Atmospheric cafes attract writers and artists like bees to pollen. Floral armchairs and couches stuff the cosy space in Stofan, where scarves are knitted, poems are recited. Black coffee is refillable like every other place in Reykjavik, and the carrot cake is the most expensive, delicious miracle to tease my tongue. I’ve spent uncollectable hours sitting alone but not alone- next to a stranger, sharing a table with a group of friends who aren’t my own, writing, writing, writing. It’s a living room for the masses, welcoming a congregation of strangers to converse and share their ideas over steam twirling from cups. Up the road is Tiu Dropar, a basement café with a piano and old pictures framed in modest rectangles. Small chandeliers hang shyly from the low ceiling, resembling 20’s flapper dresses. Outside, feet dangle above my head. It feels a bit disconcerting to have ankles above my ears, but the hems of pants don’t care for me.
Drinking gin and tonic from our second storey apartment, our window framed with colourful fairy lights, we gaze out into a dark night. Directly opposite us, someone steps onto the diving board, their silhouette disappearing from the swimming pool window as they plunge into the pool. Bald heads rise up from behind the fence framing the rooftop spa, just as I rest my head on his shoulder. This is Iceland. It’s everywhere. It’s not just in the shops, the brennivin, the rotten shark or perfected eyebrows. It’s in my little flat on a street with a name I’m still uncomfortable articulating, with our sulfur stained bathtub and our landlord’s mugs. Our dusty room with the wooden floor, the key lock and toilet flush that work upside down, the ever present smell of cooking and the sound of our neighbour’s phone vibrating. This is 101 Reykjavik.
In her own words:
I walk to my classes and write notes, which is fun because I like observing my handwriting. I wait tables, carrying hot dishes of dead animals to people who look surprised to see an Asian person living in Iceland. Lately I like to poach eggs because the white gathering around the yolk is like magnetic magic, I like whipping out my wallet at the supermarket to see ‘tra(i)nsition’ written on the inside, I am working on my body with sweaty motivation and I end my nights with a bloody mary. From that I suppose you could say I’m a student, a waitress, Korean, visually excited, often hungry, determinedly trying and I love a drink or two.