who knows anything about the truth
life- it comes and it goes
scars are the proof of how you feel
the legacy you inherit
what you do with it is your own choice
but love is special
that find their home in one another
and between the lines of their letters
there is sometimes more
than what their words whisper about
you can’t miss the one you never had
and yet choose to live as if she never left
love is special
and the universe is never wrong
always find their way home
“A grown man talks about empathy. Calls himself a friend of animals. Claims to protect life. That same person can see a wasp in the window and look for something to kill it with. A creature that is trying to get out, and the person is looking for something to end its life with. How crazy is that? How wrong is that? When it is so easy to just open the window and let the poor thing out.”
A new break. Silence again. Elma looks outside and observes the treetops. A small breeze makes them dance. A still dance where they follow each other like a man and a woman. Everything is unusually peaceful. A stillness that she cannot recognize but welcomes.
“We need to think about why it is so easy for us to take a life. Why the size matters when we value its life. We need to consider this if we are ever to gain peace on this earth and feel good about ourselves. We need to be able to help our children be children. To make the world a better place and spread love. That is why I am on this mission.”
A short break. The radio host asks a new question.
“Nathaniel, the text we’ve read in the beginning is a poem that you have written and I know that you have written several. Apart from the mission to make the world a better place, you write a lot about feelings and love. I sense that you are in touch with your feminine side. Is this something you hear a lot and do you agree?”
“That is a little tricky to answer. How much time do we have?”
“You have time”, the host answers with a small laugh.
Elma glances at her watch. Fifteen minutes left of the show.
“Great. I’ll try to make it short. I am wondering if it has to do with me writing about the love of life. Sometimes I ask myself if this is why women are attracted to the way I write and speak. I do write a lot about love and the pictures I share on my homepage I try to accentuate what is most beautiful. And I’d rather talk about feelings than sports. So yes, it is not the first time I get this question about me being in touch with my feminine side. That is why I have had some time to reflect upon it. What I have discovered about myself is this: I can build a house, I can protect a home, I can fix a machine, I can take a life, I can put out a fire, I can fight, I can drink a bottle of wine without getting drunk. I am a heterosexual man who likes sex and gets turned on by a woman…I like riding in high speed. Once a year I cheer for a European football team, I like action movies, I have an opinion most of the time, I have a grand vision of conquering the world, I couldn’t care less if I am bleeding or hurting, I don’t like doctors much. I don’t shave as you can see. I like to work with my body, I almost never cry and sometimes I let lust direct me.”
A short break before the man continues: “But yes, I rather talk about love. I am drawn to what is beautiful. I love to be in a garden and see the flowers I have planted flourish. I love fragrances. I think that cooking is more than just nutrition for the body; it is the balm for the soul. I care for all the animals. I can kid around and play with children. I get tears in my eyes when I hear a blackbird sing from the top of a pine tree in my back yard during spring time. I like to read with a thick blanket covering me. I write and speak about feelings. I like observing. I like to hug. I take care of my appearance and I go within even more. I flirt a lot. I don’t like to judge and have preconceived notions. I light a candle even if I am alone. I listen to ballads about love. I like to daydream. I am creative. I like to paint. I want to make love with my soul. The foreplay appeals to me sometimes even more than the actual sex. I am often touched. A look from a woman can catch my soul but reason and gut feeling direct.”
Another short break. Maybe to let the listener reflect upon what he is saying. Maybe to give her time to reflect upon the words he is choosing. He continues: “So does this mean that I am in touch with my feminine side? I don’t think so. Sure, biologically I am a man and you are a woman. Sometimes when a person is close to someone’s norm we tend to place that person into a category, in this case what is feminine versus masculine. I for instance don’t have a feminine side. Biologically I am a man. Spiritually I am a human. So I would say that I am in touch with my human side. I also think that it is difficult to be a human in this world governed by men who lack the ability to be more human. It is even harder to be a human in a world where a lot of men and women have the need to place people in categories that fit their norm.”
He stops to think, before he continues: “This was a long answer… but I hope that you and those who are listening understand what I mean. And that the children playing in the school yard don’t talk about how girls and boys are. Nobody owns the truth. We are all alike but different.
