This is my second story on Nifty.
It's a fragmentary story, and it moves along several timelines. It is a love story, and it evolves slowly. I don't shy away from sex, but I like it best when sex sneaks up on you and tickles you, rather than pours a bucket over your head. So you have to wait a bit before the heat is on.
Love does not abide by religion or by law. Love is the ultimate anarchist. The term "sin" is meaningless in love's language, as is the term "underage".
If you disagree with this statement, go find another story to read.
If you should happen to like my story, please tell me.
And please remember: http://donate.nifty.org/donate.html
For the record: The age of consent is 16 in Norway.
THE SOUND OF HIS FOOTSTEPS
→ Sander → → Diary 2018
Relationships. Networks. Those are the words. Building networks. Nurturing relationships. Reading the script, running through the lines. See those chalk marks? Well then, move accordingly! Lost it? Someone will cue you in! Let's all get this show on the road.
Count me out. None of this is mine. The present is a just a consequence. The past needs polishing or it will be lost to the pain of emptiness. My back will be against the wall no matter how thick the make-up.
Tromsø, August 1989
Good to see you again. And a little sad too, on both occasions. Hope you aren't too disturbed by everything.
When you left, I was reminded of an essay one of my more unpredictable students handed in a couple of years ago.
The assignment read : "GANGS – the hows and whys of peer pressure", and I remember thinking of you then, and I'm
thinking of you now. Maybe because I found the essay so hard to assess, not to say mark. But I loved the repetitive fairy-tale style.
I enclose it with this letter. Don't analyze. Just read it.
There are some students you never forget. As you well know.
Stay healthy and don't forget I am still
Your friend Fred
Essay . Theme: GANGS.
Anne Line Eilertsen Sept 18 -85
Once upon a time in a land far, far away there lived a flock of trolls in a cave in a forest on an island in a lake. Every day they slept in the cave, and every night they were out to find something to eat. For this is how it is with trolls: They eat anything that isn't troll, they eat creatures that run and creatures that fly, they eat creatures that crawl and creatures that swim, anything that moves, and as they devour everything around them , they multiply so there are more and more of them, for that's how it is with trolls.
One night there was nothing more to find. No big animals, no little animals, no birds in the tree tops, no fishes along the shore of the black lake, no small and blind crawling things under rocks or in the ground. And there was great unrest among the trolls, for trolls become disturbed when they do not understand things. Which is fairly often, for if there is one thing we all know, it is that trolls are stupid.
"What shall we do?" the trolls said to each other. "The only things here are rocks and trees and water and trolls, and we can't eat rocks or trees or water or trolls. What shall we do?"
It so happened that in the flock was a troll who was the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken of all the trolls, and whom the other big and blustering trolls used to knock about and steal food from and push into the black water.
"We have to look elsewhere", the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken troll said. "On the other side of the black water there are trees and rocks and surely something to eat, for I have seen light there at night."
"Light?" the trolls shouted to each other and shuddered. "Light is dangerous to trolls!"
"No!" the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken troll said. "It's not like the big light in the sky that trolls can't survive, it's little lights that are warm and yellow and red."
And little lights that are warm and yellow and red are no threats to trolls, for they are good at making little fires and they like to watch little things burn and be destroyed , for that's how it is with trolls.
"It's too far away" the trolls growled , "and we can't walk on the black water, we sink and we disappear."
"I don't!" said the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken troll. " For each time you have thrown me into the black water, I have learnt more and understood more and made friends with the black water."
And so it came to pass that the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken troll got a big basket of braided twigs tied to his back and was pushed into the black water to get to the other side and search for what they were now lacking on the island.
On the other side he waded through the shoals to a sandy beach and a grassy slope surrounded by a forest. The grassy slope was fenced in by a stone wall with a wooden gate, and behind the gate he could see the warm and yellow and red glow from lanterns and among the lanterns sat a creature, bowed down and covered in a grey and hooded mantle, and there were sheep and goats and cattle asleep on the grass.
" There is much to see here," the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken troll said to himself as he looked around : Fish were jumping in the shallow waters and squirrels were jumping among the trees, rabbits were running and foxes were hunting and a wolf was howling deep in the forest. "I want to go in there", thought the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken troll and walked towards the wooden gate.
But as he came close, the creature in the grey mantle lifted his head , and a face as radiant and white as a sun beamed against him, and we all know how perilous sun is to trolls. "Oh my, oh my!" the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken troll cried out and averted his eyes and ran for the shore and threw himself into the black water and swam over to the island with the forest and made it to the cave the minute before the big light rose in the sky.
"So? What did you see on the other side?" the trolls asked when evening had come and the big light in the sky had gone away. And the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken troll discovered something no troll had discovered before him: how to lie. For if there is something we all know, it is that trolls can not lie, for lying requires that you can see further than your own nose. "I saw nothing", the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken troll said, for what he had seen he would not share. So the big and blustering trolls knocked him about and stole the fish that had trapped themselves in his basket and pushed him into the black water.
He waded up to the shore again. Now there were even more fish jumping and more squirrels climbing, more rabbits running and more foxes at their heels, and a wolf showed its head through the forest trees. "There is even more to see here now", the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken troll said to himself as he stared at the grassy slope where more warm and yellow and red lanterns glowed and more sheep and goats and cattle lay chewing their cud and the creature in the grey and hooded mantle stood upright with his back to him and a long staff in one hand. " I want to go in there tonight."
But as his hand touched the wooden gate, the creature in the grey and hooded mantle turned, and the mantle fell open and down to his waist and a face as radiant and white as a sun, and a chest as brilliant and silvery as a moon beamed against him. "Oh no! Oh no!" the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken troll thought and his hand came up to shade his eyes. He could not fathom what kind of creature this creature was, for if there's one thing we all know, it is that trolls do not understand beautiful creatures. But he couldn't make himself run away. The blinding creature took one, then two, then three steps closer, and the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken troll felt something he could not understand fall heavily through his breast. He tore loose and ran for the shore and threw himself into the black water and swam over to the island with the forest and made it to the cave the minute before the big light rose in the sky.
