The Englishman and I spent the week in August 1982 playing happy families. We stayed in every night, cooked together, and smiled into each other’s eyes. In the mornings I went to work at the bank, and the Englishman went shopping for food. He told me the women at the meat counter laughed at him when he tried to use the Finnish phrases I’d written down for him.
When I came home from work he poured me a gin and tonic. We sat outside on the small patio at the back of the house and had our ‘sundowners’. The Englishman told me that’s what the officers called the first drink of the evening when on a naval visit somewhere hot. They’d watch the sun set against the horizon before it rapidly disappeared into the sea.
‘It goes, psshht,‘ he made the noise of a lit match dropped into water.
I saw the noisy children from the houses around us play on the swings in the middle of the communal gardens. There was a the small area of neglected grass in front of us, grown patchy and yellow during the scorchingly dry summer. The sun was still high up in the sky. This far North it didn’t set until much later in the evening. Still, in my mind, sitting next to the Englishman I was in Gibraltar or the
We didn’t talk much about serious things. Or not enough. At the end of the week when we said goodbye at
He blamed the drink. But how drunk did you have to be to accidentally sleep with someone? I’d been drunk too, too drunk to realise that I shouldn’t have had a one night stand with a stranger, but I didn’t call it an accident. I was fully intending to do what I did before I even set out that night. Did that make it better or worse? Had the Englishman, like me, decided that we were finished before he had his accident? If he had, what had changed his mind?
None of it made any sense and now he was gone I couldn’t ask him. Perhaps I should write to him? No, the wait for a reply would kill me. Perhaps when he phoned? I didn’t have the courage to spoil a telephone conversation with my doubts. I too had been unfaithful, so why not just forget about it and plan for the future?
At the end of our week together the Englishman told me that in the New Year he was going to be shore based in Rosyth, near
Time passed slowly. In late September I re-started my Political Science course at the
‘Can’t believe you’re still going strong after two years,’ my mother said as she helped carry my heavy bag to the Stockholm Railway Station, T-Centralen. ‘Must be love.’ She hugged me hard. I didn’t want to tell her how much I doubted the relationship.
On the first leg of the journey, I had a bunk in a four berth sleeping compartment. In late December Stockholm had a thick covering of snow, but as the train made its way South the landscape turned dull and brown. It soon became dark and there was nothing to see out of the window. I climbed into my bunk and was awoken sharply by loud clanking noises. It sounded as if the train had driven into a ravine. I gasped, and heard a voice in the darkness explain to someone below me, ‘The carriages are pulled and moved into the ferry.’ I sighed and lay back against my thin pillow. We were in Helsingborg, about to cross over to Denmark