Unchanged Unending

Unchanged Unending

misty

Translation by Rachel Willson-Broyles

Honestly. I wouldn’t change anything because our love was the most beautiful thing I’ve experienced and there’s nothing, nothing I regret. Do you hear me? I promise and swear everything was perfect. Together we were like the love that everyone goes around waiting for, you know, the love all the films and books and songs fail to capture.

If I had to? If someone were to put a pistol to my head and really force me to change something now, afterwards, then I would probably change our first meeting. I mean, not because there was anything wrong with it, but honestly, how romantic is it to meet in the waiting room at a hospital?

Or a hospital is probably okay. It’s a little dramatic, sort of. We can keep the hospital. But if I had to change something I’d probably put us in a different waiting room. Instead of catching sight of each other at the STD clinic our eyes would meet at, like. . .I don’t know. . .the cancer ward. Is there one of those at Södersjukhuset? We’ll say there is. We’re sitting there on the cancer ward and our eyes meet and time stands still and you’re so fantastically beautiful that I can’t concentrate on my magazine.
Do you remember that? How I just sat there and pretended to read the gossip pages for several minutes just because I didn’t dare meet your eyes.

And as long as we’re at it I’d like to exchange the magazine for something that’s a little more me. Let’s have me sit there in the waiting room reading Anna Karenina. And instead of you leaning forward and saying what you said (damn it’s nice not to be the only one worrying about my holiday hookups), you lean forward and say something about Tolstoy’s insightful manner of depicting, like, women or animals or the class society. That can be our first meeting. And instead of running into each other out at the bus stop again and starting to talk about how shady it felt to pee in that plastic cup and how hard it is to stop in the middle of peeing, we run into each other out at the bus stop and start talking about how tough it is to have a loved one with cancer. Yeah, that should work.

And now we’re standing there by the bus stop and you ask me for a cigarette and I compliment you on your tattoo and you tell that funny story about how you decided to get it in Thailand when you were high as a kite and then you woke up and went around for several weeks hoping, hoping it was just a henna tattoo. We’ll keep that part—just as it was. But can we please take out the totally idiotic question I asked next? (So, was it a henna tattoo?) I’m still ashamed about that. Other than that there’s nothing I want to change.

Nothing.
Okay, maybe the weather, actually.

We’ll take out that windy fall rain and replace it with sunshine. Or even better. Let’s say that we meet for the first time right when spring is starting to come to life. The scents are filling the city and everyone is pleasantly unprepared for the warmth and they get transformed into goldfish and agree that it’s sure as hell never been this warm before. Let’s have that kind of sunshine on us as we’re standing there at the bus stop, and instead of taking the bus we start wandering down Ringvägen. Trees are shining green and your teeth are shining yellow and our shoes are sticking to the summery-warm asphalt because fuck it, it’s not spring anymore, it’s suddenly become the most beautiful summer in the world. Distant sounds from basketball-playing kids and broiling sunshine and we’re just wandering along there and enjoying it and talking about exactly the same things we chatted about on that rainy fall day on the bus. You remember, right?
We continue on the topic of tattoos and I tell you about that guy at my job whose reason behind his fully tattooed upper body was that he had a buddy who was a tattooist and he got a really sweet deal. Now he had all the designs he wanted, but if he were going to get another tattoo he would want something classic, something that would really last.

Like what? you ask, and you ask it just like you did on the bus because there’s no one, no one who can ask things with more sincere curiosity.

You know Piglet from Winnie the Pooh? He wants to get a tattoo of a huge-ass Piglet with a cowboy hat like at an angle, you know, with six-shooters and a sheriff star on his chest. And here you started laughing like only you can in that out-of-control way, and you snorted and gasped and smacked your palm against the bus pole and grumpy umbrella men cleared their throats, irritated, and ladies pursed their lips and exchanged meaningful glances but you just ignored them and let your volcanic laughter blast holes in the bus ceiling and I remember how on that rainy bus on that warm sunny sidewalk I already thought I loved you. That it was you and me for always. That’s really the only thing I’d like to change.

Everything else was perfect.

