Welcome to Sweden


“Are you all right?” she asked.

He was halfway up and halfway down, a boy pressed into the corner of an elevator by the swift kicks of life and the sudden twists of it—the topsy-turvy gray where floors and ceilings meet and blur like M.C. Esher stumbling absently toward the lobby.

Some layers of reality are much more real than others.

His head hung low, his hat trying desperately to cover his eyes, and his shoulders just weren’t into it. He didn’t say a word as his brother pushed the button to close the door. He didn’t answer his mother and she didn’t ask again. Instead, he slouched in silence and we all slouched with him. Posture is overrated and long goodbyes are heavy and tend to linger. It is hard to get a word out edgewise with a mouth full of bittersweet and the promises of youth still drying on the tongue.

Parting is such sorrow and there is no need to sugarcoat it.

We have been here before, letting the day lead us from this to that, and we will be here again, but we have always been the faces pressed against the fogged window of weighed down moving vans—the glass coated in dog breath and streaked with tears—not the roots anchored in solid ground, waving into the night long after the leaves have fallen and all that is left is the raking of memories into so many piles. I do not know which is worse for they are both the downside to better and nobody wins at goodbye.

The night had been torn between cake and coffee, the kids splashing to stay afloat, and the moon reflecting all of the light that we were making. It had mended on the same.

We took walks down memory lane and over to the liquor store. We reminisced with sentiment and sarcasm, fondness and folly, the banter of friendships forged when the boys met on their first day of kindergarten, one fresh from Seattle and the other knowing nothing but Sweden. They raced and ran, gold and glistening, and they bonded in an instant, declaring themselves the best of friends despite the lack of language shared between them. All they had was understanding, and that was enough.

And so it went, three years of innocence and childhood wrapped up in silly smiles, running amok through weekends and family things together, never stopping until it had to, late in the night, wet in their swimsuits, and hugging goodbye in the frigid hotel air.

We were warm with wine and the embrace of good friends, two families of four that had grown comfortable together over meals and stories and the songs that we sung. In the morning they would return to Sweden, and we would be home, missing them and wishing them well, counting the days from now to again.

When the elevator stopped we just kind of stood there, weary and worn with fresh distance between us. I figure it will be like that for a while.

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