How quickly I lost my man at an international Santa Claus convention. One moment, we were strolling along the Copenhagen waterfront on a quiet Monday in July, making our way to the Little Mermaid statue. The next, we were suddenly surrounded by a flock of Saint Nicks. Overwhelmed by their vibrant red coats and cacophony of cheers that occasionally harmonized into a chorus of “ho, ho, ho!”, I found the situation amusing and took out my phone to record what I just knew would be Instagram gold. But when I turned to Simon to film his reaction, he was gone. I scanned the crowd. Was he with Russian Santa? Nyet. German Santa? Nein. I stood on a bench and looked towards the water. Perhaps he had gone to the Little Mermaid. But she was surrounded by Japanese Santas, and my blond Swedish man was nowhere in sight.
How tiny and delicate she looked, carefully balanced on her perch of stones just slightly offshore, with the Santas as her guardians. She gazed into the water, as if she no longer cared to be where the people are. Considering the possibility that I might never see Simon again, I understood her sadness. At least it was fun while it lasted.
I thought back to two months ago, when we had first met on a group tour of the Isle of Skye in Scotland and had an instant connection. I thought back to a week ago, when I followed through on accepting his invitation to visit his home in Stockholm, a city I had expected to get to eventually but never with such spontaneity. I thought back to last Saturday night, when, taking a break from the dance floor to grab a drink, we decided to fly to Copenhagen on Monday morning. He had caught me looking at a picture of Nyhavn on Instagram and told me we could easily go for a daytrip. He took out his phone and booked tickets on the spot.
I thought back to our early morning, catching the first flight of the day and standing in Nyhavn before breakfast. The neighborhood famous for its rows of colorful block shaped buildings with pointed roofs, lined up symmetrically to frame the water’s edge, was just beginning to come to life as we approached. Waiters raised umbrellas at empty tables outside the cafes as the occasional person walked or bicycled by, dressed as if they were heading to work. With hardly a tourist in sight, we had Nyhavn to ourselves. Lulled by the calm, it felt as if we had Copenhagen to ourselves as well.
Finally acknowledging that there was more we needed to see before our 6pm flight back to Stockholm, we went in search of breakfast and found a small bakery on a side street. Delighted at the thought of eating a danish in Denmark, I was quickly overwhelmed at the variety of options. Simon immediately identified a Swedish specialty as his choice, something referred to as a “vacuum cleaner.” A bizarre name, and a bizarre green tube pastry, but I couldn’t focus on that yet. My eyes darted around the case, from the cherry to the lemon, cheese, and others I couldn’t identify. Unable to decide, I finally asked for “the most Danish of the danishes.”
I thought back upon that danish now, with its dollop of white frosting on one side and chocolate on the other. I had never even considered it. And now my most Danish danish would be the last meal I had with Simon. If only I hadn’t taken so long to decide, we would have arrived at the Little Mermaid statue sooner, before the Saint Nicks. If only I hadn’t stopped to observe how quickly Nyhavn had filled up with tourists during our breakfast. If only so many times along the way, I wouldn’t be standing on the bench alone.
What would I do now? Make my way to Christiania, the Danish hippie enclave? Join the “World Santa Claus Congress,” as their sign read? And then, amidst the “ho, ho, ho” I heard the faint call of “hey, hey, hey.” And I saw Simon waiving at me.