Elma is listening. Not just at the importance in the message that he is saying. There is something in his voice, the intensity and feeling she gets. She finds it comforting. An old man’s voice but a child’s laughter. Even though he is on radio she can feel him in her room. While she is listening she looks at the homepage of the show and looks at some pictures of him. In his eyes she can see the man he is and the child he once was. There is depth in his eyes. Timelessness. Comfort. Hurting. Passion. Words that belong to him. But also sorrow. A sorrow that she has inside and has been there her whole life. He has an infectious laughter. So much warmth, so genuine. But Elma can’t shake the feeling that there is more to what has been said. Something is meant for her, just for her to interpret. A hidden message. For her. Quickly she shakes off the idea.
Who is he? What has he been through? Why this passion? She asks herself. She wants to know more. She wants to get close to him. But how? How can she get in touch with someone who lives such a different life than her? Elma shuts down the computer Sits quietly for a while. She takes a sip of the already cold coffee and her fingers start to play with the cup. A friend of hers made the cup for her. On it she wrote “Elma Stjernfall, stop doubting” She remembers why and smiles: “To reinforce your self-esteem, my friend! Otherwise you will always be alone in that apartment of yours” she said when she gave her the cup.
Suddenly she feels fear. What if her friend is right? She has turned 30 and still has not found the man who is going to wipe out all the doubt about love.The man she thinks she will never find. Maybe that is why she is so intrigued by the man on the radio show. Who is he? The question haunts her, at the same time her own past makes its presence.
As a ten year old she escaped the war in Bosnia. Sweden was the end station, a journey she could not understand let alone have anything to say about. Here she was raised with both physical and verbal abuse – to obey, help with the household chores, be the good daughter and please everybody in the family. Unfortunately she became the one who took on the responsibilities of her parents. She became a child who escaped war in one country and came to a new country to be in an emotional prison. Her war was not over just because she crossed the borders. In Sweden she learned the language, to fit in the society, get an education and help support her family. The demands that were set were too high and the love she received was never unconditional. When she did well she was praised and encouraged. When she failed she was punished both physically and verbally. The child Elma hardly had time to be before she was given a grown woman’s responsibilities of the household.
During the years she learned how to fit in, to be a part of everything. She was the good daughter, the good student, the helpful friend, all- knowing and considerate colleague. She wore masks every day and every day she played one of her roles. She played her roles so well that nobody could see through the disguise. Not even her friends could see her suffering, how she slowly killed the last piece of the girl she once was. In order to live up to her family’s demands she almost lost herself for good.
The rain was pouring down. Hundreds of miles from where Elma is, Nathaniel is standing in front of the studio of the radio show. Another interview is over. There is no joy in doing them anymore. Constantly the same message. For the blind to see. For the deaf who need to hear. For those who hear but don’t listen. For those who watch but don’t see. For those who believe but don’t act. For those who act but do wrong. For those who are committed but lack the insight. He feels right there and then that he is being too harsh in his judgment. Tiredness seems to have left its mark, both physically and spiritually.
The rain that he now feels on his skin doesn’t bother him. He remembers when he was in his twenties working as a bouncer in different bars around town he lived in, how after each shift he’d go to a lake to be under water. This was his way of cleansing himself of all the impressions of people who were lost but perhaps had the same desire as him to fit in somewhere, to come home. To be under water was his way of shutting out noise. The rain, where he is standing helps him to breathe. For a short moment. Short human seconds.
A square and in the middle of it a statue of a fallen king. A reminder of what was once a great power. People and trees. Cars and buildings. The human in the center, always in the center. And so he’s in a landscape he throughout his life did not want to be part of, never felt comfortable or at home. He has often said to friends that he hates the humanity but loves the individual. When he sees the concrete everywhere he turns that feeling grows even stronger. At the same time he tries to contribute so that the humanity – and everybody else – survives. In his dark moments he wants to escape it all. And some of them come right after an interview or a lecture where he gives away a piece of his soul.
In those moments he longs for her more. The woman who is going to touch his soul. The one who is going to get in so deep that only she can. He knows that she will be standing in front of him one day. He knows that on that day he will fall and later rise again- just like a Phoenix – rise and never fall again. All that he has to do is to follow his heart, continue to follow his calling, and continue to live as he teaches. His belief is his faith and the nature is his sanctuary.
