Casablanca

Casablanca.

Kaotiskt sådär som när man står vid ett övergångsställe men glömmer var man är och vart man ska och istället tittar sig storögt omkring medan människor storsar omkring tillsynes helt oberörda av oordningen dem befinner sig mitt i. Och hur det i sig är en slags ordning. En ordning av öronbedövande trafik, dammiga gator, böneutrop och röster som försöker överrösta varandra. En helt annan symmetri än någon annanstans.

Här ser man sådant som är svårt att föreställa sig på gatorna hemma. Drivor av skräp vid trottoarkanterna, råttor stora som bondkatter och bilmodeller från en annan tid. Ja inte välputsade Chevrolets då, utan rostiga Fiat Regatas och Ford Fiestas. Ordentligt bucklade frustar dem fram genom ett hav av människor som både kommer och går åt alla håll. Planlöst lunkande som man väl också bara ser här. Så många i rörelse, men så få som verkar vara på väg någonstans. Är det inte livet självt på ett sätt. Det är lättare att romantisera i det fula än i det fina, tycker jag. Att göra mer av mindre är väl också en påminnelse vi alla understundom behöver.

Och den påminnelsen är nog det finaste jag vet med just den här delen av världen. Det, och porslin!

A stranger in my own capital

It always feels so ambiguous for me to go home. This wasn’t where I grew up, so to a certain extent even I find it exciting since it’s unknown for me too. I don’t know my way around here as I would. I don’t know where to cross over to make a short cut. I don’t know the hilly and narrow streets in Old town like my own back pocket. I don’t know where the best place to go for unnecessarily large and greasy pizza on a rainy day would be. I don’t know where the best coffee is, so I go to Espresso House, the Swedish Starbucks. And I bump into people constantly, because what I do when I walk is that I look up at all the new, foreign and unfamiliar instead of looking straight ahead. I walk at the pace of a stranger, because this isn’t my home, and I don’t know where to go. I need to think here.

But, these are the people I grew up with. They speak the language in which I was taught what is right and what is wrong, and what is important and what is not, and how to transfer every feeling I have about all of this from thoughts into words. This is the language in which I can discern dialects and appreciate them, pick up on irony and sarcasm, and on tenderness and earnestness like only a native speaker could ever do. This is where the codes I know applies. Where people hug and look each other in the eye while speaking. Where good service is characterized by humanity and presence rather than perfection and servility. Where people, at least rather than rarely, think twice.

When I was 14 years old I had an assignment on foreign affairs in school. I asked my teacher ”what do I need to do to obtain an A?”. She said, and I remember this entire conversation word by word to this very day. ”To obtain an E, all you need to do is to cover the facts. To obtain a C, you need to demonstrate that you can see the connections between certain events. And to obtain an A, you need to analyze.”. ”What does that mean?” I asked unknowingly. ”To analyze Adam, it means that you show that you possess the skill of seeing things from another perspective than your own”. ”That doesn’t sound too difficult” I replied. And she said ”In life, you’ll come to realize that a lot fewer people than you think, knows how to do this. To write down facts every ordinary person in the world can do, but to put your own point of view aside and to realize that the world sometimes is wider than how you see it, that’s extraordinary”.

I’ve repeated that conversation to myself many times since that day ten years ago. And for every time, it’s managed to make a little more sense, making me realize that perhaps it’s not the cities or countries that are fucked up, it’s the people in them.

Sweden isn’t a progressed a country as most people would give it credit for, but it’s not half bad. I didn’t need to move abroad or travel the world to see this, but I needed it understand that what we have, should be appreciated. It’s easy to think that small simple and extremely commonplace daily things like the relaxed tone in which sales assistant addresses you in or the private space given to you standing in line or on the subway by fellow people are universal things, but they’re not. And the only things that aggravate me to come here and surround myself by all of these cultural characteristics that actually do mean the world to me, is that most people don’t seem to understand the value of them. Would you cook and share a homemade meal for someone, who wouldn’t appreciate it more, than if the two of you went to Mc Donalds? Too few know that it’s the small things the greatest riches lay, and sadly that depletes the value of them.

The world is made difficult by simple people.

Sanningar Du inte vill höra

Jag vill förvarna för att den här texten eventuellt kan röra upp känslor men jag hoppas att ni läser ändå.

Jag har inte kunnat sluta tänka på Josefin Nilsson sedan jag i söndagskväll satte mig ned, med dålig internetuppkoppling och brusig upplösning, och såg dokumentären om henne på Svtplay. Programmet buffrade från början till slut, men det var som att jag inte märkte av det alls, utan jag satt med blicken fäst på skärmen. Jag minns inte senast jag satt ned i en hel timme utan att känna att jag behövde vara någon annanstans.

