Caipirinha with Death. Chapter 1

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1 1 Caipirinha with Death Chapter 1 When Death came into my life I was unprepared and very bad at saying no. I let him in when he asked me to and it didn t occur to me that I could have closed the door and told him to go to well why not to hell? Please note, I am not talking about some unexpected fatality or news of a terminal illness. Or of the suicidal fantasies that can surface when tristesse starts spreading like unwanted vegetation, resistant to the weed-killing spray of positive thinking. Death wandered very palpably into the room, removed his outdoor garments and sat down in the middle of my living room. The chair he picked for himself on his first visit was both inviting and comfortable, a sunken clear-blue velvet armchair from last century which had never failed to make visitors feel welcome. The trailing threads in the corner where the material had torn was usually enough to make the most awkward types feel at home. He seemed to have decided to make himself at home. Obviously this had repercussions for me, also for him. One does not simply move into somebody s velvet armchair without repercussions. At least not if at the same time one asks for a strong espresso. And dangles one s legs over the armrest and declares a need to explain oneself. Up to this point I had chosen to write off death as an insignificance with a small d. In my family people died of old age and when yet another great-uncle or a second cousin of my grandmother drew their final gasp at some point between ninety and a hundred, it was a little difficult to summon up much grief, only a sort of melancholy born of the insight that something had come to an irrevocable end. Because most of my relatives were also considerate enough to die in ways that were reasonably pain-free and unobjectionable, the loss seemed easier to bear. A little amulet of memory, nothing more. The general gloom was also counterweighted with an almost indecently upbeat atmosphere at our family funerals. My relatives were more than slightly insane and a large number of them seemed to be musical one-offs on the lookout for blood-brothers, even on so-called lugubrious occasions such as these. We usually had enormous fun, both young and old, and the funeral photographs often showed laughing, grimacing people

2 2 with a capacity for making fools of themselves. They seemed to feel superior to all those other poor sods out there who stuck too hard to convention. So firmly did I associate death with old age and joy that even during my teenage years with their growing awareness of the state of the world, this view was not greatly unsettled. My convictions did not receive their first dent until at the age of twenty-two I ended up spontaneously Inter-railing with another student from my literature course. Kari was a survivor. With an alcoholic father and a mother whose motto was best summarised as one day at a time, Kari s childhood had been fairly tough. She ran away from home at the age of sixteen and had taken care of herself ever since. Her upper secondary schooling was polished off at record pace, financed by a bar-job in the evenings, before she moved to Uppsala to continue her studies. People in Kari s life had been dying off one after the other, I found out as we opened up to each other in the early hours in a train compartment somewhere in rural France. There had been motor-cycle accidents in Sweden and on Europe s motorways, an ex-boyfriend with skin cancer, her mentor from the adult education institute who committed suicide, and a brother who lost control of his car and drove into a tree the only tree for miles around. The stories went on and on. I m so tired of people dying, Erica, she sighed, curling up in her seat with an irritated movement that made it amply clear she was angry with all those who d left her in the lurch without excuses or plans. Then she sat there slightly ill-at-ease while I went through my own history of death, which was short, vaguely deranged and easily summed up in my family motto: Enjoy yourself before you pull the lawn over your head. Many years later Kari told me that it was only after our conversation that she d accepted the concept of someone dying naturally, as a result of old age. I could very truthfully respond that she was the one who made me understand life could end at any moment, possibly even in a brutal or odoriferous manner. Of course this wasn t enough to make death seem like a threat, but the older I grew the more I started wondering whether death might not be related to sorrow, and sorrow with dejection. Perhaps, even though people around me would definitely categorise me as a living entity, I was carrying death within me? I began to have thoughts like these when I was about thirty-five and my psychological well-being seemed to be on