"Just fish again?" the trolls said to the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken troll when evening had come and they had knocked him about and stole the fish that had trapped themselves in his basket and pushed him into the black water.
And for the third night in a row the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken troll came though the shoals that were now boiling with fish, up to the shore where squirrels and rabbits and foxes and wolves ran in circles around the stone wall. Inside the wooden gate the sheep were baaing and the goats were bleating and the cattle were lowing in an ocean of warm and yellow and red glowing lanterns and in the middle the creature in the grey and hooded mantle lay flat on the ground. " It will be my turn tonight", the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken troll thought and opened the gate and walked in.
The grey mantle was thrown aside and up rose a naked body, a body of the purest gold and the brightest jewels, a body that glittered and sparkled like a thousand stars. And the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken troll lost all his words and all his thoughts and all his fears, he stood spellbound and bewitched and stared at the most beautiful of all beauty, the most wonderful of all wonders, and all his trollish darkness was lifted off him in a breath of wind.
So the smallest and the smartest and the most soft-spoken troll reached out his coarse and heavy troll hand and touched the brilliant and blazing body. And in a rush of joy he slowly turned to stone.
Oslo, August 1989
Tall windows, no curtains. Jaundice sky, flat afternoon light. Inside, two fat moths whir towards the light and bang against the panes in an instinctive but pointless dance.
The man on the couch does not notice them. Naked, propped up against a heap of pillows stacked under his neck and shoulders, his nose as well as his mind is buried in his book. He swears as the persistent, shrill ringing from the phone penetrates into his preoccupied brain. His book falls to the floor as he heaves himself off the couch and scampers into the hall.
His voice is curt and hostile as he picks up the phone. "Yes?"
"Sander, did you see the news?"
"No, I'm reading."
"Well then, listen. You remember that woman they found dead two days ago? In Hamar?
"No, I don't. Why should I?"
"Because the facts are out now, and the woman was Elisabeth Olsen."
The floor disappear under him, and he falls on his ass with a thud. His voice is gone.
"Sander, are you there?"
He swallows and almost chokes. Coughs. Collects his mind.
"Yes, sure. God. Fuck."
"And that's not all. There's an APB out for Thomas. He seems to have vanished."
Light flashes through his brain, ice runs through his blood, and he is sinking, sinking. This is not possible! his mind screams. A moaning NO! escapes him.
"Well, officially they want him as a witness. But it doesn't look too good that he's disappeared, does it?"
He pulls himself together, finds his voice.
"Fred, where are you? I need to see you!"
"As it happens, I'm at the airport. I was going back north again, but I'll come by if you want me to."
"Please do. Oh, please do."
The phone goes dead. He just sits there.
Aleksander Sveen wrinkled his nose at the unpleasant smell of the green soap all schools seemed to stink of. He finally found his way to the teachers' common room. Phew. New names to learn, new hands to shake, new pages to fill in his almanac. And there was Fredrik Wedel. His first thought was How come those eyes don't fall out? He forced himself to look elsewhere. Warning lamps flashed red. This man was going to be his colleague for the unforeseeable future, so kill off this unwelcome attraction right away. But those enormous pale blue eyes wouldn't move away, and the quick, shy smile smothered his intensions. And then Fredrik Wedel cast a few meaningful glances at the group of aging males and females around them and said: "Good. You'll be my friend."
Autumn passed, they worked together and hung out every now and then, and Fred grew larger and larger in Sanders heart. And in his groin. And then one night they sneaked away from a totally unbearable collegiate dinner and got pretty drunk downtown instead. The pub closed, they shared a joint as they walked seemingly aimlessly through the snowy streets and then found themselves at Sanders door. And there was no invitation, no question, Fred just followed Sander in.
Sander's head was lighter than a cloud. Those huge eyes seemed to suck him further and further in, and when Fred's slender fingers loosened his tie, opened his first shirt button and slid across his throat, Sander's brain evaporated. There was no deliberation, no plan, no thought, just a big, soft certainty when he leaned in and put his lips to Fred's.
Fred sat very still for a moment before he withdrew. A small, surprised Oh! slipped out of his mouth, and Sander fell down into a black hole of regret and shame.
But Fred grabbed his hand. "It's okay", he said, "It's just ... I'm not gay."
The closeness, the smell, those eyes. Oh no, no, no. Sander got up. "I think you had better leave." His voice sounded like it wanted to hide.
"You know, I don't think so", Fred answered. "You'll feel a lot worse in the morning if I desert you now. I'll crash on the sofa."
And that's what he did. And in the morning they talked. And Fred's words became Sanders solace, his comfort, his mantra: Everything is okay. Everything is okay.
→ Sander → → Diary 2018
When I think back – Oh stop it. Nothing, nothing, nothing comes out of burying yourself in the past. They all tell me.
Anyway. I never meant anyone harm. I wanted to be a good guy, how could I get so stuck in resentment and vindictiveness? I just longed to be branded by all-absorbing love, to be devoured by passion that never knew the word sober, to drown in the divine beauty of loving a person without a single reservation. Was it all just to satisfy myself, fill my own needs? Is that why I'm unable to feel empathy, care, devotion to those in my vicinity? Am I void of compassion, of moral? Is that why I feel so lost? So poor?
The room was still unfamiliar, still new. Like everything else around him now. Maybe that was a good thing, or maybe nothing was going to change. He stared out the window, raked his fingers through his black hair and shook his bony shoulders.
