It was late afternoon one Spring Saturday as I sat down in front of the Pressbyrån at Ropsten train station to wait for Dan. We had arranged to meet here, but I was early so I plugged my headphones into my ears as I settled in to wait. After a few minutes I saw a man out of the corner of my eye walk around the bench and sit on the other side. I hadn’t seen his face, but I felt his presence. Dan had arrived early as well. He thought he was sneaky and clever, but I knew him too well for that.I got up in silence and walked around the bench, plopping down next to him as I threw my arm across his shoulders, smiled and said “Hey, Dan.” We had arranged to meet so that we could go to a US Marine party together, but it was much too early in the evening for that. So we decided to hop on the bus and go to the other side of the harbour. We arrived on the Lidingö side within just a few minutes and walked down to the shoreline. The beach on the Eastern side of Lidingö was covered in pebbles and had a few large rocks scattered around, under the shade of woodland trees. Settling down on a large flat rock; we chatted, looked out on the harbour and watched the sun dance on the water.
Abruptly, Dan kissed me. Then he pulled me down and rolled so that I was on top of him while he laid on the rock. He pulled my face towards his and kissed me again as he ran his hand down my back. After a moment I rolled off of him and laid by his side, nearly crushing his arm as I did so. I continued to lay my head on his shoulder as we went on talking. At some point we had a mild disagreement, he said something I found asinine so I got up and turned my back to him as I squatted by the water and dipped my hand in, swirling my fingers in the miniature lapping waves. Though soon enough I was coaxed back by his side.
It was not yet dark by the time we got up to go to the party. This was springtime in Sweden, so the days were getting longer. Not so long yet, however; that we could expect to see the sun all night. We got back on the bus for the five minute ride to Lidingö Centrum – the “centre” of the island – with the plan to walk the rest of the way from there. I recall as we walked through Centrum, he showed me his new bracelet; It was made of bicycle chain. I commented that it was odd – not because of what it was, but more so that he had never been one to wear any form of jewelry. He shrugged. “Well, I thought it was cool,” he said. Then, taking me off guard, he playfully pushed me off of the sidewalk. The rest of the walk became a battle as to who could stay on the sidewalk the longest… He won, of course.
I remember stealing sideways glances at this boy as we walked and played. Dressed in jeans and a grey T-shirt with the sun hanging low behind him. His T-shirt was not tight, but it also was not so baggy that I couldn’t see the lean muscle in his arms. His eyes were brown and dancing, his brown hair falling into his face whenever I successfully got him off of the sidewalk. My God, he was beautiful to me.
Later that night, after some drinking – after I had danced with a Marine and Dan had stalked off outside because he hadn’t wanted to dance and perhaps hadn’t wanted me to dance without him? – we stood out on the balcony and he took out a cigarette. We were talking about something inconsequential and he got annoyed as he spit stray tobacco out of his mouth.
“That’s the trouble with unfiltered cigarettes,” he said. “Since there’s no filter, the tobacco always ends up in your mouth.”
Scoffing at the obviousness of it, I said “Then don’t smoke unfiltered cigarettes, Dan.”
“Nah, I like them. If they’re unfiltered, I’ll get cancer faster and die sooner.”
Immediate anger welled up inside of me. “Goddammit, Dan! If you wanna die so badly why don’t you just do it?! Just kill yourself!”
He didn’t flinch at my cruel words, but rather raised his head to gaze at me with piercing eyes.
“Because that would be the coward’s way out,” he said quietly.
I excused myself somehow and walked off. A short time later finding myself lying a top a low stone wall at the bottom of the garden, staring up at the night sky. I laid there wondering what I was doing with Dan. Why did I torture myself by letting myself fall for a guy like him? Why did I let myself care so much about him? Dan was someone that I knew wasn’t good for me. I think he knew this too. He was a few years older, he was nearly always wasted on drugs, he was most certainly not Christian like I was brought up to be. Yet for the whole three years I lived in Sweden, I felt drawn to him. No matter when we argued or when he messed around with other girls. I don’t think he knew that I knew that he kept sleeping with a particular friend of ours. If he did know that I knew, I guess he didn’t care. For some reason I cared about Dan and couldn’t shake that feeling. Obviously I didn’t want him to kill himself, but those words of his had hurt my soul and he didn’t even know.
After a few minutes, I turned my head to the side to see Dan stepping out of the house, looking around and peering into the darkness.
Without moving, I called back “Down here.”
He turned, his eyes settled on me and then he strode across the lawn in my direction.
“I’ve been looking for you.”
“I’ve been here.”
He sat down on the wall next to me, so I felt obliged to sit up. “I’m going home. I’ve called my mum, she’ll be here to pick me up in 15 minutes.”
He put his hand on top of mine. “Ok,” he said. “I might stay a bit longer.”
I looked down at his hand on mine, then looked up at him. “Ok,” I said as I thought maybe I would have liked to stay a bit longer too – just to be with Dan.