30 September 1998 | Fiction, Prose

An extract from the novel Diva. En uppväxts egna alfabet med Docklaboratorium (en bonusberättelse ur framtiden) (‘Diva. An alphabet of your own for growing up with Doll Laboratory [a bonus story from the future]’, Söderströms, 1998)

I am Diva and everything I say is true. Close your eyes, dream about the most beautiful thing of all. Open your eyes again. See me. Girl-woman. Diva-Lucia. Thirteen, nearly fourteen. Baby Wonder. The one they thought did not exist.


(an eternal day, love is born)

Daniel and I. In the autumn we go out to a cottage in the forest. We go walking for a whole extra day. We walk and walk, and it is an autumn day which is implacable. The lingonberries glow in the sun as if on a garish work of art by an impressionist seeing the world for a moment in a sickly way, sweat running inside boots, and squelch squelch on dry crackling ground, so it feels as if the whole forest would be shattered under your boot-clad feet. Great black boots, certainly two sizes too large so as to allow for a proper squelch. Or to allow something. A dry dry autumn, Daniel admits metres ahead of me. And that the elk-flies can’t have had time to get here from across the eastern border beyond which, as far as I know, they exist; it will take years before they manage to get here, Daniel explains. I squelch on, however much those creepy-crawlies are undeniably creeping over my body under my hot tracksuit, in my hair and scalp. Daniel knows about the forest and nature. Daniel knows about everything. And he laughs again because of those flies, and later, he laughs at night, for they don’t stop crawling then either, in the sleeping-bag which in a special way attaches me to Daniel because the zip has stuck and has to be nibbled apart by my teeth, for by then Daniel is asleep, and I have to get out and spew, for I have eaten the wrong things in the wrong order, as so often, all at once, I mean. So Daniel does not believe me. We walk on.

At the cottage, we light the fire in the tiled stove and eat pea soup out of a tin, prepared in the boy scout way (don’t ask me how, I am, as they say in that teenage way, ‘absorbed in a comic’) over an open fire. It is dark outside by the time it’s ready and we are sitting opposite each other at a long table plenty big enough for a whole school class to sit at, I dip into my soup one of the banana chews I have brought with me, bring it up to my mouth and suck on it. Look at Daniel. I suck. Then chew slowly, the soup and remaining peas also in my mouth, on the banana chew, beneath Daniel’s gaze, those eyes avoiding looking at me. A strawberry chew, do the same thing, work my way quite a bit through the huge bag I brought with me, so then that is soup as well. We have with us two plastic plates, one red, the other blue, a spoon and fork and knife each, the latter in a construction that means the cutlery can be loose or fastened to each other. The Swiss army invented this, Daniel says, laughing a historic laugh, for the funny thing about this story is that Switzerland has no army, but anyhow this is the Swiss army’s emergency cutlery, and it can all be put with the plate and plastic mug and bound together with a bit of rubber, so it can simply be shoved down into the rucksack and take up as little room as possible in there. It’s not mine, this set, I’ve borrowed it from Daniel, who is an enthusiastic friend of forest and field. Daniel spoons his soup into him and declines to look at me. He would like to look at me, would like to give me a sorrowful, thoughtful look with which he would ask me, straight to the point: ‘Diva, why are you doing this?’ But he doesn’t dare. He would like me to be disarmed by his sorrowfulness and he is unsure whether I would be disarmed, so that makes him uneasy. Perhaps he is simply frightened of me. Perhaps it is only not knowing for sure about me that makes him most afraid of me, of everything.

Just ask me, Daniel. This is it. You’re right. I would be disarmed by your sorrow. My love is being born in me, is being born now, and I can’t stop it.

I raise my empty plate to my face and clean it thoroughly with long strokes of my tongue. Plate back on the table, look at Daniel, and smile. So beautifully I start laughing. Daniel starts laughing. We laugh. Smear soup all over my face with my fingers. Then Daniel gets up and takes me in his arms. This is the embrace.

Daniel takes me in his arms.

And that is to make me feel sick afterwards.

Not from Daniel’s embrace – NEVER, something in me says something I don’t want said and so I have been best in show as usual – but from that blessed mixture which was an experiment for my taste buds and my hunger, which is unspeakable, and the experiment did not work out well, so at night I crouch on the porch steps, spewing over dark nature. Wipe my face with my scarf as I go back in; there’s a smell of snow from before in the scarf, and now the nausea of soup and some sweets you think, if not combined with anything else, taste quite good.

But these combined smells are the mixture your first love is made up of.