Tårarna rann medan dem sista tonerna av ”Älska Mig” med Ainbusk Singers ebbade ut. Och jag kände hur jag liksom satt där och brann. Brann av ren djävla ilska över alla dem människor jag mött och inte mött, känner och inte känner, som genom sin egna otillräcklighet, sin egna gränslöshet, sin egna obetänksamhet, tagit sig friheten att beröva en annan människa så mycket som en liten del av deras egenvärde. Hur många de är och hur mycket de kommer undan med. Brann av påminnelsen att vi inte kommit längre. Brann av påminnelsen att kanske är vi trots det påväg någonstans. Alltför sakta. Alltför sent. Men påväg. Det kändes hoppfullt.

Jag tänkte att lika mycket som dokumentären handlade om Josefin; hennes livslust, hennes artisteri, hennes livsgärning, lika mycket handlade den för mig om varje människa som på något sätt berövats rätten till sin egen kropp. Sin egen bestämanderätt. Sitt eget liv. Som blivit fråntaget privilegiet att aldrig någonsin behöva ifrågasätta sin fullkomlighet.

Jag tänkte på en personlig händelse som inte gör ont längre, men som ändå lämnade ett själsligt ärr. Som öppnade upp en avgrund jag själv fortfarande faller genom ibland. Och det var en vanlig höstdag 1999 då jag var sju år gammal och satte mig ned på den enda lediga platsen vid ett bord i matsalen med min bricka, och samtliga runt borden reste sig unisont och flyttade sig till ett annat bord. Och jag satt ensam kvar. Med skammen. Skammen att inte ens vara tillräcklig för någon skulle vilja äta sin lunch bredvid mig. Det här var längesen. Men jag minns det som igår.

Jag tänkte på en av mina nära vänner. Hon som i samma ålder som jag var då, fick höra av skolsystern att hon visst var ”lite rund”. 20 år senare får jag fortfarande påminna henne när hon av vana säger ”den här veckan har jag varit duktig” eller ”igår syndade jag”. Hon som är så vacker, men som bara ser sig själv som ”lite rund” när hon tittar i spegeln.

Jag tänkte på en annan bekant. Hon som berättade för mig om när hon blev sexuellt utnyttjad. Den första gången var hon sex år gammal. Den andra gången var hon nio. Den tredje gången var hon 14. Hon sade att hon inte visste hur hon skulle räkna varje gång någon frågade när hon förlorade oskulden.

Jag tänkte på honom. Han som aldrig fick lov att vara den han var. Han som blev utslängd hemifrån när han var 16, för att han älskade en annan man. Han som fortfarande måste låtsas, trots att han idag är över 30. Han som också tycker att världen är rätt tröttsam efter att ha sett den ett par gången, men som hellre reser bort än hem på sina semestrar, för att nya intryck kostar ju mindre än gamla lögner.

Och jag tänkte på henne. Hon som också drar sig för att åka hem. Inte för att hon inte kan vara den hon är när hon är hemma. Utan för att det i hennes föräldrahem hänger ett svartvitt fotografi ifrån när hon var ett barn. Ett suddigt gammalt fotografi på henne, hennes mamma och en gammal manlig vän till familjen, som hjälpt till i vått och torrt. Men om hennes mamma visste vad hon tvingas återuppleva varje gång hon ser bilden, bilden som hon är så glad för, då hade hennes mamma levt ett halvt liv hädanefter, och det tycker hon inte att hon förtjänar. För det var inte hon som svek henne, men det hade hon tyckt.

Jag gråter när jag skriver det här. Jag gråter för otillräckligheten. För oförmögenheten. För orättvisan. För oturen. För turen. För det är ju bara tur. Turen över att skammen jag kände vid ett matsalsbord för 20 år sedan, var det värsta som hände mig. Turen att jag aldrig behövt ifrågasätta rätten till mig egen kropp. Till mina egna infall. Till mina egna rättigheter. Turen över att jag gavs något så sällsynt som villkorslös kärlek. Från så många håll. Och ansvaret det för med sig, för att just precis sådan kärlek skall leva vidare. Fortplanta sig. Skydda fler.

Det finns orättvisa vi inte kan förändra. Människor i nöd vi inte kan hjälpa. Historier vi inte vill höra men måste lyssna till. Människor vi vill tycka gott om men måste ställa till svars, och upplevelser vi önskar vi inte hade, men måste dela så att dem inte upprepas. Vid dagens slut är vi alla ensamt ansvariga för våra egna liv, och ingen annan än oss själva kan resa oss upp när vi fallit. Det betyder inte att ensam är stark.

