The kind of smile a mother gives a son who has been away for too long


It was a most vivid dream.
I entered a second floor apartment in downtown Stockholm. It was a warm summer day. Through the white drapes that were hanging in front of a tall window I could see the sun resting on an orange building across the street. Bodil Malmsten, one of my favorite Swedish authors, sat by a small wooden desk in a white linen dress. The desk was the same kind that I had during first grade. She was happy that I was there and gave me a warm smile, the kind of smile a mother gives a son who has been away for too long, as I entered the room. I told her something about her writing that made her smile even more. Her hair was golden in the sun and her lips deep red. In front of her, on the wooden desk, her new novel. I had been called up to read it.
“It is terrible; I really think I have lost my ability to write. I read through it and I just think it is awful.” She told me as if it was a fact. I looked at her as if I had known her my whole life and seen her self-doubt many times before.
“But isn’t that how you always feel after finishing a novel” I told her.
“Yes, perhaps you are right” she said smiling. She held it up so I could take it. I did not sit down. Another man entered the bright room; he was sweating heavily under the wrinkles of his suit. Also he had been called to read the “terrible novel.” He sat down on a wooden chair at the back of the room. He looked like a man who had travelled from far away and finally could rest. He wiped his large face with a cloth of fine material. A conversation was held between the three of us, I don’t remember the topic. I told Bodil something about her writing and she smiled again, as if I had told her exactly what she wanted to hear.

My alarm went off and I was brutally dragged from the bright room. I woke up in a dark place in a Stockholm fall and immediately tried to go back to sleep.

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