‘The beautiful rose has to die. That is a motif used in western poetry.’ ‘And,’ Daniel adds in his dry Daniel-like way in the sleeping bag, ‘ultimately you also kill what you love.’ Then Daniel teaches me much more, about literature and the world and about nature, with which he has a particularly intimate relationship, in that sleeping bag. He loves giving lectures, Daniel does, in the right company, and somehow I love listening although I don’t know it, in the right company. ‘I love giving lectures in the right company, but you have to thaw out first’, and he recovers in the sleeping bag, where he or I after the embrace have been surprised, as it is also called, lying there lecturing or listening to lectures to such an extent that Daniel gradually laughs at himself, and says that thing about how he loves explaining and telling people what the world is like, although it doesn’t hold good or there is no sound evidence (he actually says sound, please note that, for we’ll go mad later from all this, sometime in the history of the world, later on, in different ways, but both of us mad), and then he laughs again in the middle of my bear-yawn that goes on and on, and like an ironic comment dubs this sleeping-bag we are inside the cradle of western culture. In the middle of this yawning that keeps going on even after Daniel’s appellation, for sometimes when I start yawning I can’t stop, though it’s no longer owing to me being bored, but I can’t stop it, I just can’t, in the middle of all this yawning, Daniel kisses me and desire and love well out of me and into us and between us. I shall tell you what desire is. It is great and strong and uncontrollable. I shall also tell you what love is. Great and strong and uncontrollable, but you would tell quite a lot of lies in a situation of this kind, and in many others, if you thought IT was good.

We fall asleep. And when I next wake up, it is because I feel nausea welling up my body, making me nibble my way out of the sleeping-bag with the last bit of strength in my mouth before the nausea settles in, and I run out, naked, on to the porch steps, where I then crouch over a railing and everything that is pea soup and strawberry and banana chews in me comes out.

Then I have to stay there and calm down for a while, breathing in fresh air in solitude on the porch steps one frosty icy night, usual after similar sparkling light warm autumn days. Daniel’s torch is on the porch railing. I switch it on and shine it into the forest and the ground all round me. I see nothing but trees and branches, nor do I hear anything. I stand there in the dark for a long time, switching Daniel’s torch on and off, perhaps because it amuses me, and it calms me, it does.

Standing there on frosty boards on porch steps, below zero outside, the boards covered with a thin white layer my feet have made hollows in, and I light up those hollows. Standing there, the cold creeping up through my body from my feet upwards though my joints and muscles and veins and I can see it in front of me like a drawing by my friend Franses, or rather not see, not like a picture, I can also feel the picture. You become a tree.

Thus the Frost Tree, with which fear is relieved. A frost tree with spreading branches and those are my arms, hands and my fingers, which I suddenly hold up as if I were a kid showing how old I am to some interested party. Then, of course, I go back in. I stand on the floor three metres in front of the wide bed big enough for a thousand wolf cubs of a younger age group, for this is a scout camp, and look at Daniel, who is asleep. The heat from the wretched stove we lit is providing some warmth after all, however much it kept going out because the wood was wet and refused to burn.

Daniel is asleep in the cradle of western culture and it is funny, and this, what I then do, is no philosophical taking a stand, just desire demanding and longing where the head is joined to a body thawing out, and SMACK, you want to jump in, down with Daniel in the sleeping-bag, and be muffled.

Become the little Muffle Fellow after the Frost Tree and that’s just what I become, but at first I stand there measuring in an intelligent way the distance between me and Daniel asleep in that sleeping-bag, sleeping heavily, actually heavily, inaudibly, even in a waking state Daniel wouldn’t even dream of snoring, but heavily in a different way from how my boyfriend Leo sleeps, which is easily and lightly and you can watch him with a smile from the edge of Leo’s bed, the way Leo’s eyelashes, long, fair, mix with each other in what is a terribly lovely ripple, lightly beginning on the surface.

But first I stand there measuring the distance most of all, while all the mathematical genius existing in my head and with which I am anonymously gifted, as no one has the slightest idea from where this talent comes, biologically calculated. About three metres, and with spatial factors taken into consideration, you can set up interesting mathematical formations round this. But it becomes really interesting first when in the mathematical calculation you include the mental distance, which naturally consists of a thousand things, familiar things, history, culture and our respective personalities, as well as the age difference and the fact that I keep on doing IT and IT and IT but it doesn’t feel like doing IT with my supply teacher in my mother tongue who has a particularly intimate relationship with forest and field which he does not share with anyone, not even with me. Include in the calculation: not even with me. Include in the calculation: the moment when falling in love goes over into love.

And the more I think in this way, the more it becomes impossible to calculate. I don’t mean it runs away with me so that what is rational goes over into what is irrational, thus showing its superior strength, something a thousand philosophers have also pointed out before me. But I am no philosopher. I am a girl who is still at school. I think what I do is the opposite: I cease seducing myself with words, I reckon so, anyhow. I arrive at an answer. Not one single correct answer, for mathematics is just like the literature I am not interested in, probability before truth. Mathematics is a single hypothesis.

When I have arrived at an answer, then I do what was my first impulse, jump down there, to Daniel in the cradle, with a gigantic leap three metres across the floor, smack, and mix myself with, with everything I have and know, i.e. muffle there ceremoniously, in the cradle of western culture.

In that way become the little Muffle Fellow, who muffles.

The only thing that helps against thoughts is skin.

In the morning there is ice in the water jugs and Daniel cracks the surface of it with the glass that also serves well as a tooth mug. And cleans his teeth, an assiduous brushing on the porch steps which I join in on, just as playfully assiduous.

Then Daniel says nothing but: ‘We won’t stay here. We’ll go home.’

Translated by Joan Tate


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