Anna-Leena Harkonen



Alena Kravchenko/Alamy


Until We Meet Again

Life is made up of absurd situations.

Once, while having coffee with a friend, I told her that I needed to go to the restroom. “You go ahead,” she said. “Going to the restroom is one of the few things in life that you will never regret.”

She later repeated the quip to another friend. “Not necessarily,” he replied. “A friend of mine passed out in a portable toilet at a rock festival. When he woke up in the morning, the toilet was hanging in the air. It was being lifted onto the bed of a truck.”

A FEW YEARS AGO, a huge gingerbread house adorned one of the dining rooms on a ferry from Finland to Sweden. It had been placed on a table in the middle of the room.

Suddenly a little boy walked to the gingerbread house, grabbed it with both hands, and carried it to his table. In a matter of moments, the people around the table demolished the house, breaking it into mouthfuls. The travesty!

Perhaps they didn’t realize it was not meant to be eaten—it was meant to be enjoyed, but in other ways. Perhaps they simply didn’t care. It’s a dog-eat-dog world: if you don’t grab an opportunity, you won’t survive.

MY FRIEND AND I were waiting in line to see the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Admission was through an automated gate, one person at a time.

All of a sudden, Jesus appeared. A skinny young man with a beard, wearing a sand-colored kaftan. He jumped in line and nimbly leaped over the gate. I was dumbfounded.

“Did you see that?” I asked my friend.

“Yes. He cut in line!” My friend seemed more astounded by his behavior than by possibly having just seen Jesus in the flesh.

On the other hand, we were on his home turf, where he may be entitled to certain liberties. Perhaps the man was in a hurry because he was appearing as Jesus in a play. Or maybe he was Jesus. The one and only.

I HAVE NEVER visited the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, but two of my friends have. One of the rooms featured photographs of demonstrations protesting the Vietnam War that were held around the world.

One of the photos had been taken in a demonstration in Helsinki. The younger friend stopped at the photo for a long while.

“Oh my God,” he said. “Is that you?”

The older friend looked at the young man with a mustache in the photo. The man in the photo was carrying an American flag with a skull painted on it.

“Yes, that’s me! I remember that parka. I borrowed it from a friend.”

Four decades had passed since the photo had been taken. My friend visited a war museum on the other side of the world and found himself. Sometimes you can run into your youth in surprising places.

© Anna-Leena Harkonen 2021

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