Olle and I sat on a bench under a grove of trees in Pildammsparken tonight reviewing the day that had just been. It was near-dark, and we were alone save for a woman wearing fuschia skipping (skipping!) by on the trail across the way, and some late night walkers who briefly interrupted our aerie. Steps away were three glowing orange orbs, they looked like Cocoon boulders, public art deep inside the park. The weather was chilly. The rain that had threatened all day still hadn’t come. The buzz of (slightly) too much champagne filled our heads.
“I hope you realize,” I said, “how privileged you are to have such precious friends.”
We had come from the after-party. The after being after the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland-themed birthday of a friend, a party that I was generously included in, despite being un-Swedish and travelling without sufficient moxie nor foresight to be able to conjure a costume of Bill the Lizard at the last minute. Wonderful cakes and sweets stacked three high. Champagne and punch. Dill pickles. Gifts exchanged. Talk of learning styles and assembly language and teachers who refuse to use email. And innumerable Swedish conversations buzzing all around that created what my friend Pedro calls the “bliss” of not being obligated to understand.
When all was said and done I helped haul the spare champagne to the Peugeot convertible for delivery home, and then was faced with a fork: recede home to regroup, or forge onward with the now-smaller group to the apartment for the party-after-the-party. “Onward,” I proclaimed. In my mind the tweet I sent to son of an old friend earlier in the week: “always do that of which you are most afraid.” Good advice for a fork in the road.
I have developed some small skills at being the only unilingual anglophone in the room; I’ve no idea how it looks from the outside, but on the inside it is simply a matter of relaxing into the moment and not worrying (“are the plotting in Swedish to throw me out the window?”; unlikely). Kind accommodations to my limitations are made: “speak English so the Canadian guy can understand!” The room thins out as the night wears on. We talk of gender and politics and the best techniques for arguing with a spouse effectively (“timeouts are very useful”). Historical clothing and its parallels to architecture. Is there music inside weaving? Are there unforgivable things? “Women of all genders.” Our favourite typefaces. The day-to-day practical challenges of polyamory.
In the midst of it all, during an extended Swedish soliloquy, I think to myself “this is where I’m supposed to suddenly feel uncomfortable and bolt for the door with an excuse about an urgent telegram.” But, oddly, the feeling’s not there. Intriguing people, a greathearted host, bits and bobs of the remaining cakes to keep me fed, Olle refilling my champagne cup enough but not too much: I was happy and content there and somewhere else, for a change, didn’t need me.
“I hope you realize,” I said, under the tree, once we’d said our good byes, and cycled to the park, “how privileged you are to have such precious friends.”
Friends who will dress in authentic corsets, or wear rabbit ears, or pocket watches, for whimsy’s sake. Friends who, with a head tilt, can wordlessly telegraph “I wasn’t finished talking yet.” Friends who feel free to speak uncynically about deep and important things without being too deep or self-important as they do so. Friends who seek shelter from the storm in each others company, but who know how to live in the outside world.
“Yes,” said Olle. “Yes I do.”
We got back on our bicycles and rode through the cool Malmö air toward home.