– Dedicated to Kimberley Remedios
Barrow is America’s northernmost city and also the boon of nature’s misery. Here, the sun doesn’t rise for two months in winter, and in summer, the sun inhabits the sky for 80 long days and nights. It confounds everything known about time, it suspends it into this vast eternity of life that goes on, with no end; hours and minutes mean nothing in these months.
Mizu came to Barrow only to see the obnoxious venomous night last long until noon, and watch the sun rise at 1:00 am. She was here on the last day of January, the city had seen no daylight since November and the highest its temperature had peaked was zero degrees. The sun literally didn’t rise, which meant that the sun’s disk didn’t go past the horizon. It was the phenomenon of the polar night and so the people of Barrow called the city the “top of the world”, a place where even the sun couldn’t reach.
Mizu thought that Barrow was quite like an apocalyptic city, yet a mystery only for the feeble minded. It represented, to Mizu, the great consequence that the world bore on its inmates. It became a sighting of a blood moon that drove a few insane, while the rest of the world busied itself in the absolute bane of existence that life was. When Mizu stood by an icy sea shore watching its waters turn shallow the further it reached towards the horizon, she was sure that the world up until Barrow was a cliff and if she would take the plunge, she would find herself lost in the mad reality that clung to the edges of this city.
Mizu was wearing snow boots and walking through the non-cemented roads of Barrow, There were only muddy paths in this city due to changing weather. Foxes ran along the stumps of houses, playfully snooping into several inns . This was the first time that Mizu saw the creature.
It was twelve at noon and the city looked like it was born out of Edgar Alan Poe’s imagination, it seemed to disappear repeatedly behind a curtain of fog and grim trees stood dead and tall against what seemed like a night sky. Mizu felt numb, not because of the cold, but the inconceivable scene that she was enveloped in. Time had left her the moment she had stepped out of Barrow’s airport. The only way into the city was via the plane as there were no roads that led to the city. Barrow’s people sustained themselves through the food supplies that were brought in and out by the airplane.
That’s why, when Mizu entered a convenience store, she paid nearly $20 for a bottle of water. The cost of living in Barrow wasexpensive, and Mizu knew then that she would be a visitor only of a day. At the convenience store, she also saw YoYos made of polar bear fur and enormous coats, the size of big Grizzly bears.
For miles, Mizu couldn’t spot a place to eat. Few people in Barrow were traveling around in snow mobiles. She had known that the old Alaskan tribe that lived here got around on dog sleighs, until the snow mobile became the prime personal commute. The tribe had inhabited Barrow for over 1500 years and were as old as the ancient snow that floated along the Arctic sea. Small stores and inns with warm yellow light lay along Barrows roads and Mizu was tempted to rest for a while. But thoughts of the End of the Road, the spot where the sun would rise after 60 days of darkness, made her plod onward to her destination.
On the way, Mizu came by a quaint restaurant on Herman Street. It was covered in icy snow and within a signboard shaped like a whale, Mizu read the words “Nothern Lights Restaurant”. With everything priced at around $20, Mizu settled for the classic burgers and fries which reminded her that Barrow was still an America city. A group of local middle aged men and women sat hurdled together, wearing quilt lined coats. They were having an Asian dish of noodles and broth, and the irony lay evident between them and Mizu, with the aroma of conflicting cuisines in the air.
Mizu wasn’t one to eavesdrop, but she heard them talk about watching the northern lights in September here in the city, of how a hurricane of emerald light burst into the sky that cast an image of eternal beauty, fleeting… Mizu thought that it could be the only other color they had seen in the sky, apart from the yellow of the sun. While she munched on her meal, Mizu thought of Barrow and how it lay stranded, covered in the iciest of snows, while the northern lights mocked it, the latter being able to appear and leave as it pleased.
Mizu ate in solitude and after her meal, she walked over to Barrow Beach. It was a wide expanse of gray sand with waters ridden of waves. The beach lay solemn like a quiet bride, with the water as her impassive veil. Nothing stirred, no birds, no humans, only old sod houses lay in ruins that were a hundred years old. Close to where Mizu stood, she saw a pair of long white whale bones forming an arch. As she walked closer to the sea, she couldn’t come to terms with being in such close proximity to the Arctic Ocean, and she could sense that Tokyo was close to this spot, maybe only a few hours away by flight. She thought of Tokyo, its allure and charm, which against the image of Barrow, seemed like a place that existed only in Mizu’s memory.
It was late at night and the lack of daylight during the whole day had made Mizu feel quite lightheaded. She was also afraid for she seemed to find comfort in the prolonged darkness that haunted Barrow. She then took leave of the Arctic ocean, and walked headlong towards the End of The Road.
When Mizu reached the spot, the sky was a mystic black and shrouded the city in a rich garment of melancholy. For long she had felt a loneliness that somehow Barrow reflected in its sky. It was like looking at a void, it felt whole and lonesome. And then, at 1:00 am, Mizu saw the miracle of the sun. It was two months late, but when it showed up, it was like the first day of creation. It peaked out from the blankets of the dark sky and the city seemed to wake up from its long slumber. One look at this sky would let you sip of its yellow chalice that was filled with some elixir of life that Mizu didn’t know she so desperately needed.
Mizu stayed there for a few minutes until she was sure that the sun wasn’t disappearing anytime soon. She then headed to Barrow’s airport to reunite with time and the world that did dwell there in.
Where will Mizu go next? Find her on Instagram @mizucity for clues! 🙂