He hadn't found his place yet; the place to hide, the harbor where he could be safe from the storms out there, the shelter where he could invent a life for himself, dream up some happiness. He gazed at the edge of the forest a short distance from the house, wondering when he would feel confident enough to search the woods to see if his place was out there. But something held him back. What if he didn't find it? Would he bear the disappointment?
His mother had confiscated the key to his room the minute they moved in, to make sure he knew he was under her control, her surveillance. The only spot not visible from the door was the narrow space between the wardrobe and the wall. He squatted down on the floor there, drew his scrawny knees up to his chest, brought forth his little black book, and wrote a few hurried lines:
SO FAR SO GOOD
No black eyes yet. They'll come, just wait and see.
VERY nice homeroom teacher. Maybe he'll understand. Maybe he also feels his stomach tingle
when he sees his incredibly handsome friend. Maybe they are lovers. Maybe, maybe, maybe I should just drown myself.
Nothing is going to change, everything will be just the old ugly dirty nasty foul stupid shitty shitty shit.
Sander stood leaning against the wall way at the back where the room was darkest. A local band, rumored to be the hottest of the day, were cavorting onstage, bathed in simple, but rather striking beams of white and blue light. The smoke in the room rose and fell, when he squinted he could almost imagine he was under water. The sound was rotten, he couldn't possibly catch a single word of the lyrics, not even what language they were in. Yet there was something likeable about this retro garage rock, something liberating in comparison with the pretentious synth-pop most bands were embracing at the time. The lead singer was kind of hot, and well, the main reason Sander still remained; sober , tired from a strenuous week, testy and irritable, annoyed by the drunk and stoned behavior of the crowd, He withdrew to somewhere deep inside himself, gave himself over to the base that hammered in his diaphragm and the bizarre images he produced in his head from changing between staring and squinting.
"Hi, Sveen, Sir!"
The voice broke into his reveries like a foghorn, forced him to look to his left: Untidy black hair, tufts hanging down the forehead of a narrow face that looked blueish and pale in the semi-darkness. There was something vaguely familiar about this boy, he had an uncomfortable feeling that he should know who this was. Someone from school? Not in his class anyway, and why did think, fortunately? The boy looked far too young to be there.
"Cool, aren't they?" the boy shouted in his ear, then leaned back to the wall next to Sander.
"Do I know you?"
The boy didn't hear him. He had to lean in and almost lick the boy's ear to penetrate the thick mush of noise.
"You seem to know me. The question is, who are you?"
The boy laughed and answered something Sander only caught syllables of, Wedel's class came through at least. Ah, Wedel's class, that would make him sixteen, seventeen at most. Which meant underage for this event. And was that Sander's business, should he do something about it? And if so, what?
The boy made no effort to move, didn't seen fazed by the fact he was next to a teacher from his school. Sander hadn't noticed alcohol on his breath, that probably meant he was on something else. He watched the boy on the sly: Black and red plaid shirt over black T-shirt with Police logo, black jeans held up by a narrow red belt, dirty white trainers. Thin straps of leather wound around his left wrist. A thin and bony body, half a head shorter than Sander, skin that looked young and freshly pure in the weak light. He just stood there by the wall, leaning back with eyes closed, as if he tried to belong, find his foothold there. But he shouldn't be here.
The boy looked up and said something. Sander felt a sudden jolt of irritation, made a spontaneous decision, and gripped the boy's elbow, "Come with me!" and steered him out to the hallway in front of the toilets. There was no protest, the boy let himself be pushed forward. The hallway was rather crowded, and Sander had to lean in close to the boy's face and speak as low and urgently as he could. The boy looked very insecure and started to finger the back of his head, and stared at the floor.
"Listen, you've put me in a spot here. Whether you've sneaked in or carry a fake ID doesn't matter two hoots, you are not supposed to be here. And you have deliberately caught my attention, and so made it impossible for me to ignore you. What do you expect me to do? Look at me!"
Sander bored into his eyes, searching for traces of whatever substance he was on. His gaze was steady, however, not cloudy or glazed, pupils normal as far as he could judge. Hazel eyes, slightly slanted, thick black lashes. Black straight eyebrows. Olive skin, small pimple on the side of his nose, plump upper lip, looked almost swollen, really kissable, and in the name of God, Sander, what are you doing?
He withdrew his eyes faster than a thief, his cheeks burning. The boy didn't say anything. Sander continued, eyes glued to the floor.
"I'm tired and I'm weary, and luckily I'm not your nanny, so I'm going to leave now without more fuss . And so should you."
Like a shot the boy's voice was in his ear:
"Is Wedel your boyfriend? Do you sleep with him?"
Sander was caught totally off guard. He was just a hair's breadth from knocking the boy flat out, instead his hands took a hard grip on the boy's shirt collar, his eyes staring furiously into the boy's face. But something in there made him instantly loosen his hold, something that sent a chill down his spine. There was no impertinence in the boy's face, no malice. Just bottomless hunger.
Oslo, August 1989
"I don't think I ever had a friend like you. With your maturity. Your integrity." Sander's voice is slightly influenced by the aquavit they have consumed together. "It would have been so easy for you to have crushed me. That night when I tried to kiss you, you know."
Fred sits with his elbows on his knees, palms together in front of his mouth, like a gothic Madonna. The room is drenched in Albinoni's strings and organ.
"It had nothing to do with maturity. I wanted us to be friends. I liked you, pure and simple."
"I was so sure you'd feel awkward with me, be afraid of me. Feel disgusted."
"Idiot. I was never afraid of you. I was afraid for you for a while."
Fred stretches, gets up and takes a few steps.
"I wish you hadn't left. But I quite see why. Thomas came back that autumn, you know, back to my class. I haven't seen him since he graduated, though. His mother moved to Hamar last year, I believe. Have you seen him since you left?"
Digging into old wounds, opening them up, creating new ones. Nothing ever heals. Time is no cure. Sander raises a finger.
"Once. Not good."
