It strikes me as an odd merging of coincidences that she should be in my apartment. She doesn’t set boundaries the way most people do, it occurs to me. She has accepted the challenge of dropping in on me, doing so in the same way that she wants to meet Andreas. What makes her walk into other people’s lives like this? What is she looking for?
Then she straightens up and continues:
‘The man got back into action. Leaning forward at an angle, he began to tell me about the woman who was sitting between us, while she listened with a look of contentment.
‘She had been a photo model. I stared at the woman mutely as before, surprised that this thought had not occurred to me. She smiled at me and told me that her friend was a photographer.
‘Then, as far as was possible for a breath-taking model, she tried to make herself invisible again, and the man went on:
‘He had photographed the woman several times. He wasn’t really a fashion photographer. He didn’t have much time for the glamorous fashion magazines, but had been hired one day when another photographer failed to turn up. Now and then he stepped in like that to help a colleague out. His friendship with the woman had begun directly after the first photo session, which had taken place one September day, on a jetty, in a bitterly cold wind.
‘He and the stylist had been okay, but she had caught a chill from posing on the jetty with not enough clothes on. He’d felt he was to blame, because under the pressure of work he had ignored her protests. On the other hand, next day he had phoned her. He’d brought her some cold medicine and a bottle of decent brandy, and said he was sorry if he’d ordered her about – he wasn’t always good at spotting the different reactions models had to things, but he was anxious to make up for the callous way he’d treated her.
‘The invisible woman interrupted the conversation with loud laughter. She said that being a model she couldn’t consume more than about a thousand calories a day, so she hadn’t touched the brandy, but during the next few days he’d done his best to restore her to health. That was something she had not been able to resist.
‘They’d been together ever since, he said. Now and then they might not see each other for a while, but when they did they always had a good time together. Indeed, she gradually became one of the girlfriends to whom he could pour out his sorrows – in spite of the age difference between them.’
This gives me a twinge of pain, but I don’t allow it to be noticed.
His girlfriend was in a really tough profession, and that was why she was able to give him sympathy. If he had any problems, he went to her. Problems: I wonder what that word covered?’
‘Rebecca looks at me inquiringly. I choose to remain silent, and also wait before I say that I know Irene.
She goes on:
‘I remember stumbling over the word... His girlfriend was thinking of giving up her career as a model. The death of a very young colleague during a fashion show affected her deeply. While working for a pharmaceutical company for several years the woman had been involved in various vaccination programmes. In between photo-shoots she had waited in hotel rooms. There she had gone on the Internet and begun to find out about the kind of products the company was known for. She’d read about contagious diseases, the danger of infection, precautionary measures. She’d found it disturbing to gain an insight into these things, and gradually she’d been put in charge of various hygiene programmes and vaccination projects in some African villages.
‘It was nice to hear about the new direction that her life was taking, Sophia. I was immediately impressed by her, for a lot of girls are destroyed by their lives as models. I knew one girl who could only cope with the job on pills, and another who just tottered from one day to the next, her life fell totally to bits because of the way she was treated. It was intriguing, what the woman next to me on the plane was saying, but why was I being let in on it all?’
Rebecca takes her time, but I don’t hurry her, just fold my arms and go on listening.
‘I suddenly found it rather strange that I’d allowed myself to be caught up in the fates of these two people as I sat there at a height of 30,000 feet. I excused myself and went along to the toilet right at the back of the plane. I felt I needed to collect my thoughts before meeting Dino, so I stayed standing along there in the aisle for a long time.
‘As I was on my way back to my seat the landing was announced. I fastened my seatbelt and took the book out again in order to try to shake the other two off.
‘But now the woman was holding out a visiting card. She said Andreas had asked her to give it to me. Andreas!... The man actually had a name. That was more or less what it felt like.’
Rebecca gives a nervous snort.
translated from Danish by David McDuff
Star Without Land
Star Without Land - 2
Star Without Land - 3