Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spooning in Stockholm

September 19, 2012 – Spooning in Stockholm

I feel like a split custody child being handed off from one dad to another when Pontus takes me into Stockholm and hands me over to Martin. 

I’d met Martin at the Raw Food Festival when I sat at his table one day at lunch time. He’d been wearing a baseball cap, had pretty blue eyes, a nice smile and spoke English with an American accent. We hit it off right away. Not far into our first conversation I find out that he and Pontus grew up together in Trelleborg, a town in the south of Sweden, and that he is there as assistant chef.

A couple more sentences in, we both realize that Pontus had told us of each other. “Ah,” we say, pointing. “I know about you.”

Maybe it’s the familiarity of the accent, maybe it’s one of those instances of meeting a kindred spirit, but whatever it is, we click. Over the course of the days, we say hi in passing, smile at each other, and occasionally join all together—Martin, me, Pontus and sometimes Isak—at mealtimes.

The night of the Red Fulka concert I make my way across the room to be close to Pontus and Martin. I don’t want to watch from the outside, I don’t want to dance alone. I want to be included. I want to be one of the guys. I step nonchalantly in time to the music to where they are. We all nod to each other. Just as the feeling of camaraderie is descending, Isak weaves his way through the moving bodies and pulls his dad down to talk into his ear. It’s bedtime.

“You don’t have to come now. You can stay as long as you want,” Pontus says to me over the music when the family conference is done. It’s been the ritual here at Ängsbacka for the three of us to go to the shared bathrooms and brush our teeth before bedtime every night. I’m sad to miss out, but not yet ready to call it done with the evening.

“Okay,” I say. “See you in a while.”

The beats go on and on. I’m flagging, starting to feel like I should have just gone to bed, especially when Martin goes to lie down on one of the mats against the wall. I’m alone again. I give it a second and then I follow. When I sit next to him, Martin moves over and puts his head on my thigh. “You’re more comfortable than my bed here,” he says.

You calling my leg fat? I think with raised eyebrows and imaginary trash talking flair. In reality, I smile. Martin’s head is comfortable on my leg. I don’t like to be touched by just anyone, but with him I’m at ease. And the contact in this moment is just the kind of human connection I was needing. He pulls my arm over his chest and lays his hand over mine. I can feel the rise and fall of his breath, I can faintly feel his heart where my thumb rests against the edge of his ribs. It feels like we’ve been friends forever.

We sit like this for a song or two.

“Do you think you’ll make it to Stockholm?” he asks me.

It’s the kind of night for promises, but I can’t make a promise I don’t know if I’ll keep. “I’m not exactly sure. I might,” I say, “before I fly to Italy.”

“If you do, you’re welcome to stay with me,” he says.

“Thanks.” And I mean it.

“There are a couple conditions,” he says.

Wow, I think, that was fast.

“Not conditions,” he amends. But he can’t find the right word so he goes on without it. “I only have one bed. It’s a big bed,” he assures me. Then he shrugs and turns his head on my leg to look up at me. “And I work a lot.”

Oh. Is that all? I can live with those conditions. I’ve had plenty of strange bedfellows so what’s one more? I also like my own company so time on my own never scares me. “I could live with that,” I say.

That’s all that needs to be said. He settles back into place against me and I run my fingers over his shaved head. It’s comforting. Familiar. Friendly. When the concert is over we say goodnight and go our separate ways.

The day the festival ends Pontus, Isak, and I go, after all, to Stockholm. Pontus has a business meeting there the next day so we check into a hotel and then meet up with Martin at Stockholm’s amusement park Gröna Lund. We have fun in the Fun House. Isak and his dad go on a few rides. Martin and I talk about movies and music. Overall, we’re amused.

Since he’s off work the next day, Martin tells Pontus that he’s going to steal me while Pontus is in his meeting.

“You can steal them both,” Pontus says of me and Isak. They arrange times and locations and I stand next to Isak like a kid having my future decided for me. It’s nice.

