In The New Yorker magazine, there’s a section called “Shouts And Murmurs,” which accepts submissions for original, comedic short-fiction (approx. 1000 words or so). There is also a section online called “Daily Shouts,” which publishes these pieces every day, digitally. You’re allowed to submit a piece every 90 days, so about four a year. I recently sent this piece in, a little too close to the Academy Awards, and it’s timeliness has come and gone. I can’t imagine people caring about it too long after the awards have been given out, so here it is:
I hope this message has reached you in time. I never thought my life would depend on a message in a bottle.
I’m seventeen days into my twenty-eight-day rehabilitation. I’ve been cut off from the world. No internet. No phone. I’m required to wear a bathrobe at all times. I have a daily routine of counseling, AA meetings and wondering how the hell I ended up here.
It started with tap shoes. Only three years ago. It was the Christmas before our wedding and my wife and I had begun what would become our yearly ritual: watching all the potential Oscar-nominated films. We live in Iceland and this ritual was one of our only escapes from the suffocating darkness of the season–other than geothermal swimming pools and binge drinking.
The tap shoes, a gift from my bride to be, were a homage to her favourite film that year, La La Land. She kept encouraging me to wear them when we went out just in case “the moment presented itself” and we could “break out in song and dance.” The steel plates on my toes and heels were a nightmare on the icy sidewalks of Reykjavik. After my second visit to the emergency room (the first visit was “only a sprain” and “shouldn’t affect my ball change”), the night shift doctor recommended I exchange my cramp roll for crampons after I recovered from my shattered patella.
Eventually, after a lengthy healing period, my unimpressed fiance forgave me for my lack of heel-step–winter turned to summer–and all thoughts of movies, musicals, and the Oscars evaporated in the midnight sun. My wife’s attempts to buffalo me into dance lessons became rarer and rarer. On the night of our wedding, we attempted no choreography more complex than the chicken dance and the macarena. Life was simple and easy.
But as the sun descended each day from its zenith, falling shorter and shorter from the heights it obtained only the day before, darkness returned to Iceland and my fear of praiseworthy films hung thick in the air.
We watched The Shape of Water on Boxing Day and I was on edge afterwards. It was a relatively warm winter, but my wife drew a bath almost every night–watching movies alone on her iPad by candlelight. We ate hard boiled eggs three days in a row for breakfast and I was convinced I was going to be cuckolded by a cod or a cod fisherman or some other aquatic lothario. A possible turn of events, according to the sagas, that was not uncommon here in Iceland.
By New Year’s Eve, these minimalist breakfasts had become more and more lavish: eggs, pastries, welsh rarebit and smokey hot teapots of Lapsang Souchong. My wife waited on me, devotedly, and when she needed her button sewn back on her blouse, she pleaded with me to stitch it for her. She remembered how I had chosen home economics over shop class in high school and exclaimed: “How lucky I am to be married to a genius!” This was our happiest time together since the honeymoon. I wanted it to last forever.
Nothing lasts forever, though, and we were lucky to be in such a good place in our relationship when I fell incredibly ill. I was sick on and off for months with my wife nursing me back to health each time. I was so lucky to have her there for me. As summer returned, my illness disappeared as mysteriously as it had arrived.
This winter began differently. My wife has gone to the movies a few times with her girlfriends, but mostly we’ve been hitting the bars. Reykjavik has a notorious nightlife and binge drinking is as culturally accepted as second cousin marriages. I haven’t gone out so much since my twenties! My wife kept encouraging me to drink more and more. She kept pointing me out to friends of hers who had drugs. “Live a little!” she yelled into my ear in the crowded bar as I followed her sketchy friend into the bathroom.
After doing this almost every day for two months, I am a mess. I lost my job. My in-laws uninvited me to Christmas. My friends have quit messaging me. That’s why my wife drove me here: Iceland’s Detox and Rehab Facility.
I’ve stared out the window every evening, looking into the dark blue abyss of the Atlantic ocean, confused for over two weeks about how and why I spiraled out of control so quickly. Confused until today. Movie day. We watched A Star Is Born in the common area before nap time.
I hope the great currents of the ocean carry this message to someone capable of helping me. A Star Is Born cannot win Best Picture. I think my life depends on it.
My wife isn’t evil or malicious. She’s just impressionable. Your standard millennial who takes all fiction too literally and herself too seriously. She’s currently competing to represent Iceland in the Eurovision song contest, unironically.