3 3 a downward-bound escalator. Or rather, I felt there was a certain emptiness in my days, a sort of inner viscosity that I could not explain: a melancholy at the breakfast table in spite of the sun shining, a brooding gloom in my thoughts. Of course in my late teenage years I d suffered the odd mental black hole, but never so badly that I couldn t get myself out of it with discipline and brute force. Even back then I saw how people got stuck in their own apathy until they could no longer move, and my own emptiness seemed inconsequential when compared to theirs. But lately the spells had grown more protracted. For weeks at a time I felt like a siren of the woods with an attractive façade but a hole in my back only visible from behind. Only my professional life seemed to be functioning. Here at least I felt on solid ground, confident in my mental skills and clear about what I was trying to achieve and how I d get there. But the other things I had to reach for, all that unbroken ground on the other side of the fence known as the free life, grew increasingly indistinct and evasive. I had a job, a flat and a partner in that order and might very well be on my way to stabilising myself. No one in my surroundings thought I had the slightest thing to complain about something they liked to complain about. The words you clever thing repeated endlessly like a mantra whenever I dared bring up the hole in my back, as if such reassurances could ever fill the void. The only consolation for this misery, although I didn t realise this at the time, was my habit of toying with various suicide visions. In real terms these did not have anything to do with The Grand Finale. They were rather an expression of my dramatic aspects, seeking out this distinctive outlet for their creativity. I examined a number of different scenarios before I hit upon one that struck me as perfect. The idea came to me in Germany when I found a bright-red towing line at a petrol station. The line was made of hard plastic with a sturdy hook at either end. I bought it right away for possible future use. It would be utter perfection to hook one end onto our balcony railing and the other round my neck. Beforehand I would have applied a layer of white powder to my face and put on the blue-grey chiffon dress I d bought for the cheery last night of a ballroom dancing course. One, two, three, cha-cha-cha, two, three, cha-cha-cha.

4 4 I saw before me how my neighbours would take up their French blinds in the morning to be faced with a female figure floating in the air surrounded by blue-grey chiffon, which would hopefully look like wings. The image would be every bit as beautiful and perfect as I had strived to be in life, and the neighbours would linger for a long while before finally understanding that this thing was no angel or extra-terrestrial creature. This was their neighbour and she had hanged herself. Why do you always have to be so dramatic? asked Rebecka, one of my oldest friends, as we debated suicide theories over a glass of wine. With Rebecka it was possible to talk about things that would shock most people. She believed in reincarnation and therefore the subject was not even particularly emotive for her. She had even come up with the idea of the white powder. I hadn t considered the fact that the face of a hanged person might turn slightly blue. I d just creep into the garage like a little mouse and start the car and hope it wouldn t be the children who found me, she continued. We d laugh and feel liberated about this and later part with mutual exchanges of Enjoy your angst!. Others struggled to see anything constructive in it. This was my state of mind when Death decided to move in. Even though I d been mentally toying with the idea of death, I have to admit I was unprepared, slightly reluctant at first and a touch frightened. Death was about to change all this. Later I understood that Death never hesitates for a moment when he sees a need for radical change in people s lives. I should have understood that from the very beginning. When Tom and I got together, as it s so prettily known, I had a very small number of superficial affairs behind me and a mass of pining lovers. He, on the other hand, had three proper, substantial relationships in his kit bag, all embarked upon with serious intentions. When they did not fulfil the necessary requirements, all had been terminated in a civilised way. He still sent friendly Christmas cards to all his ex-girlfriends and received similarly friendly cards from them. As the years passed, photos of husbands and children in woolly hats were included with the cards. We first met at a press conference in Munich for one of those road shows that Swedish companies seem to think will generate extra capital. I had been sent down to