Fred sighs. "What a stupid mess. What a waste. God, I was so sorry for you. Both of you."
Sander's brain is suddenly crystal clear.
"I have to find him. You have to help me find him!"
Sander's head was in a turmoil. Again and again he replayed the incident in his head, trying to make sense of it. Was this what people thought? Were there others who, like this boy, thought that Fred and he were lovers? Was he so obviously gay that Fred was pulled along into the undertow? And how on earth could he fix this? On the other hand, why was he so upset by a ridiculous uttering from a stupid whippersnapper? And why the hell could he not erase that face, those eyes, those lips from his mind? Who was this punk? What was his name? Why the fuck did he have to stick his nose where it had no business to be?
When he unlocked his door it suddenly struck him that the boy hadn't spoken with a northern dialect.
Sander got into bed. Couldn't sleep. The more he tried to clear his brain, the sharper the image of this brat emerged. The hair, the face, the skin, the body, like a polaroid without sound, without smell. He forced other images into his head, fantasized other bodies to cover the disturbing picture of the boy, bodies of models and pornstars, wide shoulders and flat stomachs, tight Levi's with a prominent bulge, a wet T-shirt he could pull off, an armpit to sniff and a navel to tongue, a nipple to tease, a zipper to open. Slowly, slowly smell his way to clean cotton underwear and the musky crotch within, feel his way to a hard cock with an upward curve and a small drop at the tip and ... the moment his orgasm hit him, all he had in his head was the boy in the hallway saying Do you sleep with him?
Fred pulled him aside during lunch break. "Now, what's up with you?"
"Nothing's up with me. Why?"
"I read you like a book. Your face speaks louder than words. Didn't you know?" He smiled his quick, contagious smile.
"Oh. Okay, I'll tell you after school. We'll go down and sit on the pier. I need some bloody air!"
It was one of those September days that are so rare in the north, sunny and warm enough to sit shirtless and relish the perfection of the weather and the view while Sander told his story. Fred was silent all through. Then he cocked his head and looked curiously at Sander.
"Why does it bother you if people think we have sex?"
"Why?" Sander cut in vehemently. "Because it it's unfair to you! It gives a totally wrong impression of you, of our friendship. And it's all my fault! My fault for being so obvious! And how can I fix this?"
"Come off it, there's nothing to fix. It doesn't worry me at all. Those that know me, know who I am."
"How can you be so cool? Why are you always so nice to me? I screw up all the time. And who the hell was this ... individual anyway?
Fred reflectively stroked his chin. " By your description, I'd say it was Thomas Olsen."
"And what kind of a sorry bastard is he?"
"I actually don't know the first graders that well yet. But he's certainly not a sorry bastard. He's very reticent and shy, maybe because he's a newcomer. He's quite smart, by the way."
"He wasn't exactly shy yesterday. What on earth could have made him think that I ... that we ..."
Fred showed signs of a growing impatience.
"Come on, Sander. We're together almost all the time. Someone is bound to make the wrong connection. And then there's the way you look at me. Now, don't get me wrong, I like the way your face is so easy to read."
"Now you make me feel naked. Spied upon. I've never seen this kid before, why would he have any thoughts about me at all? Or us?
"You may not have noticed him, but he has clearly noticed you. Why else would he try to get your attention?
He sits in silence, lifts his head as if to say something, then seems to think twice. Finally:
"Listen. You are a very ... attractive guy, don't you know? There is something special, something really fascinating about you. Everyone notices. Some will appreciate it, some will dislike it. Feel threatened, be jealous. Attack you. Whatever moved Thomas to do what he did, I can only guess."
Sander blushed. He was not used to hear people assess him that way, and it made him uncomfortable.
"I'm so fucking naïve. I'm really sorry, Fred. You may have picked the wrong friend."
Fred's protests didn't change the darkness in Sander's confused mind. He got up and left Fred on the pier, broke into a run, needed to get away from it all. He walked and alternately ran through the high street, southward through the residential areas, all the way to the headland, blind and deaf in his own surrealistic world. He had to stop to pick a pebble out of his shoe, and as he stood there, stooped over his foot, the fog lifted in his head. And he knew. He knew why the confrontation with the boy in the hallway had stung him so hard. He knew why he was in this emotional cul-de-sac. He knew why the men he had met and gone to bed with always seemed to lack something, why he always got out of their beds as soon as he could, why he never left anything of himself, not a single emotion, in those bed. Why he never returned their calls. They were not Fredrik Wedel. And he could never have Fredrik Wedel.
The boy was in his corner behind the wardrobe, crying softly as he wrote in his little black book:
WHY WHY WHY WHY?????????????????
He's mad at me for what I said.
I'm just SICK SICK SICK
I screwed up I ruined everything he hates me and I want to DIE.
He's so beautiful. I FAINT. Why can't he see me? Maybe I'm invisible, maybe I don't exist?
I KNOW. I'm ugly I'm disgusting but I'm not stupid. I know why they bully me. Why can't they just leave me alone and pretend I'm not there, like he does?
But I want him to see me. I want him to take my hand and take me to a place somewhere far far away where there is no sorrow and no angry voices and no daylight and only dark warm nooks and crannies and he will kiss me and feel me and love me
4 EVER & EVER & EVER
YES, Sveen, Sir. Aleksander Alexander Aleks Alex Sveen. A. Sveen.
→ Sander → → Diary 2018
My old wayward self really believed that love with all its manifestations was the strongest power. Eros. Agape. Philia. Sooner or later the poisons of evil and hatred would turn impotent and unharmful, and love would triumph chaos and defeat ignorance. How was I to know that love and hate are teamed horses: If one takes off, it never gets away from the other.
I don't regret what I did. But I shouldn't have waited so long. And now it's all ashes and dust.