The next morning dawns. The air is chilly and holds a hint of rain. Pontus gives us our instructions--English to me and Swedish to Isak--and tells us he should be free around 1:00. Martin will meet us on the steps leading down to Sergels torg so Isak and I stand there and wait. We entertain ourselves wordlessly by jumping up and down the steps; on one leg, from one shape of tile to another, backwards, forwards, sideways. Just when we’ve run out of jumping methods, Martin arrives by bike. After hellos and good mornings, he takes us around the corner to the market and buys us a variety of fruit. The hint of rain turns into the real thing then into a downpour. We sit on the steps of Koncerthuset, far enough under the roof’s overhang to avoid getting drenched, and eat our weight in fruit. Music sifts out through the Koncerthus’s walls and I settle back and listen to the stolen concert.

“This rain,” Martin says.

Could life be any more perfect? I think.

Life continues on perfectly and a month later--my invitation to stay with Martin still valid--Pontus and I drive into Stockholm. The three of us spend the day together wandering around Stockholm and touring the Stockholm Fotografiska (Photograph Museum). The pictures that catch my eye are the ones of caged things. I want to free them all. I want to always be free myself. I’m not ready to land. I’m not ready to touch ground. For a brief second I send a thought out to all the boys who think nicely of me: Don’t fall for me, I think, I can’t stay still. I don’t want to be locked in or caged. I can only love from a distance for now.

After we’ve stared at enough art, we leave the museum and wander around Stockholm some more, admiring the buildings and enjoying each other’s company. The day darkens. The wind brings a chill over the water. I shiver and zip my jacket up to my chin as we walk back to the car. At Martin’s place I give Pontus a hug. Goodbyes are no fun so I tell him, “See you later,” and then it’s just me and Martin.
We get pizza for dinner and watch standup comedy until I can’t keep my eyes open any more.

“You want to go to bed?” Martin asks.

“Yes,” I say. At this moment I want to go to sleep more than I want anything else in the world. I crawl into my side of the bed. He’s gotten me my own pillow and comforter and made the bed as if it were two separate ones.

“I have to warn you,” Martin says, getting in next to me. “I am known to cuddle and sometimes I’m violent.”

“Huh,” I say. Cuddling is okay, but I’m not exactly keen on getting a broken nose from a dream thrown elbow (though maybe that’d be an improvement to my nose). “Well.” I get comfortable, adjust the pillow, turn my face to the wall and pull the covers up to ward off the cold.

Martin gets under his comforter. We could be in different rooms with the space between us. 

“Goodnight,” he says.

“Goodnight,” I say.

I sleep like the dead. In the morning I wake up before Martin does. It’s cozy, warm. I don’t have anything I have to do and I revel in the laziness of the moment. Minutes, hours, maybe years pass. Time doesn’t have any meaning. There’s no place but here. No time but now.

Eons go by. Martin stirs. Sighs. As if we’ve slept together all our lives he pulls me to him and drapes an arm over my waist, wraps his fingers around my arm. I lean into him, curving to fit the mold of his body. I think back to my college Speech class where our teacher said humans need twelve hugs a day to survive (at least that’s what I remember, but I know how unreliable my memory is), that human touch is vital to health, and how as adults we stop being spontaneous with touch the way children are and start associating simples things like hugs or hand holding with all things sexual and adult (at least in America where touch is so taboo).

I’ve been spoiled with my time around Pontus and Linda’s five year old daughter Agnes who was free with hugs and kisses and kicks and hits and cuddles, and I’m glad for this continuation of touch. I wonder how many hugs spooning counts for. I wonder if hugs can be collected in mass and stored up for hugless days.

Martin shifts, puts his head up against mine. “Damn,” he says. “Your hair smells good.”

“Does it?” I ask. I scan my memory to when I washed it last. It wasn’t that long ago and apparently the results still stand.

“It smells like candy,” he says.

Candy is good.

I feel like a cat on a windowsill in the sunlight; content and sleepy and liquescent. There’s no other place I’d rather be. I could hum.

Happiness has many facets. Many expressions. Sometimes happiness is a Wednesday morning in bed, spooning with a guy I hardly know, but feel I’ve known forever. Sometimes that’s all it needs to be.