COPENHAGEN, JUNE 24TH, 2010, 4:28 AM
On such an early summer’s morning, when the growing light made Copenhagen glow, the city was so fucking beautiful. It was as if the cobblestones, the asphalt of the street and even the butter-yellow cemetery wall inhaled the light and exhaled possibilities, dreams and hopes in a chorus with the flowering elder trees behind the wall. Or else he was just yet another drunk poet.
It was the exact perfect time to wobble home to the lemon face and the harsh words that waited, but he was in no hurry to get home this magical summer morning when even the taxis were all gone, when the buses hadn’t started yet and when it seemed as if the entire city held its breath, but for what?
So fucking beautiful. While he stood a moment and enjoyed the sight of dawn breaking over the cobblestones, his nose caught something else. The merest hint, a trail he involuntarily stretched out his neck for and tried to follow. Was it a perfume? It smelled like heaven and the most sublime sex, like an otherworldly flower, like …
He turned to follow the scent trail. It continued down the street. He followed it, and the dizzying, fantastical scent grew stronger, received a brush of other flowers and darker desires, became almost overwhelmingly heavy in the cool pre-dawn air.
What the hell was it that perfumed everything this morning?
When he saw it, at first he thought it was one of the countless art installations that popped up everywhere in Copenhagen in unexpected places. He took a deep breath. For a split second, the street and the dawn span around him in a sickening waltz.
No art hung on the closed wrought iron gate to the cemetery.
It was a man. He was tall, in impeccable shape, young, maybe in his late twenties, with expensively cut blond hair and beard stubble that gave his face a certain romantic air, in sharp contrast to a well-worn t-shirt and a ripped pair of jeans. His arms were spread out like a crucified Jesus, and were tied like his feet to the gate by some vine-like plant that gripped him from head to toe. Here and there, purple-white flowers bloomed that all exhaled that heady, dizzying scent that drifted down the street like an invisible, perfumed fog.
He looked first in one direction, then the other down the street. Not one car, taxi, cyclist or pedestrian in sight. As if all the neighborhood, Copenhagen, Denmark and maybe even the world slept frozen in time on a Thursday morning in June, while a beautiful, dead young man was tied to a wrought-iron gate with this strange vine.
Not even eleven massive beers could kill his curiosity. He crossed the street and stood in front of the gate.
Close up, he could see that the young man was not tied so much as thrown by some colossal force into the gates, where the wrought iron had bent beneath the impact, outlining his body, but where the wrought iron ended and the vine began he couldn’t see if he tried.
There was no suggestion of blood anywhere, no discoloration or anything else that could make it more real, more brutal, more human, and that shocked him most of all. How could … who could? What in the world?
He grabbed for his phone in his jacket, but he had left it at home, along with the cow, the bitch, the wife. And two more phones.
He swayed in front of the dead man for a few long, silent minutes in the growing light, dizzy with the sight, the scent, the likelihood, before he took a deep breath, turned and ran across the street.
Ran like he had the Devil himself on his heels.
Photo from Assistens Cemetery, Copenhagen, June 2010, the Jægersborggade gate. (The gate!)
With thanks to Henrik Sandbæk Harksen, and always, the Dude.