The first meeting
“Good morning sleepyhead, are you awake?” Elma hears Jenny in the phone. It is Friday morning.
“Half awake”, she answers with a tired voice. “What time is it?”
“It is time for you to pack your bag and come with your adorable, loving, considerate and always happy friend to Stockholm!”
“What?! Are you crazy?”
“You are coming with me! Alexis and I are invited to a good friend of ours. But he cannot make it so I want you to come instead. So go ahead and start packing. You are on vocation anyhow.”
“What? No, but wait… I can…”
”Yes, meet me outside in ten minutes. It is going to be fun.”
“But I am still in bed.”
“Yes, that’s why I said ten minutes. Come on.”
“Is this called not having a free will? Dumb question, all right, I’ll come along. What kind of dinner and where?”
“We’ll talk more in the car. But I can say that we are going to a summer house in the archipelago. Bring warm clothes. ‘Come as you are, and please, bring your heart and don’t be limited in my presence.’ said the invitation of our friend. Please come, you will love the place and him! You need this. Please, please, please”
“You are funny! But alright. I am so easy to persuade. Can we buy some breakfast on the way?”
“You can even sleep all the way as long as you are coming with me! Who knows, maybe you will meet Mr. Right?” she says and laughs aloud.
“You silly! All right, we have a deal. See you in fifteen minutes.”
“Elma, in ten.”
“Yes, yes, yes …In fourteen.”
Elma hangs up and starts packing. This day doesn’t start the way she imagined it. She was supposed to do her laundry today and later on go to the movies with “Mr. Wrong.” She calls him that because she is not really interested in him. But she needs the company of a man. And that is why he will do for a date at the movies. Now that she doesn’t have to do any of it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice, ironically.
While she packs her clothes she thinks of the last time she was in the archipelago. The summer had passed by so quickly and most of the days were rainy. And the thought of meeting Mr. Right, she bursts into laughter. I know who he is, it’s just that I am not Mrs. Right for him, she thinks for a second. This longing for him. Elma, stop, let go of that man! she says to herself. But she can’t. She feels his presence, and somehow he has become a part of her. There are moments where she feels ashamed of that. Moments where she feels like a teenager with posters of her idol on the walls. In real life this in not the case, but she feels that now she has opened even more spiritually, where she can feel his presence. Her best friend doesn’t know about this. Nobody knows. And her plan is to keep it that way.
But how is she supposed to stop thinking of him, to let go of the hope that she will one day meet the man where each spoken word feels like “home”. A man where each image of him makes her stop, who takes her breath away, who makes her lose the track of time and lose herself even more. She is known to be the queen of ice, she doesn’t let anybody in her life, none the less a man she does not know anything about. But somehow in this moment she feels in her heart that she is totally lost to a man that she has never met. She finds her state of mind amusing.
Elma laughs at the thought that she doesn’t even know how long she will be away. Jenny has her own persuasive way and Elma can hardly interrupt her. Suddenly she has convinced her to do something. Luckily she means well, she thought. But she is happy that somebody is nice to her. Happy that she has a friend that knows her so well, even if Elma hasn’t told Jenny about Nathaniel. She is afraid that Jenny would judge her, laugh at her, but she is afraid of herself even more, to think that she is pathetic and stupid to be over 30 years old and be interested in a man she has never met. What would her friends say? That she was crazy? That she needed to seek professional help? That she was desperate? That she ran to a man she could not get? That she really did not want a man and that is why he was the perfect man to be in love with? She is so tired of all the misconceptions about how love is supposed to feel, be or not to be, and so forth. Everybody seems to be an expert, and yet they are alone.
“Nine minutes. I knew that you would hurry up…”
”Just because I am hungry and didn’t have anything to eat at home.”
”Well well, try to convince me miss ‘I always do what Jenny wants to do’.”
“Oh, is it always like that?”
“But I always do what everybody wants me to do? Where is the difference regarding you in this manner?”
“You have more fun when you do as I say.”
