I feel subaltern because I don’t have what I need, which is a lot of consciousness

The family keeps itself as a pet


The family is small like a fast food restaurant at the train station

– Elfriede Jelienek

She howls herself out from stillness. A sudden violent movement to get out of the chair. “I’m leaving and I’m never coming back,” she says. The hubris is a way out of lethargy.

But he says nothing. He gets down on his knees, into prayer. She gets homesick. They both suddenly want to comfort him. She’s the bad one, but it’s only her thinking that. He can’t see her guilt. She’s alone in it.

Shall we do something nice instead? He says. We can go and buy meat for your stew.

It’s sunny outside, they get pho on the way. The butcher’s hands are bloody and they get a heavy bag of meat. Now they are homesick.

She babbles: “I’ll tell you what I love. I love you, I love to sleep, I love wine, I love the day when I have slept ”. She wakes up in the night because it smells like bones, thinks of bones that crumble, how to strain the broth later, what to do with the leftovers. Strain and discard the fat. She thinks it’s good that he can help her with that.

She felt like an adult when he took her to a seminar where the lecturer said that nobody today is anybody’s first choice. That there’s always been someone before. She thought it could not hurt to think like that, about love. As part of a slightly larger pattern. A system where a relationship is liberation.


In Jon Fosses’ Dog Manuscripts, the dog Webster escapes from home. He is ashamed of his relationship with his owner, old Oline with her bubbling and gurgling stomach, hugging him in bed. When he returns, he’s cold, tired and hungry. Suddenly the big stomach has changed meaning: become a metonym for love, warmth and security. Love, love, love.


The hypothesis that sex draws nourishment from defilement. In order to be defiled, you must be clean to begin with. Have good posture perhaps. Is the family the right place to nurture that? They found each other resting, in that it was easy. That actions (posture, tone of voice, gaze) did not impose any implications.

To manifest my longing for the light, I say to the one I know best: I’m leaving and I’m never coming back. So that my actions can acquire implications. The assumption that you can change how you are towards the world but not how you are with the people at your kitchen table. Can’t you look at me creatively, like I were a movie or an acquaintance, he asks. Is that a loving look? I reply.


I cried a cry I had cried before, flowing through already torn up rivers. Sometimes you cry redemptively, when a new insight separates the old, but not today.

Stiff as a family. Sticky papier maché that has solidified. My grimacing face covers the memories.  

Outside, I got the feeling that there was something I have not understood about life. Life is not as I describe above. It is a worthy place for a soul.

Text: Fredrika Flinta
Image: Lisa Vanderpumps Rose by Fredrika Flinta


familjen håller sig själv som husdjur


familjen är liten som ett gatukök på stationen

– Elfriede Jelienek

Jag tjuter mig ut ur stillasittandet. En plötslig häftig rörelse för att ta mig ur stolen. “Jag går och jag kommer aldrig tillbaka,” säger jag. Tidigare idag var jag letargisk och jag löser det genom att nu få hybris. Han får något mjukt i blicken, går ner på knä och knäpper sina händer. Det räcker för att jag ska börja längta hem, till honom, fastän han är rakt framför mig.  Det är inte oavgjort längre, jag är den dåliga. Men det är bara jag som ser detta. Han kan inte se min skuld. Jag är ensam i den.

Ska vi inte bara göra något trevligt istället? Säger han. Vi kan gå och köpa kött till din gryta. Det är sol, på vägen äter vi pho. Slaktarens händer är blodiga och vi får med oss en tung påse kött. Vi har gått i 40 minuter, nu är det långt hemifrån. 

Jag kände mig vuxen för 6 år sen när han tog mig med på seminarium, nedsläckt med tjocka sammetsgardiner bakom scenen, om Eva Illouz och föreläsaren sa att ingen idag är någons förstahandsval. Det har alltid funnits någon före. Jag tänkte det inte skadade att tänka så, om kärleken. Jag kände mig vuxen då, men för varje dag blir jag mer och mer som ett barn. Jag jollrar och gråter.

Jag vaknar i natten av att det luktar ben, tänker på skelett som smulas sönder, hur man ska sila buljongen, vad man ska göra av resterna. Sila av och slänga fettet. Jag tänker det är bra att han kan hjälpa mig med det.

I Jon Fosses Hundmanuskripten rymmer hunden Webster hemifrån. Han skäms över sin relation till matte, gamla Oline med sin skvalpande mage, som kramar honom i sängen, men när han återvänder kall, trött och hungrig och plötsligt har den skvalpande magen har bytt mening: blivit till en metonym för kärlek, värme och trygghet. Kärlek, kärlek, kärlek. 

Vi fann varandra i vila. Att handlingar (hållning, tonläge, blick) kändes som de inte hade någon dold innebörd. För att manifestera min längtan till ljuset säger jag till den jag känner bäst: jag går och jag kommer aldrig tillbaka. För att mina handlingar ska få innebörd. Kan du inte se skapande på mig, som en film eller en bekant, säger han. Är det ett kärleksfullt skapande, säger jag.

Jag gråter en gråt jag gråtit förut, som rinner i redan upprivna fåror. Ibland gråter man förlösande, när en ny insikt särar på de gamla tankarna, men inte idag. Stilla, som en familj. Papier maché som stelnat. Mitt grimascherande ansikte klär minnena. 

Antagandet att man kan förändra hur man är mot världen men inte mot de vid sitt köksbord. Pappa kan förändra resten av sitt liv, men inte det mellan oss. Pappa kommer alltid vara oberäknerlig. Mamma kommer alltid svara när jag ringer. En gråt vi sedan glömmer.

Jag får känslan av att det är något jag inte fattat. Livet är inte som jag beskriver ovan. Det är en värdig plats för en själ.

Text: Fredrika Flinta
Bild: Lisa Vanderpumps Rose av Fredrika Flinta

The Music

What do you mean by that? You said I was joking about your new shoes. Why does the person who knows you so well say you’re a cheater? I’m a man who cares about you. I think you’re my dear darling. Something surprised me today; you came to kiss me on the mouth. You put your dick in my hand and called me your little shepherd. What are you looking for? I’ve met the other men and they say you’re okay. Stop cheating. If so, maybe it’s time to divorce her and move on. You personally inform me that your wife will send me an email to educate me. Please, tell me that story again. The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple. You’re just like that. You treat me like your very naughty child. 

My God, what a mess it is to follow you all around Berlin. My poor legs always yield to your ways. I want to tell you about all the bad things you do. I tried to do it once, on the side, after work. I hold on to Jesus and flee. I see you’re an idiot. What can I say about you? What example can you set for married men? No example. Could love be more beautiful than people consent to make it? You ask what has happened to my attitude. I’m still the same man who dies for you. The other people see us. I’m not lying to anyone. Why are you sending me an email saying you’re just kidding? Not to mention that your wife is in the hospital. You’re doing a terrible thing. You’re doing something wrong. 

The matter is set before your eyes. The matter was with the roses. The fire broke out, and you almost had us killed. The matter was settled for you to follow. Why are you with your back to me? The politics of the world has no place here. The word, the word is used interchangeably with the word. You are a swindler. Peace be upon you. In the game of, in the face of promiscuity, your hands are pale, and the bells are ringing. Why aren’t you listening to me? Some of these musicians, they become our lovers even before we meet them. Now imagine sitting in a pub somewhere in downtown Nairobi, watching him dance. 

All childhood memories come up in these songs. I was 7 years old. I wanted to quit school because of these songs. I forgive you everything when the music starts to play. That is why you want me to visit your wife in the hospital, the one with the newly installed music system. Music heals the sick you explain to me. You say you are not well briefed, so telephone me. I’ll speak to you and brief you completely until you understand. My God, I don’t know what to do. Your name is Yatsko. Have you ever heard of a man called Yatsko? Your middle name is Fabrice, so that is what I call you. You tell me you are from Venice. You say you will take me there one day. I know you are from Granada. Stop lying to me, Fabrice.

You act as though you are fighting with Napoleon. Why did you deceive your wife? You started yelling at me. Who were you challenging? I decide to leave you and you turn ill. Your complexion is now similar to that of a banana. I don’t think I’ll ever see you again. The only sorcery I have known has been to pray. You search for my replacement in vain, my dear. I hear your wife is doing better. Thank you for the photos you left me. I have certainly come to live the experience. Always faithful to your hunger, you’re still hanging around town. The taxi drivers always know where to pick you up. Having once satisfied all of your desires, in the bars that you always like to visit, the walls still report to me what you do. Good luck, Fabrice. Find a way to forgive me. 

You were not easy to deal with, but I’m the photocopy, very much your boy. What use is beauty to me when there’s no one around to admire it? You used to film me and all the funny things that I normally would do. Someone told me you were making a movie. I anticipated the situation by calling the producer at 6am to ask him if he could burn the film. He did. You want to hang me for what I’ve done, but it doesn’t matter, I already have everything. It is useless to try and remember me. My mother calls me everyday to ask me how I am doing. She makes sure that I am home by that time to answer her calls. Have you quit smoking? Are you drinking less? Are you studying? My dear son. Will you be okay? Are you still hanging around with that man? Do you need some money? I start to laugh. Don’t worry about me. Rumors.

