“Food, sleep, language, city, music and I”
1st December 2022
“Food, sleep, language, city, music and I”
I bought snus last Sunday (extremely stressed during this incident - shaking, sweaty hands). I was standing in a line in a corner shop behind a young dad with two children - an older girl, and a little boy. There was also a young guy after me and a group of people picking up the last items before they joined our queue. So I was there in the middle of this hell, feeling very guilty. While the man was taking a long moment to deal with small groceries and small children altogether, I started an “escape” move around three times. But in the end I stayed, succeeding with my purchase. I told the shop assistant that I need something fruity and light for a person who doesn’t do it very often or actually doesn’t do it at all. It’s a big disadvantage that it’s hidden behind the glass door on the other side of the cashier’s table and I can’t take my long moment to look, hold and choose.
In spite of the instruction I gave the shop assistant, my snus was too strong. I put it behind my gums and lost control within a minute. I was on the bridge, holding the rails with a feeling of a reversed gullet. And it was not the first time when I tried snus. A few weeks before I asked a colleague to let me try. I took it just before the lecture and within half an hour I neither liked it nor anything else.
I took a job as a housekeeper. Somehow it was my dream to enter other people’s houses and touch their belongings. But later I also found out that I feel comfortable having this job because I have something to talk about with my roommates therefore they treat me more like their person. On the job days, I always have long conversations with them. We exchange the experience and complain about dirt, they ask me questions I can answer. But we never talk when I go to school and work in my studio. In weeks when I don’t have a job, I talk only with the dog.
Since I moved in here, my mom follows the “Stockholm explorer” pages on Instagram. One evening she told me that a night or two before, there were northern lights above the city. “It’s impossible” - I said. I really believed that the location is not northern enough to experience it. Moreover, she just accused me of sleeping which supposedly led to missing them and recommended I check it online. The photos I saw on google looked very fake.
I think that it made me angry. I didn’t prepare myself to include northern lights in my daily life. I didn’t want to be bothered with chasing them. I didn’t want to lose my sleep. But still, influenced by her words, I started looking up at the sky more often. Coming back at night I like to imagine that the sky would turn out green.
Since the moment I learned about snus, I haven’t been a fan of its existence. Firstly, I couldn't process that I had never seen it before. Another thing was - I couldn’t understand why so many people around me use it althoughit seemed so pointless. I like to smoke cigarettes from time to time because it makes fire. Something is present in my hands for a short while and it disappears. But this snus doesn’t even give me a “special moment”. Anyway, I bought it last Sunday.
I was on a very long walk in “dark and rain” and once again I wanted to smoke. Two nights before I had an argument with my roommates who sometimes give me cigarettes. I had very cold feelings for the roommates so following this logic, I also had cold feelings for cigarettes. I needed a replacement. Another reason to buy it was that I’ve been thinking about sending it to the Netherlands as a souvenir. One colleague told me that I can’t do it because it’s illegal in the whole EU except Sweden. Still, I bought it thinking that I would take one for myself and the rest I would ship.
I never took it out of my jacket’s pocket. I liked touching it when I was reaching for my phone or keys. In the beginning, I forgot about it and didn’t know what I touched. After a day I got used to it and after four days I started using it. Still, I didn’t like it so I couldn’t hold it in my mouth longer than thirty seconds, drinking all the water I had with me afterwards. It has been getting better and now I don’t have anything to send.
Coming back to the supermarket incident I wrote that I was stressed and guilty in the line. Later I realized that it came from a conviction that snus is not for me because I am not a local. I believe this is exactly the thing that drew me into using snus despite not understanding it. It was a yearning to be part of something - a new thing for me.
After the argument with my roommates, I started living in a fear of becoming homeless. When I got rejected from the single studio, I started sending hundreds of messages to people who offered to rent a room.
The first house I enter belongs to a divorced man around 40 years old. It’s morning. He has a two-year-old son who stays with him every second weekend. His toys are put in a small storage. He opens it telling me that I can put my stuff there, but I don’t have a lot - maybe the suitcase would fit. Among other parts of a small boy’s world, I see a miniature of a police car.
The second house I enter belongs to a male couple, they are between 30 and 40 years old. It’s evening. They look very different from each other but they own a dog and a cat of the same size and color. Their apartment is full of plants, the light is dim and warm, furniture is wooden. I look around and can barely see anything white or gray. I feel like in a different country, that I’ve never known before - a perfect place. There are many old maps on the walls - they show different cities. They offer me tea and I choose peppermint with passion fruit. To make the hot water flow faster from the teapot, you have to open the lid. In my room, there is wallpaper with tiny blue flowers.
The third house I enter belongs to an old lady.She was 24 in the year 1969 when she moved in. It’s evening. She can’t hear me very well so I have to talk louder. There are many reproductions of Marc Chagall’s paintings on the staircase, but we don’t go upstairs - it’s her space. We go downstairs instead - to the basement. When I notice there are no windows,she corrects me, showing two small holes high on the wall. If you stand on your toes, you can see a little bit of the outside world. There is a big coffer in the room but she calls it a coffin by mistake. She dries chanterelles on the newspaper in the kitchen which looks similar to my grandma’s kitchen that I remember from childhood. Now it’s gone - it has already been renovated. I am not sure but I remember the lady having two braids.
