(The Pure White and The Filthy Black is the third of five parts of the short story Slowly, She Lives that I wrote during a spring semester in Hjo folkhögskola seven years ago. You find links to the other parts below. Originally, it was written in Swedish, but I translated it, too. It has been sitting on the hard drive of my laptop since 2006, untouched. Enjoy!)
Previously: The Soundless Movement (part 2)
5:37 – June 3, 2035
Erelah looks at her teddy bears. They observe her with friendly looks round the clock. They have been her friends whose ears were always ready for her stories. They have seen her smiles and they have also seen her tears. She casts a look at her husband who has just turned round. Today, there is no cup of fresh morning coffee beside her when she wakes up. He is exhausted after having gone out of his way at work without breaks. No. This time it is he who gets his coffee in bed. She kisses him softly on the cheek so as not to wake him up and goes out.
The early Sunday morning is clear. The sun wakes up and opens his eyes and smiles at Erelah. The water reflects the sun’s smile and the wind moves of gladness. Erelah walks along the beach in her dressing-gown. She stops and looks at the sea—the sea where the new day is about to begin.
A couple of swans are flying south. Then they change the direction hastily and fly towards the coast where Erelah is standing and admiring the two birds. They do not seem to notice her. Maybe they do not see her in the colorless paleness of the sand. Or maybe they simply do not care about her.
The swans are swimming in the cool clear water, while Erelah is trying to find an answer to the question, which she has not been able to do for the past thirty years. After meeting her husband she has not been able to understand what it is in him that draws her interest. But though she cannot understand it, she accepts it. But even more than the strange and incomprehensible devotion to her husband, she cannot understand his affection for her. That is the question she is trying to find an answer to—why is he still around? Why not someone as beautiful and pure as these swans?
He has always told her that her outer beauty could have been as vain as dust and that he would still prefer to get to know her better with every breath they take together. If it is not her beauty and slender body that attracts her to him, what could it be then? She knows that it is not what’s inside of her that is appealing. Because she is sure that during the first two and a half minutes of their first meeting, she left no doubt that she had nothing but the dirt inside. She was confused. And the swans, the pure white creatures, remind her of the contents of her filthy black self.
Next week: When All is Said and Done (part 4)