I turn myself into a ship captain and dock at every port, where my lovers are waiting for me. We almost started a riot in Porto because we were carrying guns inside our shopping bags at the Castelo Vermelho. Big mistake. The courts will close during the day. Many people thought they would die. They saw we were looking for violence. Their hearts were pounding for us to love them. They were not afraid to eat of their love. If I love them, and they love me, where will we go for all this love? The real thing is what wonderful people they are here. The men are drunk, their brown eyes shine with… I decide to find out. It would be a crime not to go dancing with them. There’s something about his nose. I look back to the past. He reminds me of Fabrice. I push forward. The music moves me. I reach out my hand. The music moves me to do stupid things. 

Text: Ian Memgard
Image:  Juliusz Lewandowski


Marknaden var kaotisk och suddig. Men även på en sådan plats hade de handlande människorna en viss definition. Fastän de uppenbarligen existerade i samma utrymme som jag, så verkade de alldeles för vackra för det. Marknadens verklighet kom endast till mig när jag prackade på människor andrahandsteorier jag snappat upp från böcker som “Marknadernas historia” och filmer som “Markus på marknaden”. Marknader är som egna moderna samhällen i miniatyr, tänkte jag. Och i dagens samhälle ansågs jag vara en lite tråkig person. Jag hade varken modet att röka cigg på toaletterna på rasterna, eller att shotta tequila med resten av mina kollegor på våra after work-fester. Kanske hade jag bara nyss fyllt 20, men jag förstod redan att saktmodets dygdighet var en ren och skär lögn. Vilken sorts framtid väntade mig om jag redan, även i detta miniatyrsamhälle, var helt oanmärkningsvärd? Omkring mig gick coola unga par runt och letade efter retromöbler att fylla sina vackra lägenheter med. Vad gjorde jag egentligen här? Vem var jag? Min föraning om att jag skulle komma att leda ett fullkomligt trist liv fyllde mig med en förtvivlan bortom alla ord. Jag skulle precis bege mig tillbaka hem, när jag hörde någon ropa mitt namn.

De säger att livet är en slump, men jag tror att mitt möte med Cameron den dagen var del av något mycket större än vi två. Man hade kunnat säga att det var som det efterlängtade svaret på mysteriet Julius Ceasar viskade när han blöd ihjäl på senatens golv. Eller var det mer som svaret på Sphinxens gåta? Jag antar att det inte spelar någon roll. Du förstår, om jag var tråkig, så var Cameron spännande. Det roliga och det skrattliga vandrade vid hans sida vart han än begav sig. Som om han rest världen runt växte Cameron upp och blev den starkare, mer solbrända, och betydligt mer självsäkra av oss. Folk tyckte att han var sexig, och han sågs alltid med ett leende på läpparna. Det blev vår plikt som bästa vänner att undersöka alltingtillsammans, att dra varje värja som gick att dra. Men var det verkligen en bra idé?

En viss “Bladees” uppdykande hade fångat mina vänners uppmärksamhet den sommaren. Han var det enda de pratade om, och det enda de lyssnade på. “Så imponerande är han faktiskt inte,” brukade jag säga, för att övertyga både mig själv och mina vänner, men sanningen var att jag var mer än imponerad. Jag…


Jag tolkade helt enkelt Bladee självständigt, och observerade honom från andra, mycket märkligare vinklar. Kanske var det fånigt at mig, men jag fann honom fascinerande. Jag minns en kväll på en hemmafest, då en vän till mig satte igång låten “be nice to me”, och en underlig röst i mitt huvud svarade, “det ska jag.”

Bladee var så fri… fri på ett sätt jag inte var. Skulle jag någonsin bli så fri som han? Jag måste försöka. Han som är fri från rådande moral och förnuft kan åstadkomma vadsomhelst. Precis som Marquis de Sades hjältinna Juliette, måste jag befria mig själv för Bladee.

Natten innan jag stötte på Cameron på marknaden hade jag det galna infallet att be till Gud innan jag gick och lade mig. Hur går det nu igen? frågade jag mig själv, men sen kom orden till mig.

“Fader vår,” började jag, “helgat varo ditt namn. Må ditt rike komma, må din vilja ske…”

Vem kan säga vad som hände sen? Allt jag minns är att jag hörde samma fruktansvärt underliga röst som på hemmafesten. Den verkade komma från inuti mig.

“I anden! I kroppen! I ögonen! I båda händerna! I blodet och andedräkten! I klingan!” ekade den genom min själs kammare. Min hjärna tömdes och jag störtade ner på sovrumsgolvet i djup sömn. Jag minns inte vad jag drömde den natten. Bara den där rösten – den där underliga rösten… Oskyldigt undrade jag om orden fortsatte att formas inom mig. Märkliga tankar och vansinniga tankar och allegoriska tankar spred sig. Om jag bara vetat vad som väntade.

“Hallå, Ilia!”

Jag vände mig om och såg min bästa vän, lika munter som alltid.

“Hej Cameron,” sa jag, “hur är läget? Jag skulle precis gå.”

“Redan?” sa han besviket. “Jag skulle ha älskat att hänga med dig, bro. Jag letar efter ett uråldrigt svärd att hänga på väggen i min nya lägenhet. Du är alltid så bra på att hitta sånt.” Sen lystes hans ansikte upp. “Du kommer aldrig kunna tro vad jag ska göra ikväll!”

“Vadå?” frågade jag. Cameron gjorde många otroliga saker och det verkade troligt att vad han skulle berätta för mig, vad det än var, faktiskt skulle låta trovärdigt. Men vad han berättade därnäst var verkligen förbluffande.

“Jag har biljetter till Bladee-konserten,” sa han.

“Du skojar,” svarade jag, och min hänryckning måste gjort intryck på honom, för han bjöd mig direkt att följa med.

Den kvällen, när vi förfestade hos Cameron, så insåg jag att det var ödet snarare än slumpen som fört oss samman, och med samma människor som jag mött hundra gånger förut, på andra hemmafester och häng. Alla verkade ovanligt intresserade av att konversera med mig, mycket mer än vad de någonsin varit tidigare. De kommenterade till och med min utstyrsel, och sa, “du ser jättebra ut ikväll, Ilia!”

Om det fanns en gud som slängt mig, så var detta en gud som plockat upp mig igen. En gud som förstod mig och mitt djupa behov av frihet. Av att vara fri för Bladee. Var det samma gud som besvarat min bön natten innan? Vad den rösten än var för något så bestämde jag mig att tro på den. “Ubern är här om fem minuter!” sa Cameron. Brum brum – så var vi på väg.

Jag minns inte mycket av konserten. Vem skulle kunna minnas sådan ekstas efter att den är över? Men efteråt, när konserten var över, så la Cameron armen om mina axlar och viskade i mitt öra: “Det finns en överraskning åt dig. Gå upp för trappan och knacka på den gula dörren.”

“Vänta, varför det?” sa jag, men Cameron bara blinkade åt mig.

Vad överraskningen än var, så lydde jag. De väntade på mig i mitten av ett enormt rum med en underbar utsikt över natten. En stilig kille i en röd tröja erbjöd mig den ultimata frestelsen. “Bladee är här. Du måste ge honom ditt hedrande.”

“Du vet vad du måste göra,” uppmanade hans följeslagare mig.

“Snälla!” svarade jag utan att tveka. “Jag ska göra det.”

Bladee, du kan komma in nu,” sa en av de unga männen på svenska. Jag var stel av förväntan. En minute senare kom Bladee in i rummet.

Ibland sägs det att vissa kändisar är “trevliga och jordnära”, men nu förstod jag vad det verkligen betydde. För i hans ögon såg jag inte den trendiga unga stjärnans kyliga glans, utan värmen som återspeglades från ögonen hos de ödmjuka kor som hans förfäder en gång måste ha fött upp, i sina små stugor, i det lilla kalla landet så långt borta.

Det måste vara du som är min väpnare,” sa Bladee (på svenska), och jag nickade eftersom jag förstod av mig själv vad han menade, fastän jag inte förstod hans språk. “Men även den mest trogna väpnare förtjänar en dag att själv känna riddarens vansinniga beslutsamhet.” Jag knäböjde framför hans klappstol och förberedde mig på att ta emot hans svärd, som skulle dubba mig in i hans värld. I andra ord så sög jag hans kuk. Och när han kom i min mun, med ett stön som verkade komma från själva djupet av hans varelse, så fylldes min hjärna av ett bländande vitt ljus; där var det, klarhet, intellektuell och spirituell styrka, som om varenda hudcell – inte bara i min kropp men även i min själv – plötsligt hade blivit fullständigt återfuktad. Och då visste jag det. Att jag aldrig skulle vara tråkig.

