He steps reluctantly to the bank, toes up to the film of ice and wonders how solid the surface might be. He turns left, sees the considerable distance that separates him from the nearest bridge, weighs the aches of his thighs and calves, the blistered sharpness that pulses through his feet. Across the water, the sign glowing sign for his hostel where warmth and rest wait. Downstairs at street level, a cafe where he might find something traditional enough to purge the guilt of a Burger King lunch.
He watches the icewalkers, hundreds of them, moving back-forth across the channel, strolling without so much as a second thought. He reaches his right foot forward, taps the ice just to check. It feels solid, but still he waits.
The sun slumps further and the crowd thins before he finally summons the nerve, places his left foot onto the ice. He expects a creak or a groan—perhaps a slump in the surface. But as he transfers weight to that foot then follows with the right—as he steps farther from the security of shore and joins the traffic on the seasonal sidewalk-shortcut, the Baltic ice stands firm. He’d imagined feeling more Christlike, walking out onto the sea like that, onto the frozen and snow-dusted inlet. But each step seems normal, following the snowy footprints of so many Scandinavians. As each foot meets solid support, he feels the increasing sadness of his expectation the ice would treat him differently.