Others take care of the world. My time has been. And when my heart is to be weighed against the feathers of Ma'at, will it balance the scales? Or will the judges bow to each other and say: This one is for Ammit.
With great care Sander avoided the boy in the hallway, as he called him in his mind, even though he knew his name now. From the corners of his eyes he would notice when and where the untidy mop of black hair appeared, so he could change directions and never again have to confront those eyes, and he would try to rid himself of the nagging desire to learn what lay behind those damned words of his. But he couldn't forget. That fucking punk, could he not just jump out of Sander's head?
Then one day in the school yard he incidentally came upon a gang of four seniors who were positioned like a wall of backsides, while something obviously went on in front of them. He dutifully went to inspect, and there was the boy in the hallway, pushed around and shoved backwards by another senior. The last one's voice could be heard above the hooting and the laughter.
"You want cock, huh? It's what you want, fag? Some cock?" He was grabbing his crotch.
The boy was staggering from the shoves, his face flushed, but he threw his hair back and stared defiantly at the senior guy.
"Not yours, at any rate!"
The senior balled up his fist and hit the boy hard in the shoulder, the boy lost his balance and fell backwards with a thud into the newly fallen snow. Sander marched in between them, facing the senior, lips tight with fury.
"What the hell is the matter with you? What kind of behavior was that?"
The other guys opened their eyes wide and blew air out of their pursed lips. The attacker stared angrily at Sander, but soon realized he was defeated. The boy got to his feet and scampered off, Sander saw him look back twice before he was out of sight. Sander hadn't quite finished with the bully yet.
"The next time you want to play tough guy, why don't you take on someone your own size? Or haven't you got the balls to do that?"
Walking away from the episode, Sander suddenly felt the impact of what had been said. And he felt his heart sink with betrayal as he realized his most prominent feeling was relief that the boy in the hallway had disappeared and saved him from confronting him again.
→ Sander → → Diary 2018
So I ask myself: Why did you act like you did? Why do you still act like you do? Don't you ever learn?
I guess not. And then this futile and completely foolish hindsight: Why did you ... What if it hadn't ... What would have happened if ... Like thieves in the night these questions haunt me. And I do look back, almost perversely much, in wonder about that strange game of coincidence my life was. Is. Fate's lawless juggling with meetings and happenings. Actions that seemed so clear, so imperative, and later proved so wasted and without purpose.
Consequences are unpredictable. The orderly domino effect has no meaning in my godless head, in my private paradox: I have no influence, no control, but neither am I included in some higher plan or under some divine leadership. I am just a collection of carbon molecules that dissolve and regroup without consciousness. I am cells that are born and die without will. I am water: Fog into rain, rain into lake, lake into fog.
Oh, my naïve hopes that love was my motivation, my guide, my king. What is love? An outlet of chemical compounds, an untouchable stream of electrolytes that an idle brain receives and classifies as pleasant or unpleasant.
I'm without responsibility. I'm free of guilt.
The bathroom mirror was too big. The light was too bright, too revealing.
The boy stood naked, rubbing his shoulder. It hurt, but not nearly as much as some of the other knocks he had taken. The physical pain was in many ways a bonus, it took the attention away from the irrepressible demons that poisoned and numbed his thoughts. The demons of the big why.
Not why they bullied him and attacked him with words and fists. He had long ago come to terms with the logic, the justification of this. He knew he was a loser, a turd, an abnormal, gross worm, and he understood that was why they had to crush him.
But this inexplicable thing: Why had God done this to him? Why had God made him into what he was? He had tried for so long and so hard to be the way God wanted him to be, tried to be humble and devoted, tried to atone for his sins, tried to love Jesus. But it was evidently not enough, God reminded him relentlessly of how useless he was, how worthless, how unclean, how contaminated. And he had no idea of how to remedy his failure, there was nothing he hadn't already tried, no road he hadn't already walked down.
No one loved him. No one could love him. The mirror threw it at him: How could anyone love a body like that? Skin and bones, pale, ugly. Well, pale was his own doing, but there was no way he would take his shirt off outdoors. Ribcage that stuck out, hipbones that stuck out, shoulder blades that stuck out. Skinny legs and bony knees, legs that were useless for football or ski jumps. And then this uncontrollable, disturbing protuberance between his legs. It looked like it didn't belong there, like someone had thrown it at him and it had just stuck. Never ever would he take his shorts off in the showers after PE. They ridiculed him enough already.
And now Sveen would think him ridiculous too. He would laugh at his weakness, his unmanliness, how easy it was to knock him down, laugh at what a sissy he was. And this hurt the most. It boiled and bubbled, it stung and it cut through him: Sveen had seen his humiliation, seen them unveil him in all his wretchedness, his spinelessness. And Sveen had evaporated like steam, beyond all reach, and he had left a hole, a crater where the boy's soul should be, but where some dark and terrible creature had moved in. A creature that bared its teeth and howled at the moon.
He gripped the edge of the basin, leaned in and spat a glob of spit at his mirrored face. And with tears silently running down his cheeks, he licked the spit off the mirror, then sank to his knees and closed his fingers around his hopeless, vicious and irresistible cock and felt it grow in his hand.
Winter came early that year, two days of heavy snowfall in the middle of October froze Sander into lethargy. His life had changed since the incident with the boy in the hallway. His friendship with Fred suffered. An unwelcome streak of hesitation had sneaked into Sander's dealings with his friend. He took great care not to touch Fred, not to look at him that way, keep all kinds of feelings in check. On the surface they might have passed for the same old chums, but Sander was conscious of a major difference in his outlook: Spontaneity gave way to premeditation, whims lost to logic, even calculation. There was a darkness and a heaviness in him that he just could not overcome, a darkness that felt as thick and viscous as tar, and that he could not get rid of. Nor could Fred, even though he did his best.