Jag såg upp med tacksamhet och torkade mig om munnen. Men vad hade hänt med Bladee, plötsligt så tömd på kraft? Han såg fullständigt utmattad ut när han lutade sig tillbaka igen mot stolen, oförmögen eller ovillig att resa på sig igen. “Tack… och varsågod,, sa han, och när han talade verkade han kollapsa in i sig själv, som en ballong några dagar efter festen. Och precis som en ballong tömdes han plötsligt på luft och skjöts genom luften, ut genom det öppna fönstret och in i den stjärngnistrande natten utanför. Jag tappade hakan för andra gången – denna gången av vördnad. Skulle han någonsin synas till igen? Kanske skulle hans resa fortsätta på en annan plats, i en annan stad; kanske på en annan planet. Allt jag visste var att min resa bara precis hade börjat. 

text: Ian Memgard & Zola Gorgon
översättning: Zola Gorgon
bild: Ian Memgard


The market was chaotic and blurry. But even in such a place, there’s a certain definition to the people buying and selling things. Even though they clearly existed in the same space as I, they appeared to be too beautiful for it. The reality of the market was only provided to me by cornering people with second hand theories I had picked up from books like “A History of Markets” and movies like “Markus at the Market”. Markets are like self-contained, modern societies in miniature, I thought. And in today’s society, I was considered a somewhat boring person. I didn’t have the courage to smoke cigarettes in the restroom during breaks, nor to do tequila shots with the rest of my colleagues at our after work parties. I may have just turned 20, but I understood that the idea of meekness as a virtue was a bold-faced lie. What sort of future could await me if I was already unremarkable even in this miniature society? All around me were cool, young couples looking for retro furniture to fill their beautiful apartments with. What was I really doing here? Who was I? My premonition that I would lead a totally boring life filled me with a despair beyond words. I was just about to head back home, when I heard my name being called.

Life is said to be a coincidence, but I think that my encounter with Cameron that day was part of something much greater than the two of us. One could say it was like the long awaited answer to the mystery whispered by Julius Caesar as he bled out on the senate floor. Or was it more like the answer to the riddle of the Sphinx? I guess it doesn’t matter. You see, if I was boring, Cameron was exciting. The fun and the laughty stayed at his side wherever he went. As if he’d travelled the whole world, Cameron grew up to be the stronger, more tanned, and significantly more confident one of us. People thought he was hot and he was always seen smiling. It became our duty as best friends to investigate everything together, to draw every blade there was to be drawn. But was this really such a good idea?

The appearance of a certain “Bladee” had caught the attention of most of my friends that summer. He was all they would ever talk about and all they would ever listen to. “He’s just not that impressive,” I used to say, trying to convince both myself and my friends, but in reality I was more than impressed. I was.. 

I was.. 

I was simply interpreting Bladee independently, observing him from other, much stranger angles. Maybe it was silly of me, but I found him fascinating. I remember how one night at a house party my friend put on the song “be nice to me”, and a strange voice inside my head answered, “I will”.

Bladee was so free… free in a way I was not. Would I ever be as free as him? I had to try. He who is freed from existing morals and reason can accomplish anything. Just like the Marquis de Sade’s heroine Juliette, I had to free myself for Bladee.

The night before I met Cameron at the market I had the crazy idea to pray to God before bed. How does this go again? I asked myself. Then the words came to me. 

“Our Father,” I began, “hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done…”

Who can say what happened? All I remember is hearing the same terribly strange voice I heard at that house party. It seemed to come from inside me. 

“In the spirit! In the body! In the eyes! In both hands! In blood and breath! In the blade!” it echoed through the chambers of my soul. My mind went blank and I crashed onto my bedroom floor, fast asleep. I don’t remember what I dreamed that night. Only that voice – that strange, strange voice. I wondered innocently if those words were forming within me even after. Strange thoughts and mad thoughts and allegorical thoughts scattered themselves. If I only knew what was to come.

“Hey, Ilia!” 

I turned around and there was my best friend, as cheerful as ever.

“Hey, Cameron,” I said. “How’s it going? I was just about to leave.”

“So soon?” he said, disappointed. “I would have loved to hang out with you, bro. I’m looking for an ancient sword to hang on the wall of my new flat. You’re always so good at picking out things like that.” Then his face lit up. “Oh, you’ll never believe what I’m doing tonight!”

“What?” I asked. Cameron did many unbelievable things and it seemed likely that what he was about to tell me, whatever it was, would, indeed, be believable to me. But what he told me next was truly astonishing.

“I’ve got tickets to the Bladee concert,” he said.

“No way,“ I replied, and the rapture on my face must have impressed him, because he invited me to come along.

That night, after pre-drinks at Cameron’s, I realized that there was fate, more than coincidence, entangled with our encounters, the very same people I’d met a hundred times before at different house parties and hangouts. Everyone seemed oddly interested in making conversation with me, more than they ever had made known to me before. They even commented on my outfit, saying, “you look really good tonight, Ilia!”

If there was a God who had thrown me away, here was a God who had picked me up. A God who understood me and my deep need to be free. To be free for Bladee. Was it the same God who had answered my prayer last night? Whatever that voice had been, it was a voice I decided to believe in. “The Uber is here in 5 minutes!” said Cameron. Wroom wroom – and we were on our way.

I don’t remember much of the concert. Who could possibly recall such bliss after it’s gone? 

But afterwards, when the concert was over, Cameron put his arm around my shoulders and whispered into my ear, “There’s a surprise for you. Head upstairs and knock on the yellow door.” 

“What, why?” I said but Cameron just winked. 

Whatever the surprise was, I obliged. They were waiting for me in the middle of a huge room with a wonderful night view. A handsome guy in a red shirt offered me the absolute temptation. “Bladee is here. You must pay him tribute.” 

“You know what to do,” his companions urged me. 

“Please!” I answered them without hesitation. “I will do it.” 

“Bladee, du kan komma in nu,” said one of the young men. I stood frozen in anticipation. A minute later, Bladee entered the room.

People sometimes say that certain celebrities are “nice and down to earth”, but now I truly understood what that meant. For in his eyes I saw not the cold glint of the trendy young star, but the warmth reflecting from the eyes of the humble cows that his ancestors must once have reared, in their little homesteads in that small cold country far away.

“Det måste vara du som är min väpnare,” he said, and I nodded because I understood intuitively what he meant. “Men även den mest trogna väpnare förtjänar en dag att själv känna riddarens vansinniga beslutsamhet.” I kneeled before his folding chair and prepared myself to receive the touch of his sword, which would dub me into his world. In other words, I sucked his dick. And as he came into my mouth, with a groan that seemed to come from the very depth of his being, a blinding white light filled my brain; there it was, clarity, strength of spirit and intellect, as if every single skin cell – not just in my body but in my soul – had suddenly become perfectly moisturized. And I knew it then. That I would never be boring.

I looked up in gratitude and wiped my lips. But what had happened to Bladee, suddenly so drained of his power? He looked completely exhausted as he fell back against the chair, unable or unwilling to rise again. “Tack…. och varsågod,” he said, and as he spoke he seemed to crumble into himself, like a party balloon left out a few days too many. And just like a balloon he suddenly deflated and was propelled through the air, through the open window and into the starry night outside. My mouth dropped open for the second time; this time, it was with awe. Would he ever be seen again? Perhaps his journey would continue in another place, in another city; perhaps, on another planet. All I knew was that my journey had just begun. 

text: Ian Memgard & Zola Gorgon
image: Ian Memgard

Dinner time

Dinner time is gray, restless, birthing evil
carrying the day you wanted to clean but instead fill with sausage, wine, cheese
at dinner time it’s really time to starve
shut up and pray for forgiveness

I fall asleep but I think of breaths in the night
on porches
america maybe

who can sleep me
me, I can sleep
though I think about how restless they are on these porches
once this restlessness pulsates through me
only once
then I fall asleep

Text: Fredrika Flinta
Image: Vera Nilsson, Sagor

The Horse Girl

I just loved to ride… and I loved nothing besides.

I didn’t think of anything but horses.

Meticulously I sketched naturalistic horses with long slender legs and thick manes.

That Friday, I drew horses straight onto my school desk. “Ida,” said my teacher, “if you keep on destroying your desk, we’ll ask your parents to pay for it. You don’t listen.”

I drew on my binder instead, and in the textbooks. In books, horses always had names, but I didn’t name my own horses. Wild horses living in nature and who would have let me ride them only because of our special mutual understanding. The other girls they’d have thrown off and flung into the mud, rich girls with baby blue fleece jackets and horses which they named and owned.

I put my cheek against the cool wood of my desk and dreamt the same dreams I dreamt at night before sleep. Swiftly, I rode over an endless meadow. Rain was in the air. The clouds broke, thunder split the sky, lightning caught a tree and the tree caught fire. Below me the flank of the horse was warm and the sky black. I rode bareback, like an extension of my own body. As if I wasn’t there at all. Someone behind me made a sound. I woke up and heard the boys laughing.

“Look,” someone whispered, “she fell asleep on her desk and you can see…”

“Hey, Ida,” one shouted, “don’t you know people can see your underpants when you lean forward like that!”

There was something special in the air at the end of a school day, trembling moist freedom, especially on a Friday. Yes, I was happy running out of the classroom. I unlocked my bicycle, still a child’s bike, and the drizzle wet my cheeks. My life was rich, because I had one great love.

“Those things just make girls asocial and strange,” my dad said, “when they put their emotional attachments on horses instead of on humans. Horses aren’t pets, you know, they’re investments, people trade and sell them. And I certainly won’t be buying you any horse, so I don’t see why you need to learn how to ride. You’ve already been doing it for years, and it’s hardly going anywhere.”

