The apartment where I am staying is bright and clean. The corners of the room are as crisp as hospital beds, and the light—still everpresent—is a little more amenable to normal human sleep schedules, thanks to the jutting roofs all around me, even up here on the sixth floor. And my goodness, it's a hell of a view.
After a week or so here, I think I have a relatively solid handle on the logistical side of the city. I know where the best, closest market is, and how to follow the rules of the transit system, and how to get around the rules of the transit system (here's a hint: keep an eye out for the white baseball caps!). I know where to get the highest view, and how to get from there to the nearby lake, and where the most scandalous statuary is. I can find my way from this apartment to the central station, and from there to the market and the main drag and one or two little expat bars.
Most importantly, I'm pretty sure I've been shown what must have been the best place for a Sunday brunch in the whole city: great mounds and vats of every kind of smoked fish you can think of, and a dozen different cheeses, and egg pies, and bacon, and pancakes with cream and jam, and two dozen cold salads, and a cornucopia of little pastries and sweets to wash down with strong coffee. (You'll have to try and forgive me: as I'm writing this, it's well after both the events of this post and lunchtime today, and while our packed meals of boiled eggs, lox, cheese, and tomatoes were delicious, they were rather less than sufficient).
In short, I think I've figured out nearly everything I need to know to subsist and work in this city for an extended period, and I also know I probably won't.
Gothenburg isn't remotely close to the ugliest city I've visited—I'm certain it's pretty far up the other end of the spectrum, actually. There are luxuriant green spaces dotting and lacing and, in some spots, nearly taking over the stricter lines of the mandmade structures—and for that matter, the structures themselves tend toward the same fine-detailed beauty as I saw in New Orleans: roof tiles and window grates and all the small elements that have no need to be made lovely, just useful, nevertheless are.
Within minutes of arriving in town, I made the beautiful mistake of going the wrong way down a street and stumbling into a rose garden in full billowing bloom.
I do feel the cold, though.
I feel it when I walk down the street and my ingrained Southernness comes out in smiles and nods and waves and "hej!s" and is met with awkward lip-curled half-grins at best, and quick scowls of outright suspicion more often. I've seen exactly two groups of buskers. I am starved for music and dance—preferably with others, in that shared flow state I realise now had become a huge part of my daily routine—but when I try to move my body on its own to the same songs from home that must be positively etched into my bones by now, it's stiff and stilted and stuck. My hips stutter; my arms refuse to snake; my thoughts get clogged up and dissolve in my head before they coalesce into words.
I could blame this on lingering jet lag, or the everpresent light, or the fact that I'm isolated in the comfort of a friend's apartment instead of being right in the thick of a backpacker's hostel and thrust into the middle of myriad stories by default. But I can think of distinct instances of each—or all—of those qualifications where I didn't feel so...blank.
It's raining a bit today. It's a good day for a brisk mackintoshed stroll through the gray linearity, allowing myself to sink and wallow in the melancholy a little, but keeping an eye out for a warmer-toned brick here and a softer curve there.
Off we go.