The rest of his friends, or maybe they had better be termed acquaintances, gave up on him, all but Beate. She was the new girl at the public library, he had met her one late night at a disco. They were both drunk, and she had tried to seduce him. But instead of hostility, her lack of luck with him became the start of a friendship. And a relief for Sander, who now had an audience to whom he could vent his frustrations concerning his rapidly growing depression, his unrequited love for Fred, and his nonsensical hang-ups about the boy in the hallway. He told her the story several times, blamed the boy for disturbing his relationship with Fred, accused the boy of depriving him of both his sleep and his tranquility.
Friday it stopped snowing, Sander and Beate were out on the streets after the last show at the movies, arguing amiably whether to have a beer, go dancing or call it a night. The disco with the best music was at the south end of the main street, they decided in favor of it. The shortcut from the cinema was through the street where Sander rented the first floor of a small, old wooden townhouse, and they thought they'd just have a drink at his place before going out. Two blocks from the cinema they became aware of a person on his hands and knees in the bank of snow from the plowing truck, the person's back was heaving like he was vomiting. They crossed the street to avoid him. But as they were passing him on the other side, the person seemed to break in two, and fell down with his face in the snow and his ass in the air.
Sander heard Beate whisper Oh, no, and she ran over to the human heap, put her arms around his chest and hoisted him up. It seemed to be a young boy, and Sander could see he was way to unsteady and way to poorly dressed to be out on the streets in the cold, and was busy planning what was the best thing to do with him as he crossed over after Beate. She turned him around, and the recognition stung Sander like a knife. The boy had his hair cut short, probably why Sander hadn't identified him right away. He had scratch marks on his forehead and a red bruise on his cheekbone, his shirt was torn, the buttons ripped out and the facing hung in tatters, his breath came out in short gasps. He smelled of alcohol, but not of puke. His teeth chattered.
"We gotta get him in somewhere, we can't leave him here! He'll freeze to death!" Beate said, ever the emphatic one. "We'll take him to your place!"
Sander protested, hadn't they better take him to the police station? Or the ER? But Beate's northern stubbornness prevailed, and actually it made sense to get him inside somewhere, and Sanders place was just one block away. He just had to swallow his unwillingness to be caught up with this boy again. He couldn't be so selfish right now, the kid needed help. They took hold of one of his arms each. The boy looked up, saw Sander's face and started to weep. Sander let go of his arm and put his arm around his waist instead, squeezed him lightly and rhythmically a few times for comfort, then he saw a black woolen cap in the snow and picked it up. Together Beate and he managed to maneuver the boy along, he shivered like a leaf. At the door the kid made a sharp movement to get away, but he doubled over in pain. Sander thought it just as well to lift him up and carry him up the stairs, struck by how slight he was, and how helpless. Something inexplicable and unwanted stirred in Sander's stomach.
He put the boy down on the couch. Beate sat down next to him, her fingers softly explored the scratches and bruises on his face.
"He's been beaten up!" She turned to the boy again. "Who did this to you?"
The boy didn't look at her, his eyes sought Sander's. "Please", he whispered. "Please ..." Sander came tentatively closer.
"Thomas", he said. "Tell us who did this.
The boy shook his head, closed his eyes. Beate turned to Sander, wild eyes wide open. Thomas? she mimed, the boy in the hallway? Sander nodded. She turned back to the boy.
"Tell me where it hurts."
He touched the side of his stomach. Just like that Beate pulled his shirt and T-shirt out of his jeans and up. There was another bruise across his left ribs. She cautiously felt his pale, concave stomach up to his ribcage. He grimaced.
"My jacket. They stole my jacket", he wheezed. Sander put a blanket over him, tucked him lightly in. The boy inhaled, deeply and shakily.
"We need to get him home", Sander said. "Or to the hospital, what do you think? Where do you live, Thomas?"
The boy lifted one hand, rose halfway, but fell back again. His teeth still chattered.
"No", he pleaded, "Not home. Leave me alone."
He hid his face against the back of the couch, threw the blanket off, grabbed his shirt, pulled it down and held it there. Sander put the blanket back over him, went into the kitchen and signaled for Beate to follow. He closed the door behind them. What now? There had to be a reason why he wouldn't be taken home, but what if he had internal injuries? And shouldn't this be reported? Right away? Wait until morning? Could they risk letting him calm down a bit and listen to what he himself wanted?
When they came back, he was lying as they left him, but his breathing was more stable. Sander put on some music, very low, and stood by the couch to feel himself slowly fill up with an aching tenderness, and something that felt like sorrow. Poor kid.
Beate sat talking to him in a low voice.
"Don't worry. We'll take care of you, no one's gonna hurt you. Wanna talk? What can we do for you? Take you to the ER? Won't you please tell us what's happened?"
He stirred, drew his knees up in a fetal position. With one hand he began to caress the back of his head. He snuffled a little:
"Can I please stay here ... just a little while?"
"Sure. We'll call your parents. To let them know where you are."
"There's no one there. I can get home on my own. Later."
Beate saw how Sander was totally at a loss, completely incapable of handling the situation, so she quickly took control. Told sander to get some dry clothes, got the boy up and off the sofa, accompanied by short moans, and led him to the bathroom. Closed the door behind them, and soon Sander heard water running.
She stuck her head out.
"Clothes, please? Someone kicked him or hit him hard in his back, he's all over bruises. But no ER, no police. He's adamant! So I don't know, maybe the best thing is for him to just stay for a while? And get him a hot drink, okay?"
At last she came out with him in tow, wearing a much to large sweater and a pair of pants that dangled loosely on him. There was something so heartbreakingly young and miserable about his whole appearance, his neck bent, his eyes downcast, no resistance or will as Beate led him back to the couch. He refused the cup of tea Sander had put on the table, so Beate put him down like a baby and tucked him in. She sat down with Sander, like they would sit in the waiting hall at a train station, or in church the minute before the organ set off, or at a death bed. The boy turned from them, curled up and went to sleep.