I stared at him with pure hatred in my eyes, and when he noticed, the corners of his mouth started twitching with mirth. 

“Well, little Ida,” he said, “that’s the way of the world, I’m afraid, and since there’s nothing to do about it, maybe you ought to get a cheaper hobby. Orienteering, perhaps?”

But I absolutely did not want to orienteer with the girls who crowded in the thickets of the woods in squeaky windbreakers, eating sour green apples with their crooked teeth, struggling with some lame terrain map. I wanted to be with the horses. The closer I came to the stables, the more my breast filled with a sensation of peace and joy; the wheels of my bike crunched against gravel, and the birch trees lining the road still had their leaves. Nothing but lone farms out by the stables, perhaps a tractor driving on the field and the adults living here were generally quiet, if they saw me they only waved, and I waved back.

A hobby, they said. A hobby wasn’t what I had.

The riding school rested on a hill, willow trees dipping their branches into the earth, beech trees swaying in the wind, and only a few employee’s cars parked outside; an adult woman crossed the ground in a norwegian sweater and muddy rubber boots. It had paid off to bike there quickly; nobody else my own age was there yet. They were waiting to go home, eat something, get picked up and delivered to the riding shool by their parents; only I went there straight after school. The stable had thirty horses, and twenty ponys, and indoors the air was heavy with their warm animal smell. And the stable cat, who came up to me and rubbed himself against my legs, and I squatted down and petted his little head, as smooth and hard as a pebble.

“Hello, Ida,” said a riding instructor, who’d caught sight of me. “Here again?” Little Ida is what people called me when I first started riding, because back then I was little, but now I was grown and nobody called me little Ida anymore.

I just turned up, and they didn’t shoo me away. It was as if adults, as soon as they saw me, immediately repressed the knowledge that I was there.

“Yes,” I said. It was hard to think of what to say when people adressed me. “Here I am again.”

I used to think the horses looked a bit like prisoners, where they stood in their boxes, especially when they stuck their heads out to see who was there. While the little children rode, I did everything I could in the stable. I cleaned out the boxes. I groomed backs and withers. I carefully brushed great foreheads and around eyes, I cleaned hooves, untangled manes with my fingers, I wiped great nostrils clean.

After the little children had finished their lessons came the ones my own age whose voices made me shiver. I myself became quiet like a shadow. What envy I felt when I saw them riding, and then leaving the stables and heading out for the countryside; to where I couldn’t follow them, because I didn’t have a horse.

I was as good as them or better, and I never cried when I got thrown off the horse; I wiped the dirt or blood off my face and I got back in the saddle. I didn’t cry. Some bawled like babies. They were scared of the horses. Scared of getting hurt. Not me. One time my mouth bled. I swallowed the blood so no one would see. Along with the blood I swallowed something hard and sharp. A splinter of my front tooth. I got back in the saddle.

That particular day I stayed until the night fell, and actually it happened that all adults were sitting inside the big farmhouse, where the windows were lit up, drinking coffee and eating biscuits and petting the cat and gossiping in their slow country voices. A class returned, horses filled the empty boxes, girl’s voices chattered, and sooner or later a rush of motors and cars would come bringing back both girls and voices in the night, to houses which I imagined full of those little porcelain figures, with plastic landline phones constantly ringing with someone’s desire to speak to them.

This was the night a girl got badly injured. I followed commotion to the manege, and saw the girl lying on the gravel with a face white like a mask. 

Even the proprietress of the riding school, rarely to be seen, was there; she had long white hair and had always scared me, because she really looked like a witch. Everyone feared her, because she had a short fuse and could berate students until they started crying in front of their entire class, and none of the other teachers dared to stop her. They said she grieved bitterly, because her man had died in a hunting accident, and that now she patrolled the countryside with his gun. She was, like all adults, busy explaining things to other adults, to the ambulance personnel and to the parents, when they came in their cars to pick up their children, and by the way everyone said everything would be fine you could tell something terrible had happened.

I was happy that attention was directed elsewhere, and in the stable it was actually completely quiet, besides the sighing and snorting of horses, and me alone with them and in peace, when I noticed someone had left the door in the back open.

A wide door made out of concrete, moulded into the wall. You might have guessed it was a fire door, but it couldn’t be an emergency exit, because no one had seen behind it, and behind the house was nothing but a big hill, like the kind where they buried bronze age chieftains.

Even I had never really thought about what might be behind the door, that’s how inconspicious it was, so closed and innaccessible.

But now it was open, just a crack, and I went through the crack. Then I groped in the dark until my hands found an old fashioned light switch; a click lit a row of naked bulbs hanging from the walls, casting a pale yellow light like they hadn’t been changed in decades.

It smelled like the crypt where they baptized my cousin, soil and cold and untouched things, but a different smell came through, warm like feces and with the iron quality of blood, a blood smell I hadn’t yet at the time gotten to know.

I’d expected a storage room or something like it, but the concrete floor turned into trodden soil in front of me. I went down the tunnel. Could this be a grave?

The animal smell grew stronger and stronger. Not just the smell of animal, but the smell of a filthy animal. I sniffed. It wasn’t a horse, not quite; I knew the smell of horses well, but something about this one wasn’t right; it was as if it had changed shape with another smell which I did not like at all.

I came to a rotting old wooden door and opened it without hesitation, and the smell that hit me almost made retch and fall back.

At first I thought there was a dead horse lying in the dark, a stillborn foal, a youth.

Then I thought I saw a dead child, with long slim limbs, thrown out without clothes like garbage.

My eyes were confused; I thought it was a doll, a doll in real size.

It wasn’t possible to understand what I saw.

But it wasn’t dead, it was alive, because its limbs were moving.

Human arms with human hands as well as hooves.

And some kind of head, covered in thick horse’s hair, a tangled mane.

Then two round shiny eyes in the dark looking at me, a long face.

And I looked into them and we saw each other.

“Who are you?” said the thing living down there. “Please don’t leave.”

I’d never heard a human speaking in that way.

“My name is Ida,” I said. “Who are you?”

“I’m one that hasn’t been baptized,” said the living thing.

I noticed a little TV was on in a corner of the room, with the sound turned very low; it cast cold light over the dirty hay. I looked from the TV to the one I was speaking to. And I saw it was neither human nor horse, but something inbetween.

The lower body was essentially that of a horse, but thinner, and only in patches covered with a very thin fur, the neck long and sturdy and with long thick hair. And at the top of this long, sturdy neck, a head, a face… like that of a human, with large teeth, nostrils flaring when she breathed. But there was no doubt about the eyes: they were warm and filled with a horse’s endless sensitivity.

“What are you doing down here?” I said and crouched down next to her.

“I don’t know a lot of other places,” she said. It was like she had to think between each word, and actually she furrowed her brow in confusion while she spoke. “Or where I would be if I wasn’t here.”

“Have you been here for a long time?” I asked. “Did someone lock you up?”

“For a long time,” she whispered. “Yes, I think a long time has passed.”

Now I saw that her front legs didn’t end in hooves, like a horse’s, but in human hands with very thick nails and palms as thick and rough as the soles of feet. The back legs, on the other hand, did end in hooves, and both of them were overgrown, without shoes. And under the sparse fur I saw the ribs and the lungs rising and falling under the skin.

“You’re not scared of me, Ida,” she said.


“They said people would be scared. If they saw me.”

I thought about it. “They probably would,” I said. “Are you in pain?”


“There’s something wrong with your hooves.”

“Pain. Yes. I’m… in pain.”

“They don’t let you trot?”

“Trot… sometimes I trot in here. But it hurts.”

“It’s because your hooves are overgrown.”

She was silent. Tears as big as bilberries formed in her eyes and rolled down her downy cheeks.

“I’m born from a terrible sin,” she said. “People aren’t supposed to see me.”

What terrible sin? I decided not to ask.

“Don’t be sad,” I said, “I’ll help you.”


“I can file down your hooves, so it doesn’t hurt when you walk. And then we can…”

“Trot?” she said.

“Ride?” I said.

“Ride is… when the human sits on the horse,” she said, almost like a question. “I’ve seen it over there.” She meant the TV. “But doesn’t it hurt?”

“No,” I said, “it’s wonderful.”

“I mean for the horse.”

“I don’t know. Horses can’t speak. But I don’t think so. I wouldn’t do it if it did.”

She sniffed with her big nostrils, and her eyes widened.

“What is it?”

“You have to hide,” she said.

Quickly I crawled across the muddy floor and rolled into a ball between a few bales of hay rotting in a corner. I hugged my knees tight and did my best to breathe slowly, hearing boots treading the ground.

“Back already?” the horse girl said.

“I forgot to lock up,” a human voice answered. I peered over the hay bale to see what was going on and saw a middle aged woman with long white hair hanging down her back. It was the proprietress of the riding school! She stroked the horse girl’s mane. “I had to come down to make sure nothing had happened to you. Imagine if someone had come here to hurt you!”

She spoke the way you speak to a child.

“No one comes,” the horse girl said.

