February 14, 2019
I turned on the station that plays classical music, instead of listening to the news on the radio. Unlike a lot of other mornings this winter, I was smiling. Winter, with its 3 p.m. darkness, felt like it was finally waning. Soon there would be spring blossoms. With each day that passed, the darkness would retreat little by little.
I took out my overnight oats from the fridge and pimped them with fresh berries, pecan nuts and honey on top. I sent a photo of my breakfast to an old friend, before I ate it sloppily all up.
After breakfast, I brought out my suitcase and opened it wide, had a look at it, and smiled. Then I left it on the floor to go have a shower.
It was Valentine’s Day, which was kind of irrelevant to my mood. Though I was usually annoyed by the consumerist frenzy around all things heart-shaped that went on for weeks, this year I’d been feeling the opposite way. I found my mouth watering at the sight of discounted aphrodisiacs like oysters and chocolate. I didn’t buy any, though.
My good mood had to do with the fact that I was going Paris tomorrow for two weeks. Meaning: When I returned home to Stockholm from Paris, February would be over. And November wouldn’t be here until for another eight months. Meaning: The best eight months of the year have almost started. And when November arrives, it will only be a few months until my first poetry collection is released. This made me feel like I won’t really be bothered by the fact that it’s November when the time comes. I pinched myself at the thought of enduring the return of the cold and greyness with pleasure, I didn’t want to jinx it.
While in the shower I started thinking of solo traveling. My family were refugees when they arrived in Sweden, though I was a toddler, so I don’t remember the time at the refugee camps. I tried to picture my mom back in the day when she was the age I am now, 27 years old, traveling alone. I tried to picture her when she just arrived in Sweden, a refugee alone with her little baby. My father was still stuck in Latvia, where they had passed through en route to their final destination in Scandinavia. He had been arrested by immigration officers, and they decided my mom should continue the journey without him. And here I was, 27, going to Paris alone under very different circumstances.
After my shower I started packing in a total frenzy, realizing that I had been way too slow. I threw clothes and books all around me, stressing over what I would want to wear and read in the European capital of romance and literature. I couldn’t decide so I packed my largest suitcase (it’s huge) and I threw in way more clothes that I would have time to wear and more books that I would have time to read.
I sent a few emails to different editors asking if there was anything I could write about or anyone I could interview while in Paris. They all said no, most of them with a side note telling me that I should ask way further in advance next time.
I wanted to respond to this encouragement by saying, in the words of Mariah Carey when she did the #10yearchallenge on Instagram, “Time is not something I acknowledge.” But instead, of course, I just said point noted.
I left my bag half-unpacked to rush into town and meet a friend. It was 6:30 p.m. and we were going to the theatre, to see a play called “Men cannot be raped.” The play was based on a novel with the same title, by the Finnish-Swedish author Märta Tikkanen. It was about a woman who is raped on her fiftieth birthday, who decides to get her vengeance by raping the perpetrator. I had free tickets since I was booked to participate in a panel later on, to discuss the play, and how rape has been portrayed in arts and culture.
We met up in a rush, we were running late. With only five minutes left until the play was supposed to start, we rushed in to a nearby pharmacy; my friend needed to get her lithium. We both hate running, but we sprinted up the hill to the old theatre building. Once we stepped in front of the entrance is when we noticed the message put up on the doors:
The play was cancelled. Such an anticlimax. Instead of moving on to a bar or someplace else, I said goodbye to my friend, to rush back home and finish packing.
I knew that I’d packed in the worst way, with plenty of unnecessary belongings brought with me. I didn’t care, there was no time to worry about that. I took a cab to spend the night at a hotel, from which I’d go to the airport the next day. Hotel bed sleep is the best sleep. Each time, new sheets. No memories attached to the pillows.