Читать онлайн "My Struggle: Book One" автора Knausgaard Karl Ove - RuLit - Страница 52


Выбрать главу

She sat down heavily, poured milk into her coffee.

“Typical,” she said. “I have to get sick now of all times. When I need my energy most.”

“The birth may hold off,” I said. “Your body won’t make a move until it’s completely ready.”

She glared at me. I swallowed the last morsel and poured juice in my glass. If there was one thing I had learned over recent months it was that everything you heard about pregnant women’s fluctuating and unpredictable moods was true.

“Don’t you understand that this is a disaster?” she said.

I met her gaze. Took a swig of juice.

“Yes, yes, of course,” I said. “But it’ll be alright. Everything will be alright.”

“Of course it will,” she said. “But that’s not what this is about. This is about my not wanting to be sick and feeble when I have to give birth.”

“I understand that,” I said. “But you won’t be. We’re still a few days away.”

We ate in silence.

Then she looked at me again. She had fantastic eyes. They were grayish-green, and occasionally, most often when she was tired, she squinted. The photograph in the poetry collection she had published showed her squinting, and the vulnerability it revealed that the self-confidence in her facial expression countered, but did not override, had once utterly hypnotized me.

“Sorry,” she said. “I’m just nervous.”

“You don’t need to be,” I said. “You’re as well prepared as it’s possible to be.”

And she really was. She had devoted herself fully to the task at hand; she had read piles of books, bought a kind of meditation cassette she listened to every night, on which a voice mesmerically repeated that pain was not dangerous, that pain was good, that pain was not dangerous, that pain was good, and we had gone to a class together and been shown around the maternity ward where the birth was scheduled to take place. She had prepared herself for every session with the midwife by writing down questions in advance, and she noted down with the same conscientiousness all the curves and measurements she got from her in a diary. She had, furthermore, sent a sheet of her preferences to the maternity ward, as requested, on which she said she was nervous and needed a lot of encouragement, but at the same time she was strong and wanted to give birth without any anesthetics.

This cut me to the quick. I had of course been to the maternity ward, and even though they had tried to create a homey atmosphere, with sofas, carpets, pictures on the walls and CD players in the room where the birth would take place, as well as a TV room and a kitchen where you could cook your own food, and where you had your own room with an en suite after the birth, there was no denying another woman had given birth in the same room shortly before, and even though it had been washed immediately afterward, the bed linen changed and fresh towels put out, this had happened so infinitely many times that a faint metallic smell of blood and intestines hung in the air nonetheless. In the nice, cool room that was to be ours for twenty-four hours after the birth another couple with a newborn had been lying in the same bed. What for us was new and life-changing, was an endless cycle for those employed at the hospital. The midwives always had responsibility for several births happening at the same time, they were forever going in and out of a number of rooms where a variety of women were howling and screaming, yelling and groaning, all according to whichever phase of the birth they were in, and this went on continually, day and night, year in, year out, so if there was one thing they could not do, it was take care of someone with the intensity of expectations that Linda’s letter expressed.

She looked out the window, and I followed her gaze. On the roof of the opposite building, perhaps ten meters from us, was a man with a rope around his waist shoveling snow.

“They’re crazy in this country,” I said.

“Don’t you do that in Norway?”

“No, are you out of your mind?”

The year before I arrived here a boy had been killed by a lump of ice falling from a roof. Since then all roofs were cleared of snow from almost the moment it fell, with dire consequences; when mild weather came virtually all pavements were cordoned off with red-and-white tape for a week. Chaos everywhere.

“But all the fear keeps employment levels high,” I said, before devouring the slice of bread, getting up and drinking the last gulp of coffee. “I’m off now.”

“Okay,” Linda said. “Feel like renting some films on the way back?”

I put the cup down and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand.

“Of course. Anything?”

“Yes, you choose.”

I brushed my teeth. As I went into the hall to get ready, Linda followed me.

“What are you going to do today?” I asked, taking the coat from the cupboard with one hand while winding the scarf round my neck with the other.

“Don’t know,” she said. “Go for a walk in the park maybe. Have a bath.”

“You okay?” I said.

“Yes, I’m fine.”

I stooped to tie my shoes as she, with one arm supporting her back, towered above me.

“Okay,” I said, pulling my hat on and grabbing the computer bag. “I’m off.”

“Okay,” she said.

“Call me if there is anything.”

“I will.”

We kissed, and I closed the door behind me. The elevator was on its way up, and I caught a brief glimpse of the neighbor from the floor above as she glided past with her face lowered in front of the mirror. She was a lawyer, usually wore black trousers or black, knee-length skirts, gave a curt greeting, always with a pinched mouth and radiating hostility, at least to me. Periodically her brother stayed with her, a lean, dark-eyed, restless and rough-looking but attractive man whom one of Linda’s friends had noticed and with whom she had fallen in love, they were having a relationship of sorts which appeared to be based on him despising her as much as she worshipped him. The fact that he lived in the same house as her friend seemed to bother him, he had a hunted look in his eyes when we stopped and exchanged a few words, but even though I assumed that had something to do with my knowing more about him than he knew about me, there may have been other reasons — that he was a typical drug addict, for example. I knew nothing about that, I had no knowledge of such worlds, in this respect I really was as credulous as Geir — my only real friend in Stockholm — always claimed when he compared me to the deceived figure in Caravaggio’s Card Players.

Downstairs in the hall, I decided to smoke a cigarette before proceeding on my way, walked along the corridor past the laundry room and out into the backyard where I put my computer down, leaned against the wall, and peered up at the sky. There was a ventilation duct directly above me, which filled the air close to the house with the smell of warm, freshly washed clothes. From the laundry room you could hear the faint whine of a spin cycle, so strangely angry compared with the slow, gray clouds drifting through the air far above. Here and there the blue sky behind them was visible, as if the day was a surface they scudded across.

I walked to the fence separating the innermost part of the yard from the nursery at the rear, now deserted, as the children were indoors eating at this time of day, rested my elbows on it and smoked while looking up at the two towers rising from Kungsgatan. Built in a kind of new baroque style, and testimony to the 1920s, they filled me with longing, as so often before. At night the towers were floodlit, and while in the daylight you could clearly distinguish the various details and see how different the materials in the wall were from the materials in the windows and the gilt statues and the verdigris copper surfaces, the artificial light bound them together. Perhaps it was the light itself that did this, or perhaps it was a result of the combination of the light and the surroundings; whatever the cause, it was as if the statues “talked” at night. Not that they came to life, they were as lifeless as before, it was more that the lifeless expression was changed, and in a way intensified. During the day there was nothing; at night this nothing found expression.



2011 - 2018