5 5 write a background analysis of one of the companies. The newspaper had not sent me out of charity, or a concern that I might need a breath of fresh air. Rather they d pushed for me to see the managing director, the finance director and a couple of hungry underlings in a single evening, thus getting comments from everyone in one fell swoop so I could deliver the job quickly, simply and cheaply. It was a form of exploitation that I had not objected to on this occasion. I sat back and made myself comfortable on the plane. The seat beside me was unoccupied and served as an overflow area. As usual I savoured the feeling of being on my way somewhere, while still in a no-man s-land where I could really feel free. The rule of Buddhist monks never to own more than seven things has always attracted me, in spite of my weakness for beautiful objects. In my aircraft seat I almost managed it: portable computer, handbag, newspaper, overcoat, myself, a bag of airport offerings. Garments but no begging bowl. I seemed to pass the test by a reasonable margin. Ever since I d finished my eccentric mix of studies in literature history, chemistry and German I had been working as a combined information officer and journalist. An acquaintance working for a pharmaceutical company had asked if I might want to put together an information leaflet about it a sales pitch, without being too obvious about it. The job suited me perfectly because I could stay at home, wear my beaten-up jogging trousers and keep the tea-pot right beside me (or late at night, the bottle of wine) with James Taylor going in the background. At the same time I would keep in continuous telephone contact with the employer and in this way avoid any feelings of isolation. The end product was good enough to lead to regular assignments and it didn t take long before I d set up my own company. My two-room flat in Vasastaden was rearranged so I could have a study and didn t have to contend with the crumbs on the kitchen table as my client list grew. Trade magazines of all descriptions were soon contacting me, and in fact I rarely even had to call round to collect disinterested rejections from tired editors facing slimmed-down budgets. My first advertising job turned up by coincidence. I ended up sitting next to the marketing manager of a large condom manufacturer at a pharmaceutical conference. They had recently got involved with an extensive AIDS project, in which the National Board of Health and Welfare also had a stake. The aim was to reduce the number of

6 6 AIDS cases in Sweden. The curve had started climbing again, since government funds had been diverted to newer diseases. We were slightly under the influence of the cheap freebie wine we d been given, and I mentioned my suspicions about some creative salesman having garnished the canapés with the latest anti-diarrhoea or viscous mucus pill. Afterwards we giggled as we spat out one impossible suggestion after another. I came up with the inspired idea of using a sturdy, bright orange carrot with or without a condom rolled onto it, and some advertising logo such as It s super-fresh and healthy and good to chew or even suck. But it may need protection from vermin. The day after, the man whose name turned out to be Martin called me to say that he wanted me to project manage the campaign. Even today when I think about it, I reckon it says a lot for his sense of honour that he didn t steal the idea. Particularly as the carrot idea caught on so well that turnover and profits rose by double digits that year. Martin and I have kept in touch since then and we ve always been able to bounce ideas between us to mutual benefit and gain. My little company was going well enough to keep my standard of living at an acceptable level, which didn t stop me from feeling that a free trip to Munich was a welcome bonus. As always I used the time while we were airborne to mug up on the background of the company which specialised in asthma and allergies. These were also highly relevant in Germany, where reunification and the fall of the Wall had given scientists a unique opportunity to compare various phenomena among people who were genetically identical but had grown up under entirely different circumstances. On the allergy front, for instance, there had been a sensation when it was discovered that children in upmarket residential areas in the West had considerably worse allergies than those in the dirty industrial regions in the East. Possibly for reasons such as these the company wanted to spread the word about itself. After arriving I took a taxi to the centrally located hotel where the conference was being held. I routinely checked in and freshened up and I was soon down in the conference room, which had been reserved for the presentation. As usual, in my discreet but subtly coloured two-piece, I was the only dash of colour in a sea of more or less wellfitting suits. Without surprise I noted that while the German financial analysts and