Jenny says this with a laugh and Elma starts to laugh as well. But yes, Jenny is right. Elma has more fun in her company. With her she has always felt safe. All the memories from their trips together, parties, from all the sleepovers when they were teenagers, fill her with joy and feelings of well-being. That is why it is hard to understand why she doesn’t have the courage to tell her about Nathaniel. Deep down inside she knows that Jenny would never judge her. Put her foot down, yes, but never judge her.They are going to drive for almost ten hours with all the stops. Maybe along the way she can tell Jenny about her hopeless situation. At least regarding her unrequited love. She just needs to find the right moment. But she is going to do it. Now or never.
The first hour in the car they update each other on their lives since it has been weeks since the last time they spoke.
“Tell me, who are we going to see?”
“Ah, our friend… Elma, you do know that I don’t keep any secrets from you. Right?”
“Hmm, should I be worried when you put it like that?” she says looking worried with her one eyebrow going up.
“No, not at all. It is not about you. It is about him, the man we are going to meet.”
“Is he a murderer?” she says aloud and stares at her friend with big eyes.
“I am kidding. I saw a bad horror movie yesterday.”
“You need a man.”
“Hmm… There seems to be a stop at the factory where they produce men. Most of the men I meet are as lost as I am.”
“Funny that you are saying it like that. He is the opposite of a killer. I don’t think I have known anybody that cares for life like him. Like…”
Elma interrupts her with a look on her face as if she just saw Superman flying, and she wonders if Jenny has seen the same thing.
“I am sorry, but someone like that you would have told me about long time ago. A long time ago! Can you hear my emphasis on ‘long’?”
“Yes, I hear your. And I understand. But he is very special. Alexis and I wanted to tell you about him long time ago, but at the same time we made a promise to him not to. Not to tell about him to others.”
“What? Is it 007? The Swedish security service?” she says and bursts into laughter.
“No… or yes, I don’t know. In his case you can never be certain. But no, he is quite an ordinary man.”
Jenny turns her head quickly and sees the surprised look upon Elmas face. A look that she has never seen before is now stuck in her head. She also understands that what she is about to tell Elma is not going to make things better. But she continues:
“Alexis and I got to know him a couple of years ago. We were in Palma and we went to a café that Alexis nagged about. You know how he is like when he decides that he wants to do something. He…”
“is like you!” she quickly fills in.
“Yes, he is like me. Anyway, we were there for a while. There were only a few tables outside where we sat. After a while a man in his thirties came and sat next to us. He was talking in Spanish with the waiter when he ordered. By the looks, he looked like he was from Spain, we assumed. After a while he received a phone call and he started to speak in English. Without saying anything to each other, after that we were both wondering where he really came from. Another hour passed and we were still sitting there and so was he. And then a very tall, blond and beautiful woman, stopped by. She looked like a model or something. You should have seen Alexis. His jaw almost dropped.”
“You must have done the same.”
“Yes, I admit, she was very sensual and beautiful, even sexy.”
“Sexy? She sounds like someone Alexis would fall for…”
“Yeah, right! Anyway, we thought that she was passing by, but she stopped and was looking at us. She wore sunglasses so it was hard to see exactly where she was looking. But then she removed the sunglasses and said aloud ‘Oh my God, there you are’, and then almost threw herself into the arms of the man sitting next to us. It turned out that he was from Sweden. We were really surprised when he spoke perfect Swedish. Alexis was not just surprised, he was a little jealous as well. But don’t you tell him that.”
“Yeah, now I’ve got a hook on you.”
“You can add this one with the rest of them as well.”
“True that, I should start using them. But go on!”
“All right, first they started talking about the little things. But soon the conversation developed into something that I did not see coming. Especially from the way she was looking. They started to talk about life, about souls, about love, about the nature and about the condition of our planet. She asked him if he was still on his mission to make the world a better place. I was totally focused on their conversation. The man’s voice and answers were intriguing. I must admit that his answers are just like yours. You will notice this when you meet him. Anyway, she asked him a question about the city of Palma that he could not answer. And then they turned around and asked us the same question. This is how it all started. To make a long story short, that evening we ate dinner together and we have been friends ever since. It is easy to get close to him, but hard to stay there.”
“Jenny, I don’t understand anything. Absolutely nothing. Nada. Nothing. Zip. Zero. N o t h i n g.”
“I know Elma, I know.”