Beate left shortly after. Sander sat there the remainder of the night, nodded off every now and then, and each time he woke with a start, the boy was the first thing he saw.
Everything has its beginning. Every change has its origin. Who'd have known that the biggest upheaval in Sander's life would start here: His first, and for a long, long time the only night with Thomas, the boy in the hallway.
Sander – the short movie. 2018
Churchyard, early noon, partly clouded sky.
Balding older man sits on gravestone, elbows on knees, hands folded in front of him. Lips moving. Watched by bearded younger man five graves away, toddler trudging at his feet. Labrador puppy on leash scampering about.
Toddler flops down, starts to eat earth. Bearded younger man takes two hurried steps, bends over, picks toddler up, loses leash. Puppy storms over to balding older man, upsets urn with lilies, wags its tail eagerly, sits down and pees on the grave.
Bearded younger man runs over, grabs the leash, apologizes shamefacedly, runs off and leaves the churchyard, toddler under his arm. Balding older man remains seated. Slowly picks up the lilies, replaces them. There is no water left in the urn.
Coffeeshop, outside, late noon, glimpses of sun.
Balding older man sits close to wall, away from others, glass of Latte in front of him, distant look. Starts from a splash. Pidgeon dropping runs down the inside and outside of glass.
Balding older man gets up, disgusted, and leaves.
Kitchen, early evening, rain pouring outside window.
Balding older man in front of stove, pieces of chicken in frying pan. Two steps to the right, picks up can of pineapple chunks and can opener. Can slips, falls to the floor, rolls over under table.
Balding older man bends down, something snaps at the small of his back, falls down on his knees, gasps with pain. Stays there. Tries to get up, falls down. Crawls on all fours out, through hall, into bedroom, opens drawer, rummages for painkillers. Gets halfway up, falls across bed on his stomach.
Penetrating wailing sound. Balding older man rolls off bed, crawls back to kitchen full of smoke, turns stove off, reaches for frying pan, frying pan tips over, falls down, charred pieces of chicken all over floor. Balding older man grabs edge of table, supports himself doubled over to window, opens it. Smoke alarm keeps wailing. Balding older man is lying flat on top of table, swearing, swearing.
In spite of the boy's wishes, Sander did report the incident.
The boy was shy and muted when he woke up, and Sander could easily see he was in pain. The bruise on his cheekbone was changing color, he would have a spectacular shiner within long. Sander tried to question him a little, but Thomas was mostly reticent. By and by he timidly disclosed some bits of information: His mother would be back later that day. He would tell her he'd had a bad fall. The bruises on his back? She never looked at his body any more. No, he wouldn't say who had beat him up. No, he didn't want the police.
Sander refrained from pressing him further, even though questions were teeming in him, and not just about the night before. The boy's clothes were dry, and Sander lent him a coat, told him to give it back at a convenient time, no rush. Followed him to the door. The boy looked anxiously up at Sander, but quickly looked down again. Gave Sanders a hurried handshake and said: "Thank you." Then he was gone.
Sander remained by the closed door, listening to the sound of his footsteps: Da-dunk, da-dunk, da-dunk, limping down the stairs. There was a huge lump in his chest, he wanted to run after him, hold him, whisper comforting words in his ear, blow away the hurt. When the street door slammed shut, he made up his mind and went to the police.
At the station he tried to put the case forward as generally as he could: He had seen the results of an assault, what was the possible procedure? He knew that what he had was meager: No names. No medical report. No witnesses to the actual happening. No victim willing to come forward. He was met with apologies and hands spread out. Unless the victim would report the crime, nihil. Nada. Forget it.
Well, at least he had tried something, not just sat there twiddling his thumbs, tutting and condemning the evils of the world. Good for you, Sveen.
In his corner again, black book in his lap:
Sunday. How can it get worse?
Shirked church, mum is furious, I CAN'T TAKE MUCH MORE NOISE! I'm NOT going to hell for skipping church once and sporting a black eye, am I? Why can't she just STOP?
I don't believe in God anymore, not if it's God that makes her so horrible. I HATE HER I HATE HER I HATE HER. Can I please exchange her for someone nice? Someone who doesn't make me feel so small and so frightened?
God, what if she could read my mind. What if she found out what I think. What I AM. No one must know. NO ONE!
PLEASE GOD SEND ME BACK TO HAMAR!!!!!
Oslo, August 1989
Sander is rummaging through stored papers and old stuff in his attic box room. He should have something here, some old lists, addresses, a note with a phone number, he couldn't have thrown it all out in frustration or rage?
At last he finds the carton box with old references and reports. Among them is a list of students with half term grades from 82. He folds it and put it in his pocket. Under the papers, Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, a book he has been looking for for ages. He picks it out of the box. And at the bottom is his old diary. Just two entries, painfully maudlin rantings about his hopeless love for Fred, and a faded polaroid of him and Fred, windblown on the wharf. He remembers the day.
There is something else sticking out at the back of the diary. A strip of four photos from a photobooth: Thomas making faces. He lifts the strip to his cheek and holds it there, and his sudden, almost unbearable loneliness tears pieces from his heart. And he knows what he needs to do.
Tromsø, August 1989
His plane lands on schedule at Langnes airport. A taxi takes him into town, to the hotel where he has booked a room, a neutral and cheap hotel that holds no memories. He watches the buildings as they pass, some have been demolished and new ones put up, old familiar shops have new names and newly painted facades, what did he expect? Nothing stays the same.
The room is exactly what he wants: White, bare, long and narrow, single bed. A nothing room in a nothing hotel. He throws his bag on the bed, takes out his list of names. Reads thorough them again and feels the futility of his mission. Oh hell, what a totally idiotic idea. What are the chances any of these kids are still here? And if he manages to find any of them, will they know anything of Thomas? 5 years since they all graduated!