7 7 bankers wore elegant dark shoes, the Swedish contingent except for the managing director and one other man whose function I did not know, walked round in scuffed and unpolished leisure footwear. Naturally it was the man with the smart shoes who caught my attention. I walked up to him and noted his name, Tom Alvarez, on his lapel. The suit looked a little too good on him for a middle-ranking Swedish director, and also had a slightly unusual cut which, though up to date on the Continent according to the fashion rags, was still uncommon in Swedish corporate corridors. His shirt was well ironed, his tie discreet but full of personality and his skin a slight olive-coloured hue that usually pointed to some imported gene. Tom Alvarez, in response to my direct question, proved to be the financial director and in this capacity also responsible for both press and analysts. Clearly this also meant that he could offer me more than the well-stocked table of corporate materials in three languages, like a cruise-ship smorgasbord looking very inviting although its flavours would be predictable. I immediately specified my requirements, these being a chat with the managing director and himself, which Tom Alvarez promised to arrange. We even had time to set up the appointment on the following day, which suited me perfectly. The lectures would be taxing and it was good to be able to organise one s impressions and questions, secure in the knowledge that everything was booked in for the following day. Later when the presentation was over, having passed muster by the skin of its teeth, it was an unexpected surprise when Tom Alvarez asked if I d like to have a beer in the bar and talk a bit, off the record of course. I was seasoned enough to play the marionette and nod. Obviously I would later use the information in any way that suited my purposes. Tom Alvarez seemed to know what he was getting himself into. Anyway this was no hatchet job, only a straight account of a similarly straight company doing well. For this reason I didn t expect to be asked. I don t look too bad but I hardly give out the sort of erotic vibrations that lead to fantasies of one-night stands in the protective cocoon of some hotel. Men with an Ingmar Bergman-like nose for this sort of thing usually sniff this out right away, and in fact I rarely get any brazen proposals.

8 8 For me and Tom, at any rate, there were neither any corporate secrets nor brazen proposals. Instead we got through the formalities and started on personal information. It turned out that Tom had a Colombian father and a Swedish mother, that he grew up in Colombia and had spent a similar length of time in the USA. He was a certified engineer and economist and had moved to Stockholm after a combined course in languages and other specialized subjects that led to an attractive job offer. Following jobs at a couple of different companies he ended up at Nexicon because everything was right there both the working hours, the colleagues and the bonuses. He told me all this in a measured tone. Like me he clearly could not bear boasting, and his body language had just the kind of multi-cultural vibrations that I am a bit of a sucker for. And you? he asked, with sincere interest. I was equally effective in telling the story of my life and after that we talked for a couple of hours without excessive intimacy or superficiality. Later it occurred to me that we had brought up subjects we would never again touch upon, such as the role of religion in a secular society. It was a productive discussion, more so because it was so unexpected and because I was sitting opposite a man who thought religion had a place in a hotel bar. We parted after exchanging telephone numbers and after a very finely balanced little hug, when for the first time I picked up Tom s special smell, a mix of cedar wood and cinnamon that had nothing to do with after-shave, but had been there on his skin since the day he was born. We were both sure that it would be useful to meet again, not counting the official interview on the following morning, and we both recognised the possibility that it might also be pleasant. It was pleasant, at least for about five years. Tom and I started seeing each other regularly almost directly after that evening in the bar in Munich, which didn t much surprise either of us. It seemed obvious right from the start that our budding romance was worth going for. One doesn t get so many chances in life to meet someone compatible, Tom reasoned. Someone to feel good with, someone to grow old with. I m with you, I agreed, you have to take the chance when it turns up. It

