In a bar in the Faroe Islands, I got talking to an American couple. The woman pulled out a deck of Tarot cards and asked if I wanted to be ‘read’. She told me to cut the deck and choose a card. I made a big deal out of saying I was scared of the dark arts, crossed myself affectedly and picked one. It was the Queen of Swords. Shit, I thought. The American tried her best to put a positive spin on it. Luckily her boyfriend got the hiccups and the subject was changed. We tried everything, from drinking upside down to my flawed theory of taking sharp breaths just before the next spasm.

A little later we got talking to a Czech woman, also on holiday. I invited her to sit next to me. We all drank Danish beer and shots of Faroese akvavit. Petra – was her name – reached her hands across the table, palms up, asked the American to hold them, stared into his eyes for a minute, and the hiccups were gone. We cheered and went on chatting.

As the bar got louder she and I started talking. We talked about the place and the landscape. I said: God lives here. She said, God is everywhere, not just here, gesturing at the window. I asked her what happened with the hiccups, and she said it was a kind of gift; that God helped her heal people. I said half-seriously, Can you heal me? She took my hands and we looked deep into each other’s eyes for a while. For once I wasn’t distracted by the commotion around me. Her eyes turned dark. She let go, made a face I couldn’t interpret and said, You don’t have God, you just have the idea of God. I looked out the window. Fair play to you, I said, you’re not wrong. We stared at each other again. She said her black eyes usually scare people. I said instinctively, It’ll take a lot more than that to scare me.

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