“No, and they won’t, either,” the proprietress said. “No one knows you’re here, and they won’t ever know. So don’t worry. It’s just your poor old mummy being fussy. Now be a good girl for me, and eat plenty, okay?”

“Yes, mum,” said the horse girl, but her mum must have been mad, because everything down there had rotted and neither horse nor human nor inbetween would have wanted to eat it. 

The proprietress left. I crawled out of my hiding space and my clothes were caked with sour mud. 

“You’d better run away from here before she locks you in,” the horse girl whispered. The truth in her words hit me immediately and I moved like a rat in the darkness, quick and quiet and desperate.

They hadn’t closed up yet, but it was quiet in the yard; almost everyone had gone home, and in the dark office I found the key and hid it in my pocket. But when I came to my bike, a chubby riding teacher was standing there with her hands on her hips, watching it thoughtfully.

“Oh,” she said, when she saw me. “There you are, uh…” then she was silent for a while; she probably tried to remember my name, but failed. “We’re closed, you know.”

“I know, I know,” I said, “I’m very sorry.”

“The horses need their rest too, you see.”

“I understand,” I said. “I didn’t mean to stay for so long.”

“Fair enough,” she said and laughed. “Wow, you must have worked hard! You look like you’ve scrubbed out the stables with your very own clothes.”

I laughed along, then jumped on my bike and rode away with my heart beating hard.

My parents were watching an english crime show when I came in, and my mum frowned.

“You stink,” she said.

“Yes,” dad said, “it’s like a whole little cowshed’s come in.”

“Mum, dad, can you make a copy of my bike key?”

Then they turned their heads and actually looked at me. I must have been filthy.

“I mean, what if I lose my key! I actually love biking!” I said passionately, as if I already blamed them and as if I was ready to start bitching and fighting.

“Well, I guess it’s good for you to be interested in something besides those fucking horses,” dad said.

“Johan, you don’t have to curse in front of the child,” mum said.

“No, sure, of course,” said dad.

“I’ll put the key here,” I said, and left the key to the basement on the coffee table, next to his feet. He snorted, but actually did make me a copy, and just two days later I was back at the riding school and the original was back in its place.

I felt like a god, everything was with me.

Nothing could go wrong now that I had a purpose.

The next time I came down she raised her neck and pointed her ears like she was preparing to flee. She sniffed the air, and breathed out quickly.

“It’s just me,” I said, “My name is Ida.”

“Ida.” She nodded. Her eyes were big and shiny in the darkness, and in the background the TV was on, silently, sending a cold flickering light over the filthy hay. “You came back.”

“Yes, and look here,” I said.

That time I brought a proper flashlight, a packet of oat cakes, tiny green apples from my garden, and a magazine about horses.

I also brought a file, desinfectants, and eye drops.

We watched TV together and I took her hoof carefully into my lap and started filing it down while she ate oatcakes. Sometimes she looked at me, but usually just at the TV. That day they were showing a rerun of Xena, Warrior Princess. The horse girl told me, she measured time by what was on TV. Reception wasn’t the greatest in the basement, sometimes gray lines filled the screen, and if you turned the sound on there was static noise like a different reality wanted to break through. “After the Xena rerun there’s Survivor,” my friend explained, while she passively watched the screen and ate oatcake after oatcake. “And after Survivor, the other one visits me, and then you’ll have to leave. But of course she doesn’t turn up every day.” Then I felt her disquiet. “You don’t think she’ll notice that you filed down my hooves?”

“Tell her you’ve done it yourself, that you’ve been scraping them against the floor.”

She snorted, but just as quickly looked cheerful again. “Do you know, after Survivor they send some really exciting shows. Programs where people die. And you can watch them have sex and stuff like that. Sometimes. I like the one with the vampire guy.”

“It’s a pity I can’t stay that late.”

Yes, it was a pity. But I came back as often as I could – almost every day. The only difficult thing was not to get noticed coming or going. But on the other hand, there was nothing I did better than not getting noticed. I hadn’t talked as much in all my life as I did with her, told her things about the world, the wide open meadows and forests, and we fantasized about riding there together; my best fantasies yet.

She said, “Ida, what do you do when you’re not here?”

“I’m usually here,” I said. “When I’m at home I lie in my bed and read. Sometimes I look at different web pages on dad’s computer.”

“On the internet?” she asked. I guess she’d never used a computer.

“Yes, but just in the evenings. Dad says it’s too expensive otherwise.” While I pretended to do my homework, I learned things about horses instead. If I knew enough maybe they’d let me work at the stable one day, or as a vet. If I could make myself essential – surprise them one day, with the depth of my knowledge – they’d say, “Oh, Ida, how could we make it without you! Stay as long as you want!”

There were even pages where you could write with other girls who liked horses. But I never dared to register there. Because what if they…

“And in the daytime?”

“I’m in school during the day,” I said, and tried to sound neutral, but it was pointless to try to hide any feelings from her. She knew what I was feeling even if I never said it.

“You don’t like it.”

“No,” I said bitterly. I didn’t want to think about school in that moment. Gastric acid rose in my throat, visions of endless desks, endless empty hours filled with hate.

(And in the night. In the night I rode or ran naked through dark forests in my dreams. The branches of birch trees whipped my thighs, dew and fog wet my face.)

“I thought maybe you had a boyfriend or something?” she said, with a note of hopeful interest. She seemed a lot more keen on that kind of stuff than I was, but then she was a bit older than me, too, that was obvious.

“No,” I said.

“Why not?”

“I don’t need a boyfriend.”

“Oh,” she said scraping against the floor. “You don’t want one? But it looks so fun on TV.”

“Yes, but it’s not like that in reality.” Guys were so nasty, I avoided them, especially the older ones, because there was no limit to their sadism. One time a group of boys stood in my way when I was leaving the sports hall. They’d found a condom in the bushes and showed it to me, and then they turned it inside out and rubbed it against my sports bag. I don’t know why I didn’t run away, I was so blank, and afterwards scared to death that my parents would se traces of sperm on my gym bag after I put it into the wash, that they’d angrily confront me – what kind of filth have you been up to?

Sometimes I saw girls in my class with boyfriends, how they put on a show for them. Would I ever be one of them? It seemed unlikely. There was a boy once who was nice to me, we played together in the grove on the schoolyard, where we pretended to fight invisible monsters. But nobody played anymore, and he’d changed classes and disappeared in the crowd. “Guys are mean in real life,” I said. “Only stupid girls run after them.”

The horse girl pondered this but didn’t answer. After a few minutes she said, “I still think I would have liked to have one, if I could.” Then she looked at me in a way that made my heart hurt, and I felt stupid and selfish, who had access to all the things human beings can do, but still couldn’t.

My eyes burned when I thought about it. It was terrible that someone as lovely and kind as her would be stuck down here in the dark, while those who roamed the surface were so awful.

What did they even do? Talked loudly, ate with grinding jaws, watched TV, tackled each other in football, injured each other.

I lay in my bed staring at the plastic stars glowing on the ceiling, waiting to hear my parents leaving through the front door.

Images appeared before my inner eye in sudden clarity because the dreams were not far away. I didn’t want to sleep before I’d achieved my goal, so I pulled a book from the pile next to the bed and tried to concentrate on it. The book was about a blond girl who rode in a stable somewhere – it must have been America, since the girls were named things like Ashley and the guys were named things like Clive. Even though Ashley was the best rider and had a very special connection to horses, she didn’t have her own horse, only the mean rich girls did, who neglected their horses and left her to take care of them in an emergency and then they were ungrateful too. But by the end of the book things would work out for her… I knew that. I’d read a lot of books that were basically the same and they all ended in basically the same way.

Actually it was a bit childish, and I’d outgrown childish dreams. Instead I now dreamed my reality. In my dream I was the one who rode… then caught sight of something so vile that I woke with a horrified start. I wasn’t supposed to sleep.

It was quiet on the ground floor.

Hard to imagine either of my parents checking to see if I was still home.

I biked the whole way to the stable and entered the way that only cats did.

“Ida!” she whispered when I entered the cavern. It always took me a while to get used to the smell. I think she saw the way I flinched, that it hurt her feelings, but she never brought it up. “How fun that you’re here so late!”

She let me climb onto her back, and we made a few slow rounds around the cavern.

I said, “Does it hurt when someone rides you?”

“No,” she said, “I wouldn’t say it hurts, but at the same time I can’t say why I would want it.”

“Should I get off?”

“I mean, I want it, but I don’t know why I want it.”

“They breed horses to want those things,” I said.

“What do you mean, breed?”

I blushed. “Well, when they make them mate with each other, they pick horses who do things you want them to do, you know, horses that are friendly or fast or…”

She slowed down, taking all of this in.

“Why do I exist?” she finally said. “Could somebody have… wanted this? But in that case, why…”

“I don’t know. But it’s lucky that you’re born with the legs of a horse and the face of a human, because if it had been the other way around, if you were a human-body with the head of a horse, then we couldn’t have talked to each other, or have ridden.”

The horse girl started to cry. “All you think about is different ways to use me.”

“That’s not true,” I said, horrified. “I just want to help you. I’d have tried to help you even if you’d had a human body with a horse’s head and forelegs. I thought this is what you wanted. We can do something else, if you want. Whatever you want.”