But his heart sings that he has to see the city again, has to go through with his plans no matter the outcome. He is on a pilgrimage.
The arctic night is getting darker, but still uncommonly warm. He is consumed by an urge to get out of the hotel. He roams the streets, his feet know the direction. Round the corner. The house is still there. The door is painted grey. He stops at a distance and feels his anger, his loss, and his regrets fill him to the brim.
Three days passed, and the boy came back with the coat.
Sander, coming back from a rushed trip to the supermarket for bread and milk, saw the boy the minute he rounded the corner, he stood stamping the snow on the sidewalk, the streetlamp casting a glow over him. He wore a slightly too small, beige duvet jacket, Sanders coat slung over his arm. Closer, Sander saw how the blue and purple bruise had spread out and sat like a map of Africa from his eye to his cheek. He felt something hectic and untidy take hold of him, like he needed to escape from something he really did not want to escape from. He hurried over, frantically searching for what to say. Had the boy been there for long? Was he cold? And would he excuse him for being absent? Like it was Sander's fault the boy had had to wait. And there was no rush with the coat. He realized he was babbling. The boy said nothing, just held the coat out as if he wanted this to be over.
"Please, won't you come up? I want to know what's happened since I last saw you. You look better. Except for that."
Sander pointed to his cheek. The boy snorted and his lips curled into a short, timid smile. Sander could almost feel his ambivalence: Should he go in with Sander, or should he get away fast? Sander quickly unlocked the door, grabbed the boy by the elbow and pulled him inside before he had time to make up his mind.
Upstairs the boy kicked off his boots in the narrow hall, but kept his outdoor jacket on. He followed Sander hesitantly into the livingroom, but stopped right inside the door. His eyes wavered around the room, as if searching for something unproblematic to fasten on.
Sander started his questioning immediately. They boy first seemed reluctant to answer, but finally thawed a little bit. Yes, he'd had to explain himself to his mum, especially what had happened to his clothes. He had insisted that he had slipped and fallen, and had forgotten his jacket at a friend's house and had borrowed another friend's coat. He wasn't sure whether she believed him or not, but she had other things to rave about, so she had stopped prying. For every small admittance, he took one tiny step into the room. And suddenly the most important thing in the world to Sander was to keep him there.
"Thomas. Sit down, please."
He sat down gingerly at the edge of the nearest chair. Sander continued:
"I have to confess something. I know you didn't want me too, but I talked to the Police after you left. There's nothing they can do unless you report to them."
The boy's brows drew up with worry. He sighed.
"It's not as easy as that. It would only make things worse."
Sander wanted to easy the situation. He brought out a bottle of Coke and glasses, found a bag of chips, and started to rummage for the peanuts he knew he had somewhere. The boy broke into his restless search.
"It's not the first time. It happens a lot. It was the same where I used to live before we came here."
"It's my own fault. That they don't like me. You know?"
Sander wondered if he should start to argue this, remind the boy the ground ethics of human dealings and the objectional behavior of bullies, but then, he was sure this boy knew all he had to say already. Change of direction.
"Were these the same guys that hit on you at school last week?"
The boy didn't answer. Try another door, Sander.
"You smelled of booze. Were you drunk? That wasn't very smart, was it?"
"They forced my mouth open and poured it into me. Then they held my nose and I had to swallow or choke to death."
To Sander, a woolly picture began to grow clearer, a sequence of images starting in the school yard and ending in the snow bank on the sidewalk.
"Thomas, there's something I don't get. Why do you say it's your own fault?"
And like a dripping faucet, little admissions seeped out of him: He was afraid of fighting, he didn't know how to. He sucked at sports. He wore the wrong clothes. He belonged to the Pentecostal Church. Well, at least his mother did. He spoke with the much despised southern accent. He liked stuff the other guys didn't: reading, singing, drawing. They thought him a sissy. They called him girl's names. So. They had imprinted on him that he was worthless.
Sander bled for him as he watched him. Saw the now familiar fingering of the back of his head, saw him open up his face, like he was slowly untying a knot, starting to become more like the unconcerned boy that first had accosted Sander at the concert. But then he abruptly closed up again, became unsettled and fidgety, and rose. Walked out to his boots. Sander followed.
How it came to happen, was an enigma to Sander. But the hall was tiny, they were all of a sudden almost too close. And then the boy's lips unexpectedly grazed Sander's, like a brush of wind. And the tip of his tongue followed the outline of Sander's upper lip. Sander had to pull himself together, gripped the boys shoulders and held him at arm's length.
"Do you actually know what you're doing?"
The boy had his eyes closed, tongue against his front teeth, head bent back, and then he whispered:
"I so know what I'm doing."
As from a snap of fingers in his brain, Sander lost all caution and all reservations, he pulled the boy into his arms and kissed him deeper and hungrier than he'd ever kissed anyone. He pressed the boy up against clothes that hung on the wall, wanted to plunder his mouth, to devour him, bore himself into him until they were a symbiosis that nobody could ever separate. The boy whimpered and moaned, and Sander sobered. He was hurting the boy. The boy had bruises all over him. He had to let go. Didn't want to, but had to. He brushed his finger softly across the boys bruised face, and the question he until then hadn't dared to ask popped up in his head.
"Remember what you asked me the first time I spoke to you? In the hallway? What was the meaning behind that?"
The boy twisted away from him. Cast his eyes down.
"You were ... you are ... you and him, you were my ... fantasy."
He slid out the door, closed it behind him. Sander heard his footsteps down the stairs. But suddenly the boy turned, ran haltingly back up, tore the door open, and caught his breath.
"Can I please come back?"
His soft voice rubbed against Sander's spine like a cat against a trouser leg. His reasoning and his words were long gone, he could only nod. The boy was off before Sander got his thoughts back, and then only one: Oh shit. You're for it now.
(To be continued)