12 Apr 2024
Love Refugee: A Little Spark of Hope
Fiction Love Refugee

Love Refugee: A Little Spark of Hope

Well, that was my first Midsummer… The barbeque was held in a park quite near the apartment I’m staying in, which surrounds a beautiful church set on a hill.

I wondered how easy it would be to find a random group of strangers in a big park, and I did wander aimlessly for a bit, toying with giving up and going home. But then I overheard an English couple discussing where the barbeque might be, so we joined forces and tracked them down.

The couple – Catrin and Ben – turned out to be lovely. They’re over here for Ben’s job, he’s something in computers that flew right over my head – and Catrin is writing a book about 16th century fashion. She nips back to the UK for research every few weeks, but most of the time she potters about coffee shops writing furiously on her laptop. As something of an expert, she promised to take me on a tour of the best coffee shops in Stockholm.

“Don’t do it!” laughed Ben, rubbing the back of Catrin’s neck affectionately, “She’s obsessed.”

“Get lost, it’s brilliant, there’s the one place in Gamla Stan that’s almost as old as Stockholm itself…”

Ben put his hand over Catrin’s mouth and mouthed at me theatrically ‘run for your life’; Catrin elbowed him, and I felt this fleeting sense of – what? Not jealousy exactly, Ben seemed nice enough but not really my type anyway. But they had this easy closeness about them, and I… missed Gustaf. That was it. I got this sudden sense of the four of us laughing and winding each other up, and this quick little stab of loss grabbed me.

I shook it off, and luckily just then we found everyone so I was distracted by lots of introductions and the business of getting drinks and whatnot. Catrin and Ben have been to a handful of these expat events already, so they took me under their wing, introducing me to Americans and Spaniards and Iranians and Russians. It was quite the dizzying international tour, and everyone seemed lovely and friendly and welcoming.

I really needed this, I reflected as I sat on the grass eating a hot dog and sipping some warmish rosé.

Liv and Andreas and even Gustaf are great and I’m glad I know them, but it was such a relief to spend some time with… my people. Not Brits necessarily, though that was nice, but outsiders in Stockholm.

All afternoon and evening, people were telling funny stories about lost in translation moments, or times they tried to make friends with a Swede only for them to scuttle away like a frightened rabbit. It made me realise that it’s not just me being a prat, but the ups and downs that come with living in a new country. Well that’s good then.

As the shadows finally started to get long, and all the civilised people headed home – Catrin and Ben invited me to dinner at theirs next week – a little ragtag group of us polished off the last of the wine, and the talk turned to romance. Or, more accurately, lack thereof.

“I’ve been here more than a year,” a gorgeous redheaded French woman hiccuped, “and I haven’t been asked out once. At home I have men approach me all the time, but here? Nothing. It’s like I’m invisible.”

A Canadian told me how she worked alongside this guy for two years and he literally never said a word to her other than “hej” in the morning and “hej då” as he left for the day. Then one day he asked for her number and now they’re living together.

“I asked him once why he never spoke to me before,” she told me,”and do you know what he said? ‘I didn’t know you then.'”

She shook her head. “He’s such a weirdo.”

Huh. Is it possible that this thing with Gustaf seems like it’s not happening because he’s Swedish?

I’m used to the everywhere-but-Sweden way of you meet someone, you fancy them, you snog them to see what happens, but it sounds like things in Sweden aren’t so straightforward. Maybe I didn’t get the situation entirely wrong, I’m just coming at it from the wrong direction? As the first shimmering shards of dawn appeared on the horizon – at 1am – I felt a little spark of hope ignite.

Featured Image: Jason Ippolito/Flickr (file)

 

Love Refugee is YLC’s fiction serial; a romantic comedy about expat and confirmed singleton Ellie, determined to avoid commitment at any cost…

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