The fourth house I enter belongs to a man around 50 years old. It’s morning. From the moment I see him, he reminds me of my grandpa. Also his outfit - he has purple pants and a purple t-shirt. Although my grandpa would rather wear a white set. The smell of incense is very intense in the corridor but when we go to the kitchen I can feel the fresh air. He is in the middle of his breakfast. A couple of years ago he moved back to Stockholm from Gotland. He is a master of fine arts as well as his ex-wife. She graduated from my school. He asks me about my works, we talk for a while. At some point, the youngest daughter wakes up. He tells me that she is thirteen but she looks older than me. There are two more daughters who often come to visit. There is a young student of economics who will soon move back to Malmö. There is a guitar hanging on a kitchen wall and a piano standing under the stairs.
The fifth house I enter belongs to a retired Serbian man. He is between 70 and 80 years old. It’s afternoon. He doesn’t speak English so I talk only with his roommate. I know from the ad that he is 27 years old. He is wearing glasses and I guess he is pretty good-looking. He shows me his room. It is a nice but unnecessary gesture. Of course, I am curious to see it. The older man speaks a few words in Polish. He shows me a Polish neighbour who is talking on the phone, we can see him from the balcony. He shows me his CDs with Serbian music and a self-printed catalog with Serbian movies. I look at it wearing his slippers. He doesn’t want me to enter the room in socks. I think he is sweet but later he asks about my criminal records and wants me to show all my IDs and bank accounts. He becomes more and more suspicious of me and I don’t like the tone of his voice. The roommate translates from Swedish but I already can understand when a foreigner speaks. I can sense that the roommate is a bit ashamed of the translated interrogation. Anyway, the lighting in the apartment is so terrible, that I say that they won't hear from me and I rush to escape.
Eventually, I downloaded an app “Aurora Forecast 3D” on my phone and I look at it every day. In the beginning I noticed (which made me content) that the green indication was only high up north. But lately it’s coming closer and closer to the south.
I was talking with a group of people who were going on a trip to Riga the following day. I asked if they are taking the boat, and no - they were taking a plane. Anyway, I shared my desire to go to Finland through the water since I watch the ships going there every day from my studio window. Although I would rather go when the days are longer because I am still a bit scared of the darkness. A boy with a hat said that going now can be actually nicer because you can see the northern lights at the sea. “Can I really see it so south?” - I still couldn’t believe it. A blond fluffy girl said that she saw it in Stockholm four times. A girl with glasses and black hair said that once friends informed her that the lights were here but she was already in bed, too lazy to get up. They told me that apparently this winter is going to be good to spot the northern lights in Stockholm.
I don’t enter the sixth house, I meet the landlord in the city instead. It’s late afternoon. She tells me ahead that she needs to choose a place that accepts dogs. I am happy to meet another dog. I wait. I am in the cafe half an hour too early and she is a bit late. I drink matcha with pickled cherries. With every sip, I am surprised that it’s so good. I sit by the window with the intention to watch people passing by, but instead, I look at my phone checking where is the best place to exchange money. She is 30 years old. She looks like a modern woman. She is wearing elegant clothes and high-heel black boots. I’ve never seen a dog like this, he looks exactly like a teddy bear. She tells me that he threw up on the way so she had to take a later train. The way she asks me questions made me sense that she works as a recruiter. For a moment we walk outside together, but there is not much to talk about. I don’t believe we would get along.
The last person I visit is Linda. It’s totally dark and cold although it’s only afternoon. I walk for a long time in a neighbourhood that looks like the place where I grew up. I don’t feel well. It’s Sunday so I spend my day sightseeing. I am not only tired but also cold and hungry. My phone wants me to enter the forest. All I can see there is black. I think about Linda’s house. I wish she would give me tea. A soup would be nice but this is too much to expect from a viewing. It’s not good to think that Linda is already my friend because when I see her in the backyard she can’t recognize me. But it’s okay because I can’t recognize her either. I need to ask “Are you Linda?”
She is around 40 years old. She has a long blonde ponytail. She doesn’t let me enter her house. We go to the basement. Four other girls live there but none of them is present. Everything is white. It’s not a nice place. Linda doesn’t need to know me any better. I leave. I take my phone to check the direction. I see that my dad sent me photos of our cats. Two notifications about new vacant rooms pop up. Someone recently just moved into the house next to Linda’s. They don’t have any blinds yet so I watch them unpacking their things for a while.
There is one person in Stockholm I can count on. Soon she will leave the city to visit an exhibition in Malmö therefore for two days there will be nobody around I can trust. I asked her “Where are you going?”. When she is answering “Malmö” (what I obviously knew already) I am asking again “But where?”. Her answer is still the same. It’s confusing so I am repeating “Where? Where? Where?”. She looked confused too so I explained that I am not asking “when is she going” but “where”. I had a hard time understanding that it was the “when” word that indicates time. I repeated “when” a few times to realise I misplaced it.
I went to a concert. All the instruments were playing. Now I am coming back home in the middle of the night. I have to get used to my new bed. I have to find myself in a new kitchen. But soon I am going to see the animals. They are both deep gray. I had a rabbit of this color once and I used to say that the rabbit I own is blue. I am looking up at the green sky.