Today's Reading

Sigrid reads on, ever more bothered by the casual ease of the writer. After page twelve, when the verdict is made clear, all other descriptions of the event seem reverse-engineered back to the conclusion. The author is reading into the events whatever is needed so that the findings become better illustrated rather than challenged. It does not seem to be—as best Sigrid can tell—entirely conscious or even deliberate. It is only that the pieces are all easy to explain once the final explanation is provided. In fact, by the end of the report it seems to Sigrid the chief that this fictional Sigrid character was destined to pull the trigger. That it was not only justified but even inevitable.

Not only does the report legally vindicate her, but somehow she is not even considered responsible for the shooting. And there, finally, is the disturbance. Because for the past month she has been tormented over the consequences of her very deliberate and not at all predestined decision.

She was tormented precisely because none of this was inevitable. It was a decision. A decision Sigrid needs to understand and one that can perhaps best be understood by taking apart the definite elements and replacing them with something new—something unexpected.

At her desk, her eyes closed, Sigrid engages in a technique she often uses in her own investigations. She turns summer to winter. She strips out the green grass between the patrol car and the cabin and replaces it with a snowy field. She turns the red summer house into a brown mountain cabin. She fades out the azure sky and replaces it with an iron canopy that presses down from the Arctic.

And across that snow, still holding a knife, and approaching at the same speed, comes the man. But not the same man.

This man is a blond Norwegian.

In this version he is Bjørn—not Burim—and he rushes at her through fresh powder snow with the determination of a Viking. Here is a counterfactual world. A new model. A new set of relationships. Here, in this scenario, everything is familiar but estranged. And it is in the blue eyes of that charging man that Sigrid finally finds the question that the report has not thought to ask. The question no one could imagine asking or, perhaps, no one dared.

It is, however, the question she has been looking for. The one that dismantles the institutional presumptions of cause and effect and inevitability. It is the question that calls everything into doubt and makes space for new truths to be known and, ultimately, acted upon:

Would she have shot him twice in the chest—she can now wonder—if he had been a native Norwegian?


A WEIRD PLACE

Sigrid spends Saturday binge-watching American TV shows on a streaming service recently introduced to Norway. Her friend Eli insisted she subscribe.

"It's better than a cat," she'd said.

"Who mentioned a cat?" Sigrid answered.

"You don't have a boyfriend."

"Which is why I need a TV subscription?"

"Exactly," said Eli.

It was easier, she'd reasoned, to pay the seventy kroner a month than to untangle that knot.

Sigrid soon learned that the streaming service had a function that caused the next episode in a television series to begin only fifteen seconds after the conclusion of the previous episode, thereby saving the subscriber the calories that might have been burned pressing the button. This simple function produced a new kind of restive anxiety that seemed to call out for a name.

The dull flicker of the television and the semi-satisfying stories are helpful at first but after watching for six straight hours she starts to ignore the story lines and instead indulge in spells of curiosity.

Why, for example, is overacting preferred in situation comedies but not in dramas? Why doesn't acting more dramatically result in more drama?

Why are American TV actors so...shiny?

British actors don't appear to reflect light off their skins in quite the same glossy manner as American actors do. How can it be that with all the skin colors available in American society, each one comes with the same glossy finish and never matte?

Could it be something they're eating? Or...not eating? Are Americans naturally glossy or...unnaturally?

Which would be scarier?
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