9 9 might sound a bit clinical to the outsider, but we never spoke about it to outsiders and at least we knew what we meant. Not that there wasn t passion in the beginning. Tom s first telephone call, the s we shoved back and forth at each other, meetings in the city, the growing intimacy and excitement, the first fumbling nights that before long turned into a pleasant, warm routine not least because we did so much laughing. We were right for each other and noticed it from the start. Tom was intelligent without being masterful about it, and he had a lot of respect for what I was doing. Our opinions occasionally diverged when it came to politics or the importance of seeing a film that had won a prize in Cannes, but it never made either of us doubt what we really saw in each other. We were quickly accepted by our respective friends and in record time we became a very established couple. Our finances were also quite good, which also stimulates love in all its forms. Tom s salary was more than adequate by Swedish standards, peppered as it was with bonuses sometimes both at Christmas and in summer. Added to my income from the firm this allowed us to save a lot without having to deprive ourselves of more or less whatever we wanted, or pondering price tags. Tom had also brought a sense of good taste with him from home, and he imparted this to me, who was less experienced in this area. Gradually I found my own style and before long the apartment we bought in Söder was a happy combination of high ceilings, limestone from Gotland, untreated wood and the odd splash of colour to catch one s interest. I loved it from the very first moment. Our life together consisted of work and more work, restaurant visits, lovely holidays and, now and then, socialising with friends. I tended to meet up with my out there girlfriends on my own, and here I included Kari and Rebecka, because Tom did not get much mileage out of their theories on alternative medicine or the lesbian outlook of certain African tribes. On the other hand I melted in like a chameleon with Tom s friends from various stages of his life and was able to discuss old latin romantic themes with his Colombian friends from school and gene technology with his work friends. Adaptability is a blessing, although I never saw it that way. I have always for as long as I can remember been able to speak plain English to yeomen and Latin to the wise, and this

10 10 ability is rooted in a special gene passed down in my family, enabling us to mix high and low in society as long as it benefits or entertains us. In other words everything was so meticulously and brilliantly set up that it felt awful not to be able to live up to all this perfection, but rather be forced into standing with my back against the wall to hide that persistent hole. At least I could share this with Tom to some extent and he both listened and responded with tangible suggestions. New clients? Maybe try something entirely different? You re so clever, Erica, you shouldn t have to feel like this. I knew he meant it sincerely. It was worse in so-called social contexts. This expression, for some reason I have never been able to pinpoint, has always made me feel a bit queasy. But when we were sitting with four or five couples or with friends of friends in some restaurant I sometimes felt a sudden alienation, culminating in a slow ascent towards the ceiling. Here I would remain, watching myself and the whole situation, as if a part of me had hastily handed in my notice or resigned with immediate effect. Take for instance the evening when Tom and I went to a Spanish restaurant with Catrin, an old colleague of Tom s, and her husband Anton, a musician I usually loved talking to about music. Just as our steaming tapas were placed on the table I felt myself soaring towards the ceiling, watching Erica helping herself to the tortilla and the pork fillets cooked with tomato sauce. At the same time I heard how Tom and Anton slid into a conversation on theatre, while Catrin turned to me. And what projects are you involved with at the moment, Erica? She was asking out of real interest and from my position just below the ceiling I saw myself rewind and press play. Right now I ve got two things on the go. An article for the Pharmaceutical Bulletin on forensic psychiatry and then something I m doing for Doolittle s. I m not sure if anything will come of it yet, but we re talking. It s about an advertising campaign to launch a new type of insurance, which makes it possible for elderly people to stay in their houses and at the same time get their hands on the money they d make if they sold up. We ll have to see what happens. Carin washed down the information with the Rioja we d chosen, and continued her interrogation. She was the type who seemed to arrive with a list of bullet points to be

11 11 ticked off over the course of the evening. Clearly my work situation had been one of the priorities on her list. So you have enough work? Do you have to call your clients or do they get in touch? Both, I d say. I have a couple of clients I call regularly just to let them know what I m doing, and then a few that call me. It usually evens out; some months are leaner than others. I belched out my answers while Erica listened superbly from above, occasionally hissing at me that even Catrin must have heard those standard formulations before. I should tell her that sometimes I bloody loved drinking wine at work. Also that it was horribly irritating always to be asked are you working? when someone called, as if having an office at home always involved lounging about on the sofa unless the contrary could be proved, that one had professional duties to get on with. If Erica up there on the ceiling was in a certain kind of mood, she sometimes tried to make me do crazy things. Stand up and shout cock, she might suddenly whisper and it was only by a great force of will that I could stop myself from doing just that. Tell Catrin she is chemically devoid of a sense of humour or walk up to her and kiss her on the lips. Trip up the waiter so he drops all the glasses. There was no end to the naughtiness and it seemed to be getting worse. At times I felt I was losing my sanity. Tom could usually pull me out of the mud and clean off the worst stink. He laughed away the difficulties and turned the dark things into mere shadows that could be blown away or stay as they were, categorised as normal problems. He was a secure point in my existence, a rock always strong enough to withstand the incoming heavy waves that varied in height according to the weather or the gravitation of the moon. A rock of some beauty, a gnarled surface of blue mussels and acorn barnacles. He was so beautiful that I forgot how acorn barnacles can cut terribly into someone who slips and falls. We were sitting in one of my favourite restaurants when it happened. It was a Tuesday night, which we d decided to brighten with a silver lining, given that it s ridiculous to save all the good things till Friday night or Saturday or possibly Sunday morning. Tom

