Smalltown, Finland

The gulls have taken over the market square. They’re everywhere, feasting on the remains of the day on the ground. There’s peas, strawberries, cloudberries, potatoes, Vietnamese food, pancakes. Donuts. Or parts of them, tiny parts of them.

The market square, the heart of the city, is now asleep. One of the cafés on the square has closed for the day, their red chairs stacked up outside their little house a sure sign of it, leaving nothing for interpretation. The other one is only half-full, when just two hours earlier they both had been packed and people had shuffled the chairs in new constellations as everybody wanted to fit under the shade.

The square.

The ice cream stand has also closed its doors, or window, for the day. No more mint chocolate-strawberry-mango-orange ice creams, no ice cream adventures today. Behind it, in the bars outdoors serving area, the tables are empty, just like the tables are empty at the restaurant boat at the harbor behind the City Hall.

In the park there, a group of young women is walking slowiy on the grass, with their purses and plastic bags, looking for the perfect picnic spot, a spot with at least a little bit of sun, for a little while longer.

The streets are deserted, and where you spent the half of your afternoon circling the three blocks that are the downtown of this small town, there are now dozens of parking spots.

It’s Saturday night, and it only looks like the city is shutting it down. The city is not shutting it down because it is Saturday night and it is July, and the sun will not go down for another six hours, not until eleven tonight, and then it will be back up at three in the morning anyway, when people are walking home, in groups, alone, or in pairs.

The city is not shutting it down, it’s just catching its breath for a few hours. The market square will stay empty, both cafés will be closed, and the gulls will disappear when the cleaning truck has come and hosed the square clean.

But the people will come back, and they’ll reclaim the bars and the restaurants, and the cars and the bikes will be back, and the young women will walk from the park onto the restaurant bar, and they will sing and they’ll dance, and then the tourists, oh, the tourists, they’ll walk from the camping site, and from their hotels, after they, too, have gone back to catch their breath and get ready for the night.

The cars will circle the three blocks that are the downtown of this small town, but the parking spots will stay empty because the old American cars with STP stickers, and the new Japanese cars, and the motorcycles will just make a left, and a left, and a left, and the drivers will wear their sunglasses at night, and their friends will have their windows down and nobody cares about the air-conditioning.

But right now, this small town is just taking it easy. So easy. See ya later, it says.

See ya later.

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