“Yes, because you are like a sister to me and we should not have any secrets.”
“Exactly! Exactly… What is going on here? We are on our way to somebody who is a dear friend of theirs and I don’t even know anything about that friendship? You make me feel starry-eyed and naïve.”
“I’m sorry, but listen, you will understand. You will understand even more when you meet him.”
“For our sake, I hope so.”
“Tell me more…I want to know more, I’m curious as hell.You should be a sales person.”
“Ha ha ha! You are funny. Okay. But first I want to tell you that during all these years I and Alexis wanted to tell you about him. And he wanted to meet you. Yes, I do admit that I have told him about you. But he travels a lot, is constantly busy and many months pass by before we get to speak to one another. So I’m sorry to say that that these years have passed by quickly. Too quickly. But know that we have wanted to tell you about him. So what is there to be said? He is a man in his forties. Looks young. Masculine, but with a boyish look. A very caring and loving man. Now single after a long term relationship. He loves the nature. Runs his own company and he is an inspirational speaker in Sweden and abroad. His ancestry is Latin. Your history is somewhat alike. Or you remind me a lot of each other, I should say. The difference is that he barely had a mother and a father. What he has shared with us, which is very little, is that he in his early years cut the emotional bond to his parents. He also got abused both physically and verbally as a child.”
“Doesn’t sound like 007. What’s the catch?”
“Well, the reason we have not told you is because he has asked us not to. He is a public person. And cares about his integrity. More than you, actually.”
“Sounds like a very wise man.”
“Oh, I really want us to meet him right now. You have never mentioned his name so I guess you don’t know who he is.”
“What is his name?”
“You can ask him that yourself.”
“Ah, come on.”
“No, ask him. We have promised him that.”
“What, no, turn the car around. He sounds like a complete nut case.”
“No, no, no trust me on this one!”
“Hmmm, then I want something in return.”
“Yes, you heard me; I want something in return for trusting you this much.”
“Okay, fair enough. Name your price!”
“My price is … the blue blouse you bought in London!”
“Not a chance in hell you are going to get that one.”
“Really, you don’t say. In a case of emergency there is…”
“No, not that one.”
“Alright, then I want a night with Alexis. Come on, I am desperate.”
“Both of them burst into laughter that could be heard far away if they were outside. In Jenny’s car the echo of the laughter fades away quickly. They have the same sense of humor and Elma knows which buttons to push. Right now it was the right button she pushed to shake her up.
“Okay, if I get two with your little brother!” Jenny replies as the laughter starts to fade away. This leads to more laughing. Elma pulls herself together quickly.
“You are his dream! His sister’s best girlfriend!”
A few moments later, Elma stares at the scenery through the window. Again, she starts to think about Nathaniel. In her mind she plays with the thought that they are on their way to see him. What Jenny has told her about him sounds so familiar. Not possible, she knows this, but still a thought that appeals to her but at the same time scares her to death.
The lake is still and the weather is perfect to have dinner with friends. Nathaniel has been sitting on the dock, enjoying the early smell of autumn, the mild weather and a cup of organic coffee. He has been up since five o’clock in the morning and his neighbor was wondering what he was doing so early. ‘Woke up the rooster.’ Now he is sitting outside, dressed in a white knitted jumper and worn out jeans, enjoying the weather. Even though the summer in Sweden has been rainy he has had his fair share of warm temperature. Something that he is not so found of. When he wants to complain to his friends he usually says: “Anything that is above 29 degrees Celsius I find it excruciating.”
After a very hectic period with too many things to do, too many meetings and too little time to just to be present, he has finally found some serenity. In a couple of weeks he is going to have a lot of work again but now he enjoys these calm moments even more.
There is not so much for him to do before dinner. The house is clean and everyone is going to pitch in when it comes to making the dinner. Blankets and pillows are ready for everyone who wants to sleep over – he counts on that everybody wants to. It is a pity that Alexis won’t be able to accompany them, but he is excited about who Jenny will bring. He hopes that that somebody is someone who he will like as well. Nathaniel is rarely curious, but he looks forward to meet the person they have chosen. He really likes Jenny and Alexis, and is grateful for being able to be himself in their presence. The price you pay for being a public person feels sometimes very high even though he has managed to protect his integrity. Perhaps too high, but he is close to reaching his goal, so he has to endure a little bit more. A goal that none of his closest friends know about. Nobody knows why he is doing what he is doing. The truth is that they have just been given fragments of the whole story. Nathaniel’s plans for the future are only known to him.