“How am I even supposed to know what I want, if the things I want are things I’ve been bred into wanting?” She turned her face away and stared at the wall. I just saw her sturdy neck and the long mane. “Most of all I’d like to fight vampires like Buffy does on TV.”

“Nobody really does that,” I said.


“Not here, anyway.”

“I think that’s what I would have wanted. So why do I want that? Do they breed humans to want things like that?”

“Nobody breeds humans,” I said and finally slid off her back, faster than I’d intended to, and landed with a thump on the filthy hay. “They just…”

“When they want to.”

“I guess so.”

“But why do they want to?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to.”

“So what do you want?”

“I want to… I want to learn enough about horses,” I said, embarrassed, “that if I’m here, helping, then maybe I can help them when they get injured or, you know… that I can help take care of the horses enough that I can stay here.”

“In big cities,” the horse girl suddenly said. “What happens there? Is it more like on TV? Do Backstreet Boys live there?”

“Uhhh,” I said. “I guess they must do?”

“And big stores with beautiful clothes. Like Destiny’s Child wear. And high schools.”

A sudden anger rose inside of me. She wasn’t like me at all. If anything she was more like the dumb girls in my class who wrote in each other’s diaries with worthless tiny golden locks. Giggled and looked out for boys and started doing their makeup age nine.

I ought to leave her to her destiny, because what she wanted she’d never get. 

She must have noticed, because she flinched. “Ida?” she said anxiously. “You’re not leaving, are you? And if you’re leaving, you’ll come back, right?” Every time I left she said the same thing. She said, I hate to be alone, you’ll come back soon, right? And I thought she had a need for me, and I promised her I’d return, and always hurried back. But she didn’t need me at all. Or rather, I wasn’t the one she needed. Anyone would have served the same purpose as long as they didn’t leave her on her own.

I had tears in my eyes. “You’ll never have a boyfriend, whatever you do, wherever you go! Don’t you understand that?”

“Ida, what do you mean?”

But something animal had come into her facial expression, an uncomprehending fear and rage. She got up on her misshapen legs and backed into the wall and a sound came from her throat that no human being could make.

Suddenly I felt scared. I was alone down there with an animal larger than me, an animal that could kick or bite, an animal with big round eyes in the dark.

I stood up to leave and when I’d started to walk I broke into a run. I got on my bike, on my way home, and a lone late night car, with yellow headlights, failed to see me and got so close I had to brake, lost control over my bike, thrown sideways into the gravel, face first. I glimpsed a woman with white hair behind the wheel. The car drove another twenty yards or so and came to a stop. I heard adult voices:

“… hit something?”

“I’ll go outside and check,” said the white haired woman, and slammed the car door. The headlights made apparent the silhouette of a woman in riding boots. She was holding a gun!

I crawled into the ditch like a bug and made myself as small as possible, covered by ferns and undergrowth. Moisture sucked into my t-shirt. It smelled sour, like still waters. I heard her stomping around. An injured animal on the road must be put down with a shot. That must be what she was searching for. A gross beetle crawled over my shoulder. It crawled across my face. What if it tried to crawl into my mouth? Into my ears, my nose? I held my breath. The car door slammed. The engine started, the wheels began to roll, and the sound became more and more distant. I got out of the ditch and watched the car drive up the same hill I’d just biked down. Maybe they were heading to the riding school. But this late at night?

It must have been the proprietress!

Close call, I thought. The light on my bike had shattered during the fall. I biked through the thick velvet night, with just the moon leading my way, and now and then a lit window in the low dark farmhouses beyond the fields. Finally I returned to society and to the house my parents lived in. Blue light flickered from the living room window.

This must be the time when the exciting shows were on – the ones were they killed each other and had sex. Did she watch the same ones, down there in the dark, with her mouth half open in awe? And concentrating on shaping the same words, with lips that weren’t made for them. There you are. I was looking for you all over, babe. You’re the one that I want.

The side of my body was soaked through and covered in strands of grass. I’d better get out of my clothes quickly, I thought, but the thought was no help because my mum turned up in the living room doorway, backlit by the television. “Ida!” she said. “What happened?”

And my dad, who sat on the sofa behind her back, turned his head. “What’s she done now?” he said distractedly, before he got a proper look at me. “Oh, what the hell…”

“I had an accident on my bike,” I said.

“You can say that again,” mum said. “You’re bleeding!”

I looked down. Blood had run down my legs where I’d scraped them, and down my arms. Bits of gravel were still stuck in my skin. I couldn’t think of anything to say about it. It was one of those things that just were. Now I’d be expected to react to it. I could see it in their faces. There was a reaction you were supposed to have, but I did’t know what. I must have missed my chance already.

“What’s the matter with her?” my dad roared and got out of the couch. “There’s always some fucking shit going on! Don’t you know how to ride your bike?”

“Not the first time you’ve come home covered in blood.”

“And you’ve torn your shirt. What the fuck do you need to go biking at night for?”

“Why can’t you just stay home? Can’t you go to a friend?”

“Don’t you have any friends to go to? Doesn’t anybody want you?”

“Isn’t there anyone who can bring you along, so you don’t go biking through the woods at night, every night?”

“Isn’t there anyone to protect you, take you into their warmth?”

“Isn’t there anyone who wants to share their secrets with you?”

“Isn’t there anyone to whisper, whisper in your ear…”

“Isn’t there anyone to hold your hand and ask you to follow them over the meadow…”

“Isn’t there anyone to hold your hand, and ask you to come into their room?”

“Isn’t there anyone who presses your hand in their hand and looks you in the eyes and says that they want you, isn’t there anyone who wants to share their food with you, isn’t there anyone who wants you to be there?”

“And when you walk into the darkness, doesn’t anyone cry out for you?”

I was terribly tired. I lay down between sheets of comforting cotton and thought I’ll never return to the riding school its holes and hidden corners and the smell of horse piss and sour hay I’ll never feel again. And what remained was unknown to me because I slid into dreams entirely empty without the least trace of horse nor human and neither moon nor wind-swept woods.

Then I woke up naked in sheets sticky with blood because I’d menstruated during the night. It wasn’t like I didn’t know what had happened, but there wasn’t a chance I’d ever turn to my parents for help. My mum had a few pads in the bathroom cabinet, not many, and I stole one of them and put it down my underpants. I didn’t cry until I was sitting on the toilet. But it’s like with deaf babies that scream and don’t hear themselves screaming, sooner or later they stop, because what’s the point?

It was just another humiliating thing that had happened and I was used to things like that happening.

That day was one of those endless school days that just keeps going and going and I’d kept bleeding. What I hadn’t understood was that you need to change pads pretty often and the one I was wearing stank. I didn’t get that what I could smell, other people could smell, too. The last class of the day was sewing class. The smell of rotten blood spread in the classroom. It was unavoidable.

“Do you smell that?” said one of the girls.

“Yes – what is it? What is it that smells?”

I didn’t say anything, but that’s when I realized it was me. I was sewing a pillow case. Perhaps they’d forget what they’d noticed.

“It really does smell,” another girl broke out. “Ugh, can you feel it?”

“But what is it that smells?”

“Doesn’t it smell a bit like a stable?”

“It smells like horse!”

I turned towards the last girl speaking, saw her thrilled, cruel face, and without hesitating drove my scissors into her hand, which rested on a piece of floral fabric.

“Oh my God!”

I wasn’t so strong that I did more than just sting her. But she screamed like she was getting murdered, and when I looked into her face I thought, she likes it, she likes that she’s the victim and I’m the aggressor. 

I dropped the scissors and left the classroom, ran across communal lawns and left the ugly brick buildings of the school behind me. Now I’d really fucked things up.

Aimlessly, I walked down streets, past one-floor villas with trampolines in their gardens, and in the windows, little porcelain dogs, on the lawns, barbecues. I saw letterboxes, I saw cars. I saw number signs, I saw balloons tied to a mailbox, half deflated on the ground. Some child must have had a birthday party.

The only thing I knew was that I’d be punished. I didn’t know how, just that it would be severe. Was I really supposed to turn back home? I couldn’t go back to school. But where was I supposed to go?

I thought about the proprietress, with the gun.

Late at night I returned to the riding school.

I’d pictured horrible things. That the proprietress came there to kill her, that that’s why she had the gun. I couldn’t compare this anxiety to anything else I’d felt in my entire life. Did I really intend to leave her to her suffering? If you don’t know that somebody suffers, then you simply don’t know, and then it has nothing to do with you, you’re not doing anything wrong. But when you know, you know. Then you can’t pretend not to know, and that’s what it really means to lose your innocence.

Until you know guilt, you don’t even know that you used to be innocent.

“Ida!” said the horse girl when she saw me, and opened her eyes wide. Someone had been down there, obviously; the hay had been changed, and there was a bouquet of flowers in a water glass on the floor. 

“I really hope you’re not mad at me,” I said, stressed. I’d succumbed to panic on the way there and biked like a mad person and now I was dripping with sweat. “I’m sorry about saying those mean things to you.”

“Yes, okay,” she said, hesitating. “I forgive you. I actually didn’t know if you would come back again.”

“Of course I came back,” I said.

