Flashes: Helsinki and the Åland Islands

Off the beaten path in Finland.

Finnish village in the wild Åland Islands.
  • Finnish village in the wild Åland Islands.

Mingling on the Esplanadi

The Sky Wheel spins remembrances of childhood. A southeastern breeze carries emotions, the X-girl laughter camouflaging the dark in her eyes. I smell apples and lilac. Sweden’s due west, Estonia to the south.

Anger flares in an American couple on Kappeli’s patio. Skin hardens, then softens with music. Hear Santana? “Evil Ways” sexes September, the Helsinki women posing as statues in heels and denim. The deck along the harbor flexes tourist weight.

Bodegan gastropub

Swedes slug whiskey and cubed cocktails before their meals arrive. Cinderella-thin girls in gray skirts and white aprons flit around raw oak tables with red lanterns. There is a view of a string of boathouses with bottoms submerged in weedy water.

This eatery is a red cottage with a bay-front deck. The leftover paint was used on Stig’s boat. This is one of only two places to dine on the entire Eckerö coast. Blonde Yvonne, the owner, takes advantage. Yesterday’s fish becomes today’s chowder. Old hamburger gets shaped into meatballs. She even recycles chips. The tourists swarm in like bees all summer and think they’re eating fresh. Yvonne smirks in the bar. She kills lantern flames when the last man standing stumbles off into the night.

The fishermen

Eckerö fishermen crouch on a stone ledge at the edge of Storby. They can still hear the voices of couples at the gastro pub. The sunset makes them silhouettes, shadows framed by the shore and evergreen branches. They sit between worlds, poles teasing the Baltic for mouths.

At Allas Outdoor Bar

I devour dialogues of sunset dwellers, the romantics sprawled on canvas loungers overlooking South Harbor. A turquoise pool ripples between the Baltic and us. X-girls chorus, “Yo, yo,” sipping wine and Estonian beer. White lights strung through the railing glow strong after my third drink. Helsinki tongues wave like flames.

I eye contact a blonde leaning against the railing. Her eyes flash like marbles. Hips sway in tight white jeans. How does she view me? Perhaps as an old bandit bulging in his black jacket.

She departs. Her muscles flex in jeans as she saunters off to circle our pool. The water turns the dirt-blue of the sea. The hero statues in Esplanadi Park sneak to silhouette.

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