(When All is Said and Done is the fourth 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 Pure White and The Filthy Black (part 3)
1:43 – January 15, 2005
I want to tell you about something now, something that happened with me several hours ago. I know that you are willing to listen to me now. You have done it so many times. That is why I turn to you yet again. And I owe you so many sleepless nights. It is hard to find the right words to describe it. Try not to focus on how I write it, but understand the situation. But before I do that, let me say one thing, which you already know.
Despite the fact that Sarita and I fight constantly, we reconcile quickly after yelling, hitting and throwing plates. The thing is that we love each other, but in itself, our love is expressed in some violent way. I hope that you understand me now, my dear friend. I do not know why it is as it is. I can only guess. I am not trying to excuse myself in any way now. Neither do I want to do it, not this time in any case. I just want you to know that she means a lot to me, though quarrels are more common in our home than maybe they are in someone else’s.
After a Friday-night fight with Sarita, I went out. As you already understand I was very nervous. It was cold outside, minus ten degrees probably, but I did not care about the temperature then. Neither did I care about the direction. I wanted just to go away from the flat, away from the town, away from the world. I had never felt so worthless before. In fact, I did not see a point in living. I did not understand why such a person as I should walk upon the earth and plague others with my infected personality. I know that what I am saying seems unbelievably extreme. And it is actually, now that I think about it. But then, just several hours ago, it did not at all seem irrational. There and then it seemed as logical as it could get. That is to take my life, my worthless and meaningless life. I was not thinking straight, obviously. But, my dear friend, I did not want to see my near and dear suffer, you know? It felt that for my entire life I had only made others suffer. And I am not less sick and tired of it all now than I was several hours ago.
I walked along the bank of the river, which, as you know, I would always do, when I feel bad. Stupidity of all kinds captured my thoughts. My brain felt like jumping out of my head. My eyeballs were hot and bloody. When I came staggering to the bridge over the deep water, I did not recognise myself and cast myself in.
(I cannot write this without tears on my eyes.)
When the water was all around me it felt like someone had given me anaesthesia. I felt enclosed in a little frozen room without sound, without light, without life. I did not feel my limbs. My whole body became a shapeless lump. I could not move and I could not breathe. For the first time in my life I felt really happy. My stone-cold thoughts clanged in my head, “Finally you have freed the world from your terrible hypocrisy. Finally the world can breathe out. Finally… finally…”
I do not know how long I was underwater before I felt an almost imperceptible splash. I did not hear it, but I felt it in my body. Then I felt a hard and fine grip on my shoulders and I awoke as if from deep dream. When my unexpected saviour laid me down on my back in the snow, I was filled with the worst wrath in the world. I managed to get up to my feet and started shouting at the man and throwing evil blows of my clenched fists on him. He was a burglar who stole my only effort to do something right, I thought. “You had no right to save me,” I yelled without words on my lips while I was trying to reach his head with my strokes. “It is my life,” I cried. “And no one will control it, except for me!”
After a couple of successful strikes, when I got exhausted of hitting his shoulders, he quietly lifted his jacket from the ground, put it around me and then he said, “Come!” Then he reached out his hand to me and it was then that I noticed that his eyebrow was bleeding. I looked at his clothes. They were not drier than mine. “Come,” he repeated like a mother, when her child is in danger, tries to softly persuade the little one to come down from the windowpane, for she understands that she must not scare the child with her threats or shouts—otherwise the child can find himself in more dangerous circumstances.
I did not know where we would go and what he wanted to do with me, when he asked me to come. Come? What? Where are we going? I remembered what happened to me last fall, when I went for a walk in the wood. Do you remember? I remembered the low-hanging branches and the high treetops, the chilly gaze and the strong grip. How fricking near danger I had then and how near another danger I could have been now! “A cup of warm tea will be enough,” I heard his voice. It was difficult for me to understand what he said. It must have shown, for he added, “So you don’t freeze completely,” and he smiled at me. “When all is said and done, a cup of warm tea is the best thing in the world after taking a bath in ice-cold water, isn’t it?” And so I smiled at him and said, “Why did you do that? Why did you risk your own life?” He sighed lightly looking at his ice-stiff jacket and said, “Your life is more worthy than my clothes. But my own life, I lay it down voluntarily. I have the right and authority to lay it down and to take it up again.”
My dear friend! You will most probably never hear from me again. But I promise you that you will never be forgotten. You are the person whom I will always long to be with. To you I am most thankful. You see, he offered me something I needed. And I accepted it. He offered me life—something I could not refuse.
Next week: She Stands on The Edge (part 5)