“You sound different today.”

“Yes,” I said. I felt different too. I thought, a few days ago I was just a child, not knowing anything about freedom and responsibility. It was like my heart was gritting its teeth. “I came here just to see you,” I said. “I could take you out of here tonight, if you wanted me to.”

“What about the others?”

“There’s no one else here.”

“They’re not there at night? Mum said there were people there all the time.”

“Yes, but she lied,” I said.

“Okay,” the horse girl said and got up, slow and sleepy, until she was standing on all fours, with her odd human-like front feet pressed into the ground.

“I thought maybe I could help you out of here for good, somehow, if it’s what you want. I know maybe your life wouldn’t be as you imagine it. But maybe you could move across the countryside at night, eat grass and drink from creeks. See the moon and the stars, sleep all day! Spend the winters in abandoned barns. Uh, you can eat grass, right?”

She blinked slowly like awakening from a dream. “Yes. I can digest grass. But Ida, where will you go?”

Horses shouldn’t be alone. There ought to be a whole flock of horse girls like her who with their bizarre hands braided each other’s manes and gossiped with each other in their downtempo neighing voices. But there wasn’t.

“Please, let me come with you,” I said. “Because there’s no other place where I can be.”

“We can leave.” I didn’t often see her standing the way a horse is supposed to, because then she couldn’t make use of her hands.

I walked right by her and led her up to the stables.

Even before we came up we could feel how confused and upset they got and how they started snorting and scraping their hooves against the floor. Dear god, I thought, if you’re alive, don’t let them make a lot of noise. The strange, unreal smell made them nervous. The horse girl was nervous too. I put my hand on her withers and felt the muscles tense. Her eyes stared wildly around her. “There there,” I said, “don’t worry, it’ll all be good.”

Just the moonlight and the light from my plastic torch lit the space in front of us, full of great dark shapes moving, stinking of animal, worrying, smelling, sniffing, trying to understand what they were picking up on, neither like them nor like anything else. The stallions breathed heavily, stuck their big heads through the bars and stared at her, followed her with their eyes. Stupid animals, I thought, for the first time in my life, you don’t understand, why can’t you let her be? She tugged at me and I realized that she, despite her state, was stronger than me, much stronger. Take it easy, I whispered through grit teeth, and I did my best to calm my own self down so she wouldn’t sense my tension, think I was scared too, panic and bolt.

But as soon as we came into the moonlight, everything dropped. We stood all alone on the plateau, and had anyone looked in the direction of the riding school at that point, they would have seen us. But what would they have seen, how would they have interpreted it? A little girl with a strange little horse, a horse with a head the wrong shape but turned away too quickly for the viewer to understand anything about it. Just shapes in the dark, who silent and almost invisible disappear on the trail into the forest.

There were a lot of things she’d never seen before, and I thought she’d be more scared. But when I sat on her back and she walked slowly through the woods, nosing at shrubberies and the wounds in the trees where the sap ran down the trunk, she grew completely silent and said nothing for a long time. She must have felt the smell of things like wet cold moss, sweet dead animals rotting among the trees, shrooms pushing their way up through the ground. There were things I’d never know in the same way. All I knew was how it felt to be a human, to have a body with feet and hands, and to sit on somebody’s back.

In case we got lost I’d brought the atlas over Sweden that my mother used sometimes when she drove us far away to our summer cabin.I thought we could move along the side of the roads at night, steal food from the dumpsters outside the truck stops and gas stations that lined the big roads, and maybe we could go south, to Scania, and see the beechwood forests and the ocean, or go north, see the deep dark woods in summer, cross the border to Finland, and my hair would become long and tangled like that of a beast, I would become as tall as an adult woman and nobody would recognize me as a human. You noticed, during long night-time car journeys, that Sweden was nothing but little pools of electric light spread out on a big blanket of darkness and emptiness. Between these communities, these sparse human habitations, there was nothing; and this nothing took you into its mouth and swallowed you into the warm protection of the lonely.

We were at the edge of the woods and I whispered happily about all of this when I felt her grow stiff and all muscles froze, because of course she heard the voices of humans before I did. A terrible noise came from the stables. The breathing and neighing of horses. What did they sense that I did not?

“It’s my mum,” the horse girl said, “She always said, my little girl, I’ll always know where you are, if anything’s happened to you – such is a mother’s intuition.”

“Come on then, run,” I said, and in a cruel moment I wished I’d had spurs or a whip or anything really to drive into her flesh and get her to move. What’s wrong with a horse that doesn’t run away from danger?

“I can’t run,” she whispered, horrified.

“Come on, yes you can,” I said, because I heard the voices closing in and the blood rushing in my ears. “Please, please, just do it.” A shot rang out and now I actually panicked and kicked my heels as hard as I could into her sides. Shocked, she broke into a run, down the gravel hill, while I clung to her muscular neck and was thrown back and forth on her back.

I heard another shot, and at first I thought a stone had hit me on the leg, that we’d kicked up some pieces of gravel; I didn’t realize I’d been shot until another shot hit my friend in the shoulder and she whinnied and threw me off and the last thing I saw was how she galopped into the woods, before I cracked my skull open against the trunk of a birch tree.

I’m not one to say what happened after it all went black that night.

For several weeeks I floated in and out of pain and morphine highs at the hospital, dreaming long white dreams about sand dunes and dark waters and now and then people came to visit and talked by the side of my bed as if I wasn’t there, but there was no way for me to relate to what they said.

“… if she hadn’t…”

“… enough trying, we ought to…”

A sad figure looked at me; its body was that of a human, but its head was that of a horse, and it couldn’t say anything to me. The mist returned, the voices:

“… these women, you know what they…”

“… even if you explained, nobody would..:”

Now the proprietress of the riding school was sitting at my bedside. It was like I saw her in a dream. Like seeing a dead person who visits you to warn you. I don’t know why she appeared so clearly, when all the others were just obscure mumbling shadows.

“Little Ida,” she said. She sat stern and tall on the chair. The funny thing is, she was still in her riding clothes, even wearing the helmet, and her long white hair hung in a braid across her shoulder. She had a whip on her lap. “You might think I’m a vengeful person. That I’ve come here to threaten you.”

I couldn’t answer her, just lie in bed and stare. My body seemed to have become part machine, with all the tubes coming in and out of it.

The proprietress walked over to me and looked straight into my face. I saw her bloodshot eyes, the wrinkles around the mouth. She stroked my hair and her hand was cool and dry like paper. “There’s one thing you should know. There’s no need for me to threaten you. As soon as you try to explain to anyone what you’ve experienced, you’ll soon realize that what you’ve been through, no person will believe in. There are such experiences. Experiences that separate you from everyone else alive, because you can never share them.”

The next time I woke up there was an extravagant bouquet of flowers on the bedside table, dropping leaves and pollen onto the bedding. A card stuck out, and the card said:



Many years later when I travelled through Härjedalen with my research group to study bat migration patterns across northern Sweden, we came across a whole troop of riders on the road. We stood there in our windbreakers, wet with dew, and watched them trotting by, one after one; proud they looked down on us from the backs of the horses, girls in riding boots, with braids hanging down their backs.

What I felt then, I can’t explain. One of my colleagues muttered with a lowered voice, “Well well, you sure know what those women really do with their horses.”

“What?” I said, ice cold. “I actually haven’t got the faintest idea!”

and he looked away, embarrassed.

“Don’t take it so badly, Ida,” somebody said.

It was just because I used to ride.

Asleep in my single bed I gazed through the window and into the woods. I stuck my hand through the window, into the night. And under the palm of my hand I felt the manes of horses, horses riding free, free through the whole night, riding free through the country.

Text: Zola Gorgon
Image: From The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes, Edward Topsell, 1607

Bug story

Once upon a time, a summer by the sea, there were some children in a hot, sweaty apartment. Any alcohol that came into this apartment would soon be gone again, except this one bottle of Veuve Clicquot which Laura had bought. The unopened bottle of Veuve stood there collecting dust in the living room while we drank every day, wearing second-hand clothes with designer labels on the tags which we didn’t know if they were real or fake, with a backdrop of shadows climbing on thin yellow walls in LED-lighting. It’s not as fun to drink with people who always want to drink. Every morning Laura would say “I forgot everything that happened last night”. And John would say she lied, that she was using that as an alibi.

A few years later, a terrorist drove a van over Las Ramblas and mowed down the crowd. No one in the full use of his mind can see people rocking along Las Ramblas and not think that they are vermin. But vermin usually have a different character, less obvious. They emerge from nowhere; oh, have they been there all along? Like when John opened the cupboard under the sink and there was a family of cockroaches. We made a big fuss out of this to our parents when we called home, although we had sort of already known along the were there. They had made themselves known through that we’d heard sounds, scratches, and found feces. Anyway, I heard this story from a girl who lived in Hawaii, where there were so many insects that no insect spray, fire or agent could secure the room where she slept. Every night she mashed five bananas and put them in the other corner of her bedroom. It was her offering to them, and they let her sink down among her blankets and sleep peacefully. 