Vad spelar en ny klänning för roll, om en ändå alltid känner sig ”lite rund”? Vad betyder det att ge sin kropp till någon en älskar, när en aldrig glömmer att ens kropp en gång betraktats som allmängods? Vilket värde har en familjemiddag tillsammans, i ett rum med en bild av en man som berövade en ens barndom? Vi kan inte alltid rädda varandra. Men vi gör gott i att påminna oss om att vi är ömtåliga. Det är dem vi bryr oss om också. Och är vi någonsin mer sårbara än i stunderna när vi tror att vi inte ska behöva vara det?

Så när någon berättar, tig. Och när andra tiger, håll inte käften.

Stories you don’t want to hear

When I initially wrote this in Swedish, I figured it didn’t translate. But perhaps it does. It’s a long text, but rather important, so I hope you do read.

A few weeks ago, a documentary of one of Sweden’s most cherished late singers, Josefin Nilsson, went viral back home. Since I watched it, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her. The internet connection was so poor as I streamed it the show buffered incessantly and the picture was blurred for almost the duration of it, yet for one hour I didn’t move a muscle, and I sat there with my gaze fixed to the screen. Listening to her life story being unfolded. A story about a woman with so much to give to the world, and a story about a man who took it all away from her. Who abused her so severely, she never fully recovered.

Josefin passed away in 2016, just shy of her 47th birthday.

As I sat there and the producer’s credits starting rolling down the screen, I felt a fire raging inside of me. Ignited by all the anger I had in my heart. The anger for all the people in this world who by their own petty limitations, their own ignorance and their own oblivion towards the people around them, have felt entitled to bereave another human being of as much as a fragment of their own self-worth. Because as much as that documentary revolved around Josefin, her artistry, her zest of life and how much she devoured it, as much it revolved around all the ones who’s ever been denied their inherent right to their own body. Whose narrative was chosen for them, not by them.

I came to think of something that happened to me in primary school when I was seven years old. An incident which doesn’t hurt anymore, but who scarred me. Scarred me invisibly, by opening up an abyss I sometimes still find myself falling through. It was a regular autumn’s day back in 1999. I was standing in the lunch canteen and had spotted the last vacant seat by a crowded table. As I sat down, the entire table simultaneously stood up and moved to an empty table nearby. They left me there by myself. And that shame. That humiliation. That social rejection is still a vivid memory, long after it stopped hurting.

I thought about a friend of mine. When she was about the same age as I was at that time, she routinely saw her school nurse. At one point, the nurse had blurted out, admonishingly, that she was ”a little chunky” for her age. Maybe this sounds harmless, but she only confided this to me quite recently, after yet another rant of me reminding her that she shouldn’t have to ”deserve” dessert, or ”be good” in order to ”feel” good about herself. But it’s not easy. It’s not easy to not try a new dress, and it certainly is not easy to undress in front of a new person, when she hears those words each time she has to look at her own body. It’s not easy because at a point in life when fitting in meant everything, she was told off for not doing so.

I thought about another acquaintance. I remember when she first told she’d been sexually abused as a child. The first time, she was six years old. The second time she was nine. The third time, she was 14. She told me that she doesn’t know how to think, or what to answer, each time someone asks her at what age she lost her virginity.

I thought about him. He, who was never allowed to be himself. He, who got thrown out on the street when he was 16 years old because he told his parents about this boyfriend. He, who still has to pretend, even though he’s past 30. He, who also finds the world to be quite tiring after having seen it, several times over, but who prefers to travel somewhere new rather than to go back home for leave, since the price of completely new experiences is less than that of old lies.

And I thought about her. She, who is just as reluctant to go back home as he is. Not because she is not allowed to be whoever she wants to be. Because in her parent’s house, there’s a black and white photo from her childhood, framed on the wall. A blurry old photo with frayed edges, of her, her mum, and a late male friend of the family. Had her mother known about the memories she relives each time she lays eyes on the photo, that cherished photo she often dusts off, she’d live a half-life thereafter, and she doesn’t think her mother is deserving of that. Because she wasn’t the grown-up who let her down, but that’s what she would have thought.

I cried as I wrote this down. Cried for to the powerlessness. For to the incapability. For to the injustice. For all the bad luck. And for all the luck. Because it’s nothing more than just luck. Luck that the shame I felt sitting abandoned by a dining table 20 years ago, was the worst thing that ever happened to me. Luck that I’ve never had to question my own right to my own body. Or my own thoughts, my own curiosities, my own wantings. Luck that I was given something as rare as unconditional love, from so many people. And the responsibility it calls for, from me, from everyone who was lucky, to make sure that’s the love who lives. The love that encourages. Includes. Protects.