How we met the second time on that blanket and just talked, talked, talked until our apple cores turned brown and the afternoon turned into dusk. How I came home at night and was so full of energy that I didn’t fall asleep until it was time to wake up. How we met the third time at that bar and the fourth time at your place and how we never had time to say everything we wanted to say before it was time to say goodbye. How we kissed in the hall. How our lips were like the same kind. How our tongues. How our wrists. How our colors. How our awakened closeness made me want to cuddle with the whole world and how the tattooed guy at my work recoiled when I tried to hug him the next day. How everything in our conversations seemed to be connected. How all the movies we saw in the beginning just became meaningless titles and memories of close breathing and warm sweaty hands and tips of tongues wandering along rows of teeth. How so many of those films still feel like favorites anyway, even now, afterwards. How everything in us was each other. How for the first time in my whole life I stopped looking for another. How I could wake up at night and lie there beside you in the dark and nose your collarbone and listen to your breathing and think that our sheets were us and every song was us and all the words were us and everything in the entire world was so much us that sometimes I panicked and wondered who was me.

What do you mean stop it? I mean every word. It was exactly like that. Like finding your mirror image for the first time, the one that perfectly matches everything that you.

What?
Well, because.
Things end.
Things change.
But I.
Don’t regret anything.
At least not about the way I.
Some little things maybe.

For example, I would make sure not to accidentally call Sophie Calle Frida Kahlo that time when we were lying on the blanket and talking art. And I also regret mixing up “faire la cuisine” with “faire l’amour” when I was trying to tell your French relatives that you’re so good at cooking. That was a little awkward.

About you?
No.
Absolutely not.
Maybe some little things.
Words you used and stuff.
Like that you always complained about how your cell bill was totally gastronomically huge, remember that?
Stuff like that bothered me after awhile.
Nothing else.
And that you were a little too eager to be the center of attention.
And that you were so morbidly curious about everything and everyone and just asked and asked even though it was stuff that had nothing to do with you.
And I’d probably also turn down the volume of your laugh because of course it was beautiful and volcanic, but sometimes it fucking went too far, I mean, people stopped on the street and pointed when we were in Greece, remember that?

But those are all just little things and they have nothing to do with the real reason that it didn’t. I mean.

Of course it was both our faults.
Not just yours.
Even if.
Yeah.
Even if.
Sometimes I think.
No, let’s not start over.
If I had to change something about the end?
Well.
There are probably some things I’d fiddle with.
I mean.
It can’t have been fun for you to read those texts, which I understand could be.
Misinterpreted.
But all that was just a joke, you know.
We had like jargon that was a little.
If I got a text that said “my bed misses you” or “let’s do stuff in the buff” it didn’t necessarily mean that I was.
I mean.
Yeah, you know.
And you were a little paranoid too, you know.
Besides, you had no right to read my texts.
Well.
That was about it.
Then of course some things happened that were absolutely not my fault and of course that’s hard for me to.
Change.
Afterwards.
But of course I wish you had never.
Attempted.
But of course we found you in time and all things considered.
It was.
Lucky.
Do you remember anything about that night?
It was the most beautiful summer night ever, with nighttime couples walking hand-in-hand and I remember how I sat in the back of the ambulance and the sirens screamed and the neighborhood was colored blue and I held your spasming hand and thought that it was the wrong weather again because on a night like this it should storm and hail and not be sunset and smell like lilacs. And I also thought that the ambulance should have gone to the emergency room at Södersjukhuset instead of St. Göran’s because. . .
What?
No!
Sit down!
Put down the candlestick!
Calm down.
I mean, not like that.
I just mean.
Then.
Our story would have ended so nicely because.
It would have been, you know, like a circle.
And.
Is that such a strange thing to say?
What do you mean by that?
That’s not cold.
It’s just that.
I don’t know how to.

And it would have been so perfect if we’d met at Södersjukhuset in broiling sunshine and said goodbye to each other at Södersjukhuset in storming hail and of course there’s a lot I regret, I regret and I want to change so much, more stuff than I can admit and I just hope that you can forgive me someday because nothing, nothing has been like us.

JONAS HASSEN KHEMIRI, born in Sweden in 1978, is the internationally acclaimed author of four novels and six plays. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages, and his plays have been performed by over 100 companies around the world and received accolades including a Village Voice Obie Award for best script. His first two novels, One Eye Red and Montecore, were awarded several prizes in Sweden including best literary debut and the Swedish Radio Award for best novel of the year. His most recent novel, Everything I Don’t Remember, was awarded the August Prize 2015, Sweden’s most important and prestigious literary award, and will be published by Scribner in the UK in June 2016.

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