12 12 had been uncharacteristically surly those last few days. Or silent, rather. Usually he was the one who fizzed, came home from work and arranged the sofa with blankets and cushions, finishing off his bustling with tea or beer according to the mood. Come and talk to me, Erica, he might call out, and I d emerge from my writing den, squinting like a mole. Then we d go through the day s events. How was it for you? And even if things had gone particularly well this was often the best moment of all, sitting there talking and sunning oneself in the light of the one opposite. How wonderful you are. How wonderful YOU are. But these moments had frozen away in the last few weeks, I realised as we ordered our drinks. A Martini for Tom, a Caipirinha for me. I had always loved that drink, the sea-grass green colour, the contrast between the tart lime, the Brazilian sugar cane spirit, cachaça, and dark Muscovy sugar. Dinner wasn t as pleasant as usual. We often used this type of evening to focus on each other, run through our finances or discuss holidays and other important matters. Sometimes over coffee I brought up the problem of the hole in my back and almost always Tom was able to make me feel better about it. Meanwhile he might bring up his fears about Nexicon s future, the hard times that lay in store for the company much like all the other giants of the pharmaceutical industry now in the process of losing some of their important patents, threatened by cheap generic alternatives, copycats that offered the same contents at a third of the price. This evening was different. Tom was monosyllabic about everything I brought up, how I thought I d be commissioned to write an article on psychotropic drugs, how we were going to arrange things if Tom s childhood friend came to stay during his Interrailing trip round Europe, and those bubbling sounds from the sink that had to be dealt with. He even made a few rude comments, which was not like him. We both avoided arguments like the plague, preferred to discuss our way out of differences of opinion. Now there seemed to be an argument on the way and I wondered what I had done. The sky split asunder as coffee arrived, one double espresso followed by another. Erica, said Tom and looked at me. I want us to take a break from each other.

13 13 I felt a wave of slippery terror cascading down from my head, a sort of cold shower under my skin. A break? What did he mean? What do you mean? I managed to say, and felt one of my feet vibrating uncontrollably. The only way of keeping it still was to firmly press the other foot on top. Tom ran a hand through his beautiful hair, thick and brown and slightly curly, leaned his head in his hands, then looked at me. His eyes were actually slightly shiny, but when he continued he was as focused as in a business conversation. Erica, haven t you noticed that we re running on routine? Nothing is happening? We re becoming like any other couple, one can t tell if they re twenty or thirty or sixty years old. That s the last thing I ever wanted to be. Normal and predictable. Tom fell silent, looked out of the window at the warm, charming street scene that seemed inappropriate for the evening, then turned to me again. Do you remember when I showed you the photos from the literacy project in Colombia? Do you? Bettan and Janne and Harry and Martin and a few others had come over. I was talking about what I did during a few important months just after my eighteenth birthday, possibly the most important months of my life. And what were you doing? You were yawning and thinking it was oh so dull. The only thing that amused you was some joke about my belly hanging out of my shorts. I remembered that slide show evening. I remembered it all too well. We had invited a group of mutual friends, most of them Tom s in fact, for a Latin evening. We had eaten nachos and drunk tequila and Caipirinhas and were having a riot when Tom got out the projector and suggested we should have a look at a few photos that fitted the occasion. Everyone knows that a slide show, when it has nothing to do with the guests but all the more about the host or hostess, is one sure way of murdering a party. The combination of darkness, the necessity of sitting still and listening to persistent commentary almost always makes people get up and put on their galoshes once the lights are switched back on. I tried entreatingly to sidetrack the slide show project but Tom insisted, and so there we sat and worked our way through one tray after another, all of them of Tom in his shorts in the jungle.

