The wasps float angrily up through our open windows and bang about between the glass and the curtain. They come all summer long, once or twice each day. I hear the buzz or I see the cat twitch and point. Our fly swatter is neon orange, and when I grab it like a machete, the cat high-tails it out of the room. He knows what comes next.
I stalk the vicious insect, push the curtain flatter to the window so it has no escape. Then SMACK!
The yellow-and-black curl of its dying body drops like fruit from a tree onto our white window sill, between framed photos: Jonathan and I watching fireworks at Disneyland, my girlfriends and I at the Christmas tree lighting in San Francisco, me wearing a cute hat in Strasbourg, France. I don't trust the bug even in its prone position, not so long as its head, abdomen, thorax, wings, and stinger remain intact. I scoop it up with the spatula-shaped end of the swatter and toss it out the window.
This is an exercise unique to my life in Oslo.
Like public transportation and lompe-wrapped pølse and the cruise ship whistle at two-o'clock each afternoon. Like curtainless windows and removing my shoes in Norwegian homes and paying through the nose for sucker beer. Like the immigrants who wander around parks with big plastic bags, digging through trash bins for cans and bottles to recycle. They will also approach your party, reclined on purple polka-dot blankets and cracking jokes about Lorena Bobbitt; they will point to the beer cans sitting in the grass, light blue sommer øl , and reach for them. You hand over your empties. Vær så god. You shoo them away from you half-fulls. Nei nei. There's no shame in this thing they do. It's all they have, and recycling in Norway is almost lucrative.
These things are normal to me now.
Like the way Norwegian men spit as they walk down the street. They keep chiclet-sized packets of snus tucked under their upper lips. Puddles of tobacco-stained saliva spatter the pavement. Like the 25% Value Added Tax and having to visit the Apotek (Pharmacy) to purchase every little medical thing, all the way down to aspirin. Like the dearth of drinking fountains in the in the city. Like unarmed police officers walking their beats; the cops here wear neon yellow vests over gray/black/blue uniforms. They walk in pairs. They are easy to spot in a crowd.
We have fitted several of our windows with homemade screens to keep the bees, wasps, and yellow-jackets at bay. But a few get in anyway. And I no longer flinch. It's just an afternoon ritual. Hanging laundry out to dry, since I don't own a working dryer. Jackhammers in the afternoon. Grocery shopping with certain constraints, only buying what I can easily haul up all those blasted stairs. When I'm not carrying something up with me, I barely notice the stairs anymore.
I plop a spoonful of ripe red jordbær syltetøy (strawberry jam) into a small water glass and carry it back to the café table with me. I rip bits of pastry off with my fingers and dip them into the jam; my tongue rejoices at the sweet tang of it. There is nothing better than that taste. One day, I know, I will miss this.