30 January 2017

Sweden is the Reason

The false January spring did seem to come like it always does about two weeks ago, when you went outside and thought that the winter hadn’t been that bad this year. Then, like always, the cold snap came and everyone is bundled and walking up Warren Street, smoking or wearing big cheap headphones. I was up at 3:30, and made coffee and hard boiled eggs and half of a bagel, before standing out, waiting for the 4:38 bus, the 23, to New Street. I had another cup of coffee and then fell asleep on the Virgin Train into Euston, waking just as we passed Wembley and everyone looked the way they do on the train after you’ve woken up suddenly, like they have been staring at you the whole time.

With the visas and passports back, life had permission to continue on, and I sorted out the rest of my trip to Sweden and started thinking about the semester in front of me, like it might actually happen and we wouldn’t be on a plane to some other place on 15 February, when our previous visa was up. Now it was at least another three years, even though no one seemed to pay any attention to it but me. I want to keep talking about it, to keep bringing it up causally in conversations. It was £6,441, and I had to pay none of it out of pocket. I say this proudly and whomever I am talking to has a blank look on their face. It’s remarkable, isn’t it and they take my word for it. It’s remarkable.

My obsession with Sweden has been ongoing. I cornered a man once at a conference, a British man living in Gothenburg, peppering him with questions, It’s a socialist utopia, isn’t it. Everything is great there, right? and as he tried to dissuade me, it only sounded like everything I imagined. I was primed to only accepted the rosiest picture. And then, indeed, everything comported with what I believed, because it’s what I wanted. The buses run on waste, coffee is vitally important, the people are actually this polite, university is free. It went on and on.

I got off the train, in Växjö, and the air was clean — like it's been washed, Chris said. The cabin in woods where I stayed was also a part of the utopian dream, like Walden. No running water, and when you went out in the middle of the night in clogs, across the grass to the edge of the woods to piss, it was like whole darkness of the wilderness was looking at you. There was something about being taken care of, not worrying about what needed to happen next. Chris cooked and drove and took me around. I didn't need to do anything, just wake and go. I once talked about this in counselling, of a time I had been in Malaysia and Yoko and the girls weren’t there, and I had been driven around without having to make any decisions. It’s a utopia.

Now, there are any number of things to do. I was in London again, I was sleeping again on a train. I am going to Japan next, in April. Working on a book series proposal. Finishing my own book and beginning work on the third one. Watching people walk up and down the street. There is probably more to do and say. When I figure it out, I’ll do it and say it.