Oh, the sweetness of knowing that someone has feelings for you so strong that he drops everything he has to do to venture into the treacherous waters of Baltic Sea on a flimsy, Estonian-run ferry full of dangerously drunk Russians with knives and guns (to put things in perspective for you, exactly a year later the ferry “Estonia” on Tallinn-Stockholm route sunk, perishing 852 passengers in freezing cold Baltic sea). Oh, Love, so impatient, crosses the borders, ignoring the risks and expense in a rush to satisfy the urge of two hungry bodies, two hungry souls!
My lover was coming!
I spent the next 2 days in an extreme state of anticipation. Inside my head I rehearsed speeches in my broken English, looking up a word now and then in an incomplete Latvian-English dictionary, the speeches on my gray, ruinous, miserable life before I met Lasse. He was coming to save me. I wanted to lay in front of him everything I knew about myself. He had to know the truth: I was a victim of bad circumstances, bad men and bad parenting. Nothing was my fault. If I was born in Sweden I would have grown perfect, beautiful and blond just like Lasse. But I was born in Soviet Union where perfection was punished, tallness diminished and blondness was made bland.
He arrived at 7 AM. Gray, cold, uncomfortable late september morning greeted him. Gray sky, gray water, gray boat, gray people, my grayish green coat. A perfect illustration of the point I wanted to make – save me!
Lasse saw me and smiled shyly.
– Let’s go! Lets’ go! – I said, excited. – There is not time to waste, so much to do! I rented an apartment for us. We can have it for 2 weeks or extend it or cut it short depending what we decide to do and I got some food for us and the place is practically in Riga’s center, you wouldn’t believe it!
– Wait, – Lasse said. I was not sure if it was a surprise or concealed disappointment on his face. – You are speaking English.
– Am I?
Now, when I though of it, I was surprised, too. I didn’t even know I knew the words like “waste”, “extend”, “depending”.
– It can’t be English, can it? I didn’t speak any just a week ago.
– It is English. This is a miracle.
It was a miracle indeed.
Every single English teacher (I had about 6 of them) from the day one had told me I’ll never speak English. It is not that they didn’t try to teach me. Or that I didn’t try to learn. We tried plenty. I made a huge effort every time when I put my mind on learning English. The result was invariably the same:
– You just don’t have it in you. It’s like teaching math to a donkey. Forget about it. You’ll never speak English.
So, I resigned to my fate of not being able to speak English but out of pure spite I decided that at least I’d learn to read in it. So, I limped though a first few pages of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” which with every sentence reminded me that learning was tedious, boring and unrewarding occupation. Then I came across a bootleg “Rolling Stone” magazine that had a huge article on Pee-Wee Herman. Of course, I’d never heard of him nor the TV show, but I was fascinated by the small bits I could understand, although I couldn’t understand the essence of the man’s arrest. He was arrested for masturbating in an adult movie theater where one is supposed to masturbate? Obviously, I didn’t understand English but then – I also didn’t understand the culture. Why was it a big deal that a man masturbates? EVERY man masturbates! And how is that related to loosing his job? I had to learn more about the culture that imposed such strange rules.
I got a bootleg “Newsweek”, after that – “National Geography” and more “Rolling Stone”.
I would write new words I found in the articles with their Latvian translation on paper sheets and looked at them on my 2 hour train commute to work. I would fall asleep and didn’t remember them looking at the sheet the next day. I thought my plan to read in English was failing, too.
But, as you know, love changes everything. The huge excitement – falling in love – which some scientists call the most stressful human experience along with divorce, loss of both parents, death threats and rape, and powerful desire to communicate with the lover shook up whatever matter my brain was made of and things that were somewhere deep in there came up like drowned corpses come up during warm weather. The words in English, the English grammar, everything I’ve ever looked at.
So, now I spoke English. It still didn’t cancel out sex as a form of communication.
We made a love nest out of the rented shabby two room apartment in the center of Riga.
If done properly, sex is pure and beautiful. I assure you sex with Lasse was pure and beautiful. It made the dull walls to shine and turned the gray streets into glowing pink backdrops. There is not much more to say about it because the moment you try to describe specific actions you venture into the territory of either tacky, or vulgar or pornography. I am just trying to tell you a love story.
Once you are in love, you do become a mirror of the other person. A faulty mirror, because you are too alert and might have a judgment or two which a mirror will never have.
To mirror Lasse was like mirroring a restless ocean under a cloudy sky. For a long hour it would be transparent, bright aqua green, then for a flash it would turn black and opaque and strange.
– You have a secret? – I asked tenderly at a moment of peaking intimacy.
– Yes, I do have a dark secret.
– Tell me.
If he told me he killed and ate babies for sexual pleasure I would have accepted it. Love is strange that way.
Lasse paused, seemingly deep in thought, then laughed.
– But I don’t have a secret! Where did you get that idea from?
So, my lover doesn’t have a secret. Or, he thinks he doesn’t have a secret.
One morning while drinking coffee Lasse admitted he didn’t sleep much. He had rings under his eyes and his skin was pale.
– But why? Did I snore? – I asked. I was pained that my lover had suffered and that I might have been a cause.
– No, no. You didn’t snore.
– But why couldn’t you sleep?
– Oh, you know. A Swedish thing.
– What is the Swedish thing?
– We sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep.
– But that is so strange! Why?
– We wake up because we are extremely depressed.
It didn’t make sense.
– You don’t love me anymore?
– I do love you. You are light of my life.
– We just had the greatest sex last night. Why would you be depressed? You have me! You can never be depressed from now on!
– I am a Swede and we have a habit of waking up in the middle of the night depressed.
Well, when Latvians get depressed they can’t fall asleep and when they finally do they can’t wake up.
How do you dissect a Swede to look inside what’s troubling him and still keep him alive?
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