Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Inger Edelfeldt: "An Uninhabitable House" - 5

I was still trembling as I walked up the gentle rise to the outdoor café. I am so sensitive that I have to be a little nasty at times, otherwise I would wallow in my feelings. Sofia is much more even-tempered, she doesn't even think about death. As for me, I think about death all the time, without a break. The slow fire in our bodies, causing the heat of the skin. Only loathsome, unacceptable Death really loves us. And I can see everything dancing, how life dances amidst all of this, vainly, before it is handed over. Is there any better way of dancing than body to body, flesh to flesh. Then you can almost love death.

They were sitting at one of the first tables. Sofia and the young man.

What were they talking about? Well, that in the olden days, all buttons were made of mother-of-pearl. This was an excuse for Sofia to finger his shirt, which gave him such a feeling a well-being that he shut his eyes quite involuntarily, inhaled sharply and shuddered slightly, right there where he was sitting. I saw this and it felt like a cat's hard but affectionate head were pounding against my sex.

Then he caught sight of me. A look of vexation crossed his face; I saw it. Immediately, instinctively, he had judged me, without even knowing who I was. Despair, rage and hatred were aroused within me; these three marauders of the joys of life, three harpies in my innards, so familiar that I only needed to sense their approach, as when passing someone else's garden you spot three sorts of weeds. That's what keeps you going.

He'll change, given time, I thought to myself. Now Sofia had spotted me too. She had already seen from the look on his face that I had arrived.

"This is my sister, Carmilla," she said in a flat voice. "We're here together."

He looked as if someone had spilt something on his trousers.

"Hello, " he said. "Andreas."

"I know," I said, or whispered, rather.

"Carmilla's got such problems with her voice just now," Sofia explained. "Normally, she's got the voice of an angel."

"I see," said Andreas.

A tense atmosphere already. It was getting worse every minute as we made attempts at polite conversation. But I'm used to that sort of thing by now. To give them a chance to say a few words in private - every one of which I would, of course, pick up - I excused myself in order to go and get something to drink.
I watched them from over by the counter inside. Sofia did, of course, know what was going on, but he was quite innocent of the situation.

"Carmilla is very gifted," Sofia felt herself obliged to say.

"Yes, she does seem rather special," he managed to utter.

"We're very close," said Sofia.

"I don't have any sisters and brothers myself," he said, as if this were something positive.

"We always travel together," said Sofia. "We just can't cope without one other. Especially Carmilla, she becomes so anxious."

Well, that's quite true, actually. She thinks it's only me who has anxieties, she feels a little melancholy at the very most, and even then preferably when thinking about something rather remote; children in other countries and gap in the ozone layer. The fact that we all have gaps in the ozone layers within us, and that life is leaking out without our being able to stop it, is something which doesn't worry Sofia. No, if she worries at all, it's about the fates of others. But she would never go as far as to do anything about it, she just goes on talking. I doubt if she even contributes to the Fund for the Prevention of the Extinction of Whales, something which she gets all worked up about. Sometimes I wish that by some heavenly miracle a dead whale would flop down into our garden and lie there and rot.

But that was by the by. The state of the world is often a mere passage in love stories. If we could choose - purely hypothetically, of course - between saving the world and being totally affirmed in one's love, I wonder how many of us would choose to save the world. We would rather throw ourselves into someone's arms, a warm bosom, and only cast a hasty glance, if at all, at the apocalypse which was taking place outside our window.

The atmosphere at the table was still strained when I returned with some gaudy red soft drinks.

"I've heard," I said, "that there are wild cherries in the woods. What if we were to take a walk over there?"

Translated from Swedish by Eric Dickens

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