There is injustice we are powerless to change. People in need we cannot help. Stories we don’t want to hear but have to listen to. People we want to cherish, but have to question for their actions, and experiences we wish we didn’t have but have to share to prevent them from repeating. At the end of the day, we’re all solely responsible for our own lives, and no one but ourselves can pick us up whenever we fall. But no one stands strong on their own.

What is the value of buying a new dress, to someone who resents her body in everything she wears? What is the value of saving your body for someone you love, to someone whose right to decide over her own body has been revoked so many times she’s lost count? What is the value of sharing a dinner with your family, in a room with a picture of a man who bereft you of your childhood? We are not always able to save each one another from harm. But we are able to remind ourselves that we are fragile. and so are the people we love. Perhaps there no moments in which we are more fragile, than in those where we thought we would never have to be.

I also believe it’s good to remind that when other’s confide, you do best to stay silent. But when others stay silent, you do best in not staying silent.

a trivial thought about the fear of a life where people come and go

To jaunt out into the world and leave your comfort zone is probably one of the most rewarding experiences you can ever give to yourself. Everyone who’s ever done it would tell you so. They would tell you that nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to that immense sensation of wanderlust and curiosity they all felt the day they set off. Because there isn’t. And they would tell you that the world is every bit as magical as you imagine it to be, and every bit as terrifying. And how there’s a dual harmony between the two that awakens an insatiable desire that can never die. An equal two-way desire of both the joy and the sadness found in this world. Because the joys are truly so many, but without the sadnesses as a constant reminder of how blessed we are, we often miss out on the opportunity to enjoy them while we can. Important.

But it comes with a price. Everything worth doing, having and experiencing often do, and far from it’s a monetary price. The thing is, in this unparalleled life constantly consisting of new acquaintances, unseen skylines, contradicting timezones, not yet savored cuisine and unexplored cultures, the person you spend the most time with is usually yourself. And that can either lift you up or completely break you down. And that is because most people are not entirely comfortable being by themselves. However, it’s the rare few who are brave enough to sit down with their loneliness, look it in the eyes, hold its hand, listen to what it has to say and allow for it stay whenever it comes to visit, that are the really fortunate ones in this world. Because they know that loneliness is not the time we spend in our own company. Far from.

People come and go into most people’s lives all the time, and that’s not a revelation of any kind. That’s just a fact. But what makes it unique for a traveler is that slowly, precariously and surely, you become so accustomed to this high flow of people that the old beaten process of getting to know someone, opening up bit by bit and taking time, is completely out the window. Because that’s just it, there is no time. And living a life where the one thing that unites most of us in it is that we’re trying to make the most of the time, we skip a few steps of the order in which things are normally done and instead go hardcore straight away. I can tell you, I’ve lost count on the occasions I’ve sat down next to someone I’ve met just moments earlier and opened up about something very personal to me, or the times when someone else has done this to me. Most of the time I don’t believe it’s about seeking for advice, it’s simply about ventilating. To prevent the things holding us down at the moment from nesting in our minds. I would describe myself as quite a private person normally, and that’s why I rely on the belief that we become adept at assessing quite quickly whom to trust, and whom not to. At the end of the day, we’re all strangers and know very little about one another. But I think it’s healthy. Not only to be reminded that all of us struggle sometimes, regardless of who we are. But, to trust.

It’s can be a privilege to be able to choose your alone time, just as it can be a torment to have it chosen for you. In this life, it’s chosen for you very often, and if you don’t know how to dispose of that time, it can be lethal. By now I don’t think there can be any more existential questions a person can ask themselves while taxiing around an airport, walking down new streets in new cities and starring into the hotel room ceilings on jet-lagged nights than I have already done. But the reward for asking questions is finding answers. And I feel like I do all the time. Asking questions is scary quite often since you don’t always obtain the answers you’re looking for. Even scarier if there’s no one by your side in those moments. That’s why I don’t believe this life would work unless you know that you have your safety net, a phone call or a flight away. And that’s enough. For me, right now and right here. More than enough.

People may come and go, but we’re still here. And somehow, we’re fine. Maybe not right away, or even every day, but we’re fine. It’s a nice thought to think that at the end of the day you don’t really need anyone. That the people in your life are there because you chose them, and because they chose you. But perhaps one day you won’t chose them, or they won’t choose you anymore. You will choose differently. Perhaps nothing except for right here and right now can be granted, and for exactly that reason it’s a good idea to stop for a moment and take a look around you. We don’t know what won’t be here tomorrow, regardless of what we know today, so to celebrate anything that makes life a little bit more colorful, is never a bad idea. Life will continue to take turns we didn’t see coming. Some things we can control, so let’s. Some things we can’t control, so let’s. It took me some time to embrace, but there’s a genuine power hidden to be found behind the things we are powerless of. Just precisely that simple, and just precisely that difficult.

Namaste.