“Have you seen that the swallows are on their way to leave?”
The neighbor’s voice interrupts Nathaniel’s daydream.
“Good morning, Hasse. Yes, soon they will fly away. I will be missing them.”
“Good morning! Yes, I understand. Soon I will be closing the summer house. It was a terrible summer. Rain almost every day! I might just as well sell the thing.”
“You’ve said that last year, Hasse. It’s just you don’t own the house if I’m not mistaken.”
“Well, that it’s true. But it is okay to complain and moan sometimes. You should try it.”
“Yes, maybe I should. Let me just find something I promise I’ll get back to you! Stupid neighbors who cut down trees? Or shoot the wild animals?”
“Ouch, so you are still pissed about that they cut down some of the trees in the public area.”
“Some? They devastated the area. And yes I am really disturbed by this. You know how I am when it comes to trees.”
“Yes, I know. I have cut down some trees, but that was before you moved in here. If it makes you happy you should know that I agree with you.”
“It’s not comforting, Hasse. It’s not. But I appreciate the thought. Anyway, changing the topic. How are the ladies treating you?”
Hasse laughs aloud. “Yes! A much better topic. Thanks for asking. I am still a bachelor.”
“Well, 72 years old is no age at all. Not with the discount on Viagra that you can buy on the market. Like a turbo engine in an old Mustang.”
“Wait a minute, boy, you’ll also get old.”
“I like women, but seriously, when it dies, one should keep it that way.”
“Are you against the new medical development? Retrospective.”
“Sometimes I am. But I am glad that you have moments of love. Fridays will never be same when you are gone.”
“You’ve got that right, boy. Mark my words. Well, now its siesta time and then I’m off to the city.”
“All right then, can I borrow the house for two days? I have a few guests coming tonight and they are going to spend the night.”
“Yes, you know where the key is. You know the drill, only women in my bed.”
“I promise, Hasse.”
Nathaniel lies down on the pier again and watches the swallows getting ready to fly away. They are really on their way he thinks for himself. So many days he has been here alone and observed life. He feels strong longing for that special one to share these moments with. He finds some joy in the company of his friends but never to a degree where he feels whole. He is tired of all the clichés about finding yourself first before the right one comes along. He calls the clichés “Facebook quotes”. He knows who he is, what he wants and why. He has been on this path since he was a child. Everything that he has been through, all the pain and sorrow, he sticks to his beliefs. But lately a dark feeling has come over him. A feeling that he will never find her, the one he is meant to be with. Does she even exist? Is she a dream? Imagination? A stupid longing because he is never satisfied? Questions that he doesn’t have answers to, but also he doesn’t want to have answers to.
While he is watching the swallows a dark shadow appears. The sea eagle flies above. Nathaniel takes it as a sign. “Right now, today of all the days, I see you my friend.” he says quietly. “What do you want to say to me? What is going on? He gets interrupted be the phone in his pocket.
“Hello my darling!” he says when he sees who is calling.
“Hi, it’s me!. We got a little lost, so we are one hour late.”
“One hour? But how did you manage to drive that far off?”
“Don’t ask. It’s a long story. I accidently told Elma to drive in the wrong direction.
“Elma…Sorry, my friend from Malmö that I’ve told you about. Have you forgotten? Of course you have. Anyhow, you and remembering someone name…Her name is Elma and she is the one coming with instead of Alexis. You’ll like her.”
“I’m sure I will, Jenny. Elma is more than welcome. Where are you now?”
”We have passed Södertälje. We’ll be at your place around six. Sorry!”
“Don’t worry. You know that the others will be late as well. Are you driving?”
“Yes, I am. Why?”
“Can I talk to your friend?”
“Yes of course”, she says and hands over the phone to Elma. Elma looks surprised and wonders why Jenny is giving her the phone.
“He wants to talk to you.”
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© Daniel Mendoza 2017
Översättare: Lilly Unkic
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