It was also the case with the thieves in El Raval that they came out of nowhere. Suddenly one night a man was pulling on my bag. I had it over my shoulder, so I stood and howled, trapped within the strap of my bag until he released it. Another time, some teenage boys tried to rob John and take his wallet. He chased after them in the rain, ruining his black pointy shoes that he’d bought for prom the year before, until they started throwing euro banknotes at him. As John was bending down to stuff the wet banknotes into his back pocket, he felt something was already there. It was his wallet! Had it been there all along? So then it was John who had robbed the teenagers of 50 euros. He took us to a restaurant with that money, one of the outdoor cafes by the harbor. Fields of white parasols and tablecloths, divided into grids that arbitrarily separated the restaurants. But they were all the same kind of place, where you could sit still and wait. 

There is this picture of me with weed bags stuffed in my mouth and in my bra. The dealers would write the name of the strain on the baggies. CHANEL, was one for example, written with a black marker pen. Once when John came home, he picked up my weed bags and said: who has bought such a snot-ton of weed? He didn’t get the aesthetic. This weed had me a bit paranoid, jiggly, and there were black horrific holes, deceptively deep like the surface of a black pond, but actually more like the slight fall you experience before going to sleep. I’d fall into them for a second, for example, walking from the shower along the dark corridor to my room. Before me I saw my used underwear lying on the wet floor, among the grains of sand from the beach. John had just entered the bathroom, the horror! But as I went to look later, neither John or the panties were there. 

There were several uninhabited apartments in our house and several uninhabited rooms in our apartment. In one of the empty rooms was the hamster Fifa. A girl had left several small cages with hamsters at my school and I, heroically, took one of them home. I walked across Las Ramblas with the terrified hamster in the little cage and thought, now, little hamster, don’t be scared no more. But as it turned out, I was scared of the hamster’s small teeth, and the fact that the hamster didn’t seem to care about people, or about anything. I bought it a larger cage and set it up in the dark, unoccupied room which always had its curtains drawn. I have no real memory of Fifa in daylight after me and Laura went to buy a bigger cage, and I asked her, have you thought about quitting drinking? Her reaction surprised me, which was to turn around and run away. I had thought I was her saviour. 

Somehow I had become a perpetrator and animal abuser by taking on the task of saving Fifa. If I had not done this, I would not be responsible for Fifas whole hamster predicament, ending up alone in a cage in a dark room. You risk becoming a perpetrator as soon as you take on the role of the saviour. When you feel responsible for everything, you soon become eager to deprive them of their agency. What are you going to do about Fifa? John asked on the day I was leaving the apartment. I was going to go drink two small beers and smoke a joint, was what I was going to do. 

Image: Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, 1490-1510
Text: Fredrika Flinta


Nebuchadnezzar was full of grief, and the form of his visage was suddenly changed against Meshach: therefore he spake and said “I’m crying, little brother. They are in a meeting waiting for me. While I’m mourning they get together to plot against me. What a great sadness, melancholy, depression! Where would I go for support? Who would I tell? When I cry it is for you to grow and mature, little brother” Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of Meshach, and spake, and said “Little brother, I do not want another person, that’s my feature. Even in garbage I see great value. By God, I am satisfied, yet you don’t believe me. Come on, I’m surprised you still hate me. The key to blessing is gratitude and I am grateful, little brother. I extend my hands to you, knowing my destiny is upon you. Nothing is perfect, nothing. He who surpasses your beauty, none, little brother.”

Meshach answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, I am not careful to answer you in this matter. We are all weak creatures compared to you. Your glory alone is yours. No one likes to be burdened by evil and also he who knows the meaning of love is perishable. Yet there are those who want their love to be ruined, again and again they will go to their end to find out. That’s what their souls are like, and bad things follow. O great King, keep me from knowing love like theirs”

Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said, “The key to goodness is patience and I have patience. Even though you are good, little brother, you are praying so that I may be harmed. You are inventing a false secret for yourself. Be patient and let me tell you the truth.

It is better for you to not bring me down” Then the king commanded the most mighty man that was in his army to undress Meshach, and Meshach was undressed, his coat, his hosen, and his hat, and all his other garments. Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, “Your eyes do not look at me, little brother. Why do they not look at me? I shall pour for you a good wine so that you may see me clearly. You do not know what God’s purpose is for you. This is how it is, little brother. Do you remember the note found near Tenco? It said he had decided to kill himself as a protest against the jury and members of the public who had voted against him. Look at me, little brother. Why do you not look at me?”

Then Meshach looked upon Nebuchadnezzar and said to him, “When the war started all the people looked with hope to Tenco. They spoke for him, they prayed for him, they sung for him, they did everything to hold up his hands, as Aaron did for Moses, but whilst they were praying for his success you were undermining the fabric of your own kingdom by playing the fool with me, having me advise you, having me telling you what to do, having me undressed. It is better to deserve me, and to go without, than to have me undeserved.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with a great dark passion and kissed Meshach on the lips, and spake, and said, “Deserve has nothing to do with it, little brother. You found me enjoying a good life, you literally requested to command me and I accepted. You found me enjoying wealth, and asked to take over control and I accepted. I bought myself a Mercedes Benz and asked you that we go out for fun. When we reached the road side you ordered that I take you back where you had been so that people would think it was you who bought this car. Little brother, deserve has nothing to do with it. Yet I pray that it stays this way, and the days will pass until the end of time. It’s time you learned to be a man, but such a thing is impossible, and when I kiss your lips I am sure of it. Little brother, go back to your parents home, there you will find your childhood bed. Your body is still youthful and beautiful but you have destroyed my face. Your habits have destroyed my face. Today problems, tomorrow problems, I’m tired, little brother. Today fighting, tomorrow quarreling, I hate it, little brother. This life has become unbearable to me. Forgive me!”

Thus Nebuchadnezzar threw himself down into the midst of a burning fiery furnace and was killed, and the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, said to each other upon hearing the news, “There is no such uncertainty as a sure thing.”

Text: Ian Memgard
Image: Pierre-Louis Herold

Gates of Darkness

I attended a meeting with some psychology students as for a long time I’d felt rather crazy. They showed me drawings I’d made as a child, and asked me about their meaning. They wanted to know who was king at the gates of darkness. “Answer us!” said the leader of the research group, who with his bloodshot eyes really seemed to be at the precipice of insanity. But my child psychology was a fantastic enigma and not so easily solved – neither through image therapy, IQ testing, or mysterious phrenological readings of the shape of my skull. Like when you put something in a safe place, not to lose it, and hide it so safely that you can’t even find it yourself, I’d outsmarted myself along with everybody else.

Instead I started thinking of the day I saw a sexy dad in the full force of the sun while I queued endlessly to pick up a package at the post office. Sometimes it’s so funny to be a man who looks at other men… especially now, when I’ve got a moustache, and because being outside of your home is a little taboo. My gaze penetrated his ass. Neither him, nor his Capri Sonne-drinking child noticed my lustful eyes. I felt the corona dust in the heat and combined with the sweet shame, it made me cough. On my way home, I thought about when Verlaine went to confess, and the priest said, “at least you’ve never had sex with an animal, right?”

I started thinking about tinder. All homosexuals nowadays seem to have very advanced names. Bollo, Trollo, Sonquisolo – those are your names! Without progress, life would be unbearable, and I guess the same applies to homosexual men and their names. This development makes me happy. Sometimes I just walk around in my flat with a glass of plum wine and pronounce their names: “Good evening, Bollo, and good evening to you too, Trollo,” I say to myself and have a good laugh. There’s no doubt about it – I really know how to have fun.

I started thinking about the darkness, about the gates of darkness. My mum once said to me, “All good things start by turning away from the gates of darkness.” But what about all the bad things? I’m starting to think they start with having good taste. The only reason I’ve done the things I’ve done is good taste. When I have sex it’s in good taste. I never lie there after sex is over and congratulate myself and my fucker on how good we’ve fucked each other. The sensation and pleasure quickly fade and often I feel quite alien from what I’ve just participated in. The appeal of the gates subsides as quickly when you’ve taken the step and found yourself on the other side of them – in hell. “Is everything okay?” asks he who lies next to me. I’ve grown tired of being my own life. A person is their life and your life is your self but I’m damn tired of it.

I thought about he who tried to shut the gates of darkness. How the endless light of the sun burnt his skin and turned him into a petrified pillar of salt in the desert. Then I thought about the guy in the döner kiosk downstairs and how his long eyelashes met the skin on his round cheeks, and I thought about many other guys I’d seen, and I thought about what it’d be like to live in the middle ages and maybe only see a new hot guy maybe once a year, like at some annual farmer’s market. What an experience it must have been! Maybe that’s why they wrote epic poems about heaven and hell while we write songs about how wet our pussies are, even though they’re not at all wet but dry like the desert.

Then who was the king at the gates of darkness? “Who can be lord over such a situation?” I said to these psychology students. Nobody can shut the gates of darkness, they can never be closed. No king in the world could have managed it, because the powers of darkness are as eternal as those of goodness, and they both press at the gates from each side. But we, at least, have the choice to turn away from the gates of darkness. Turn away from the gates of darkness, god damn it! I stopped meeting these manic psychology students, and my life once again seemed normal, but in the end nothing is normal neither is God.

Text: Ian Memgard
Image: Zola Gorgon