Sunday, March 25, 2007


Me and the Romanians are outside an Irish pub in Stockholm talking about how awful winter is going to be. "Snow up to here," says an Englishwoman, and gestures to her hip. The Romanian woman scowls and grinds out her mentholated cigarette under the heel of her bright pink shoe. She works, unhappily, in telesales. Sweden has not been good to her. It's not clear why she's here, except that things would apparently be even worse in Romania, where everything is shit, similarly to Sweden, where everything is also shit, she says. Maybe everything is just shit.

The Romanian man lights another cigarette. I make polite conversation. "I don't know much about Romania," I say. I rack my brains for anything I know about Romania. My idea of being polite is telling people things that they probably already know, but cheerfully, and with enthusiasm. Sometimes, the desire to connect with people, to show willing, leads me to say incredibly stupid things. Like now. "Romanian orphanages!" I say, triumphantly, as an example of something I know about Romania.
Luckily he mishears me. "Romania is a country," he says, pityingly. Relenting, he throws me a scrap, "Dracula lived there. In Transylvania."

The Romanian woman has taken an interest in me. We discuss our career prospects. She would like to become a freelance writer. I advise her not to. I would like to get a job in telesales. She advises me not to. We smoke and look at the strip of blue sky above the narrow street, in a leftover stub of Stockholm as it was first built, first imagined. She sighs, mentholated tobacco on her breath, her bosom heaving under her H&M suit. "I will go home eventually," she says. "We all will."