14 14 He had participated in some kind of state-sponsored literacy project in which university students went out to work as barefoot teachers in remote jungle villages whose Indian inhabitants could neither read nor write. They d stayed for a few weeks in each place and actually managed to improve general literacy quite considerably. Most of the children and an adequate number of the mothers too had raised their language levels to a point where they could also pass it on to others. How things went for the men in the villages is something I have forgotten, may God forgive me. But they must also have had some tuition, for the sake of their dignity if nothing else. Nonetheless by the third slide tray we had basically lost interest in Tom s good deeds in the jungle. In fact we started tittering, well; it may possibly have been about Tom s belly, which at that time was picturesquely untrained. Harry tickled my neck while in a childish voice asking if I might be so good as to teach him to read, while Bettan was folded double at the sight of an Indian woman showing her contempt for the learning process by displaying her rump to the teacher. All this while Tom kept up his spiel about the success of the project, how many had participated and what it meant to the people. I could hardly sleep that night. I lay there turning, twisting, sweating, I was almost in a panic, he continued. Towards dawn I got up, made myself a cup of coffee and went out on the balcony. And do you know what struck me then, Erica? What struck me was that no one really knows who I am. That project meant something to me. Sometimes when I think about it I m more proud of that than all the bloody exams and business plans. But to my friends and you it was just something to have a good laugh about. I sat silent. Couldn t say anything. Christ, it had been a party. Of course I thought literacy in the third world was important and if we d spoken about it in one of our little tête-à-têtes I would most likely have taken an interest. But not right then. We hadn t even been sober. Above all, said Tom. Above all I noticed I didn t know myself any more. Once upon a time I was a revolutionary, I wanted to help others and use my intellect for something good. Then I started applying the lacquer. My university education. The cracks began to disappear. And heal. Then the years in the USA, work, Nexicon and all

15 15 that crap and then you. Perfect. Not a knot-hole left. Just a smooth surface, but nowhere to get a firm footing either. But Tom, I tried. I m not perfect am I? What makes us so perfect? We ve got our fears and hang-ups and and you ve got your hole in your back, I know Erica. He made it sound particularly disgusting. I just wonder how your mind works. You ve been given so much. You re talented and good-looking, your work is going well and you make decent money, you re with me and I suppose I d have to be considered a decent sort of man. You can read. You ve had a good education. Like almost everyone else in this country you belong to a highly privileged elite, when compared to the rest of the world. But you don t feel good about yourself. I can t take it any more. Tom looked away, then turned back again and launched the final missile. To put it bluntly I m tired of you, Erica. Bloody tired. I don t know if that means I don t want anything else to do with you, and I ll have to take the risk that I change my mind and you won t want to see me any more. But right now I want to be left in peace. And do some thinking. Tom got out his wallet, stood up and threw two five hundred-crown notes on the table. Stay here a while. Finish your coffee. I ll go home and pack some things I need. I ll be done in an hour and then I ll stay with Johan for a while, we ll see what happens. I ll call you. He was gone. As soon as he d gone out of the door I ran into the toilet, where the menu emerged in reverse order. Espresso, raspberry mousse, Dover sole, tuna carpaccio, Caipirinha. Of dust have you come, and dust shall you be again. More or less like that. Maria Ernestam 2005 Caipirinha med Döden Translation Henning Koch 2010 Caipirinha with Death

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