as benchmarks, as receptacle of the whole memory of the moments and events they're about or around. Or just because they make me smile, touching, recalling friends. They were gaps of several months between some. I had to stop at some point. "You make me happy." I held back the tears and took a sip of ice-cold water to chase the memory away.
I stood up to pay as soon as it was done, and as I was waiting at the nearby checkout, I looked back to my table now bathing in the passage's yellow light, to the rest of tap water in the glass wine, the only plate. It looked so very sad.
I paid with the lunch coupons, calculating that the rest would be fine to invite friends later--whenever they'd be able to stand on their foot or hold a fork, that is. Out in the street, the sky was already so darker. Young people were playing melancholic classical pieces at the streets' corners, as always. The echos of the melody followed me to the harbour. As every Friday, people are gathering there with collection cars, but outside of the neat rectangle of the marketplace, it was all quiet. A ferry-nightclub was mooring, broadcasting eerie dance music through the silence that was floating over the water. And then a grand sailing boat came to moor. I was alone next to the old markethall, and it was gliding straight to me, sails down, in the silence, as if no one was on board, a ghost boat, the Finnish flag only floating on top of the mast. There actually were a lot of people, tourists or guests of some sort, on it, and I escaped as soon as they started singing to thank the company.
I walked back slowly to the train station, detailing the shopwindows of Pohjoisesplanadi's design stores. The faint light in the northern sky shrank into a tiny orange line by the time I was back home. Here we are then, the night is back, and I can hardly believe that exactly one year ago nights seemed so vividly and amazingly bright. Much brighter than where I was coming from. You get too used to these things; it makes me quite sad.