THERE ARE SO many reasons that, when you look at the metres-long, meaty wound in the side of a whale, you don’t want to think of a vagina. Teenage you says: gross. Feminist you: offensive. Literary you: obvious. But there it is, a gaping dark red metaphor surrounded by busy men in overalls. And just to take the analogy one great unacceptable leap forward, you have been scared all along about the smell, will there be a fishy smell, or a bloody smell, or some awful mix of the two? At best it might be a straight-up meat-and-bone smell, like the smell of your brother-in-law the butcher. And although, as it turns out, it never gets that strong, there’s something about the fear of it, the anticipation, that is nauseating anyway. You know that somewhere under your feet, they’re boiling down the sawed up bones and fat and rending them into oil, and just the thought of that sloshes around in your stomach.
‘Do you want to see a dead whale?’ was the first thing Brynja asked me, after showing me how to work the hot tub. ‘To see how big he is,’ she added, perhaps responding to a blankness on my face. We agreed that when the boat next came in, and her husband was working, she would let me know and I could drive down Hvalfjörður – whale fjord – to see it being ‘cut up to pieces.’
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