Don Juan in Helsinki: 19
One of them named Ville tells me he has never had a girlfriend. He is a typical local type. 'You Finns!' I tell him, jokingly. 'However do you make babies? You need to bonk more.' For some reason this makes his friends giggle. They all have tickets for Cricket's concert tonight and are very excited.
I have been thinking about sexual fidelity since I have arrived here. Why on earth was I faithful to Stina for all those months??? It is true, I was. I passed up many opportunities to bonk with beautiful young girls--and on more than one occasion, their mothers. Never, never be faithful, I am telling these young dudes at the bar now. It is a total waste of time. I suppose I fell into this trap from a naive, optimistic yearning after something better than just making hot monkey sex. Perhaps it was a fear of abandonment, as a shrink has suggested. Or perhaps I wanted to experience the feeling of being in love, whatever that may be, LOL. Whatever, this crazy delusion did not go away after Stina, oh no. I was actually faithful to Maarit and even Kylikki, as well. But that was not so much out of principle as exhaustion. That's right, my true bonking career did not even begin until after Likki left me. For the second time. I haven't told you the whole truth about that yet, actually--after Likki ran off with Vaino and made a baby with him, I took her back. Along with the kid. Of course that only lasted a few months. But that story lies in the future, at the moment it is Stina we are remembering. By an amazing coincidence, a film she was in called 'Amorosa' is playing on the bar TV right now to provide me with an aide-memoir (http://stan1.nudesonline.com/track/MTczMjg5OjI4OjMz/). I am familiar with this film already, having bought the DVD when I discovered she had a nude sex scene in it. Well, naturally I had a zoological interest in how she had aged. And really she has kept in most excellent shape (BTW, if you follow the link you will also get to see her 'bravely fighting back tears' as a special added bonus. Since posting my revealing hot squishy glandslapping sexual encounters with such celebrities as Christie Brinkley and the 'artist formerly known as the Cricket', I have been contacted by the agents for a number of other famous ladies who wish me to write 'exposes' of them in this blournal. I am very sorry, but at the present time I cannot fit even Christine Lahti, the famous Finnish descended film actress, or the effervescent pop chanteuse Paula Abdul into my memories. However, I shall certainly keep them in mind should vacancies arise.) Ah here it comes, her scene. I doubt if I told all the studly young dudes in this bar that she had once been my girlfriend, they would even believe me! But young people are different nowadays. They have no faith in others.
After her visit with me at Joulu, things became a bit cold between us. We had planned for me to visit her at Easter, but she wrote to tell me that it wouldn't be possible yet. She was living in some sort of pension or dormitory connected with the theatre school, and boyfriends weren't allowed to stay. But if we waited until summer, her parents had agreed she could rent a flat of her own. After that her letters and phone calls became more infrequent. By then I had given my medical studies, and mostly sat in my room listening to Jimi Hendrix and Cream and drinking viina. Naturally, my father was deeply disappointed in me. My only real activity was still to arrange lighting and 'light shows' for rock bands, though the craze for the latter was just about dead by now. It wasn't the '60s any more. But by summer, I had saved up enough money for a trip to Odense. These days, of course, there is likely a commuter flight every day from Vaantaa to Odense, so I could maybe have been there in an hour, but in 1972 I had to first take a big Baltic ferry to Copenhagen and then a train which was carried to the island of Fyn, where Odense is, by another ferry. It is lucky for me I have always been a good sailor. Especially because it was still June and so rained every day.
Speaking of which, it has now begun to rain heavily outside. The fine weather has finally ended, just in time for the Cricket's concert. Poor Strawberry!
It was Stina's idea for me to come to Odense. All that spring, things had become very distant between us, and she never seemed to have time to write or phone. I had grown so sick of this 'up in the air' feeling, I had even asked her, during one of our infrequent calls, if she wanted to break up with me. 'Oh, no, Lemo!' she had said. 'I would never do that. To dump someone by letter or over the telephone is inhumanly cruel. Besides, I have always believed that if two people ever decide they no longer love each other, they should still meet face to face to say goodbye. So often when that happens, they realize they're making a terrible mistake and change their minds before it becomes final. But of course, that has nothing to do with us. Just because two people have been busy with other things in their lives doesn't mean they aren't deeply and passionately in love still.' So I bought my tickets. The journey took a whole day. This was the first time in my life I had ever been to any other country than Finland or Sweden. Copenhagen seemed very huge to me, but I thought Odense was a bit like such Finnish 'wooden towns' as Savonlinna or Turku. I won't bore you by writing much about the city; if you are interested, you can Google it. Better yet, just go there. It is the the third-largest city in Denmark, and lies on the 'garden island' of Fyn at the tip of a fjord. It has one of the best-preserved medieval 'old towns' in Europe, and even in 1972, when most of Denmark was still a bit poor and shabby, it was a lovely place to visit, even in a steady drizzle. I wish I'd seen more of it.
When I arrived at the train station, there was no Stina there to meet me. She had warned me that this might be the case, because she might be stuck in rehearsals all day, and so had written me directions to her flat and even mailed me a spare key. I believe it was this key that had filled me with the optimism to make the journey at all. I had turned it over in my palm a hundred times, trying to imagine her life there, how her flat might look, how it would feel to be together again. Surely she wouldn't mail me the key to her front door unless her feelings for me were still strong. Would she? Her flat was on Vestergade over a beauty salon just across the street from the Hansen Vinhandel, which is a large wine shop. School was out, but Stina had landed a part in the Odense Theatre's prestigious summer stock program as understudy to Ophelia in a Danish-language production of Hamlet. An 'enfant terrible' named Bille August had come down from Copenhagen to direct it, and the cast featured a few well-known actors and actress, including the most popular TV actor in Denmark, Paul Hagen, as well as the young Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, who had made a big hit all over Scandinavia in his TV series 'Bombi Bitt och Jag', in the role of Hamlet. I knew all this, of course, from Stina's letters on the subject--just as I knew, deep down, that she would not be just an understudy for very long. I imagined her practicing her 'drowned face.' Then I thought of Aino and felt a bit sick.
They say that any Swede can make himself understood in Denmark. Perhaps that is so, but I couldn't understand a word they said in reply, and in those days I thought and spoke in Swedish as fluently as in Finnish. After a while I gave up asking where I might find a taxi or a tram, and just picked up my suitcase and umbrella and started walking east. As it turned out, there were no trams in Odense, merely dark red buses and hundreds and hundreds of bicycles everywhere, many of them whizzing about quite dangerously. Now, you should know this about me: I hate bicycles! I consider them both dangerous and unhealthful. They are a great enemy to good bonking, because prolonged exposure to a bicycle seat causes impotence and damage to the male testicle. If you don't believe me, that is why Lance Armstrong got cancer there. So Likkanen will not go near one of those vicious things, not even in a gym. I turned south and walked down Thomas B. Trigge Gade (I think that was its name; I am too buzzed to check it) through a very pleasant shopping district with wide slippery, cobble-stoned streets and ancient timbered white houses leaning all wobbly toward each other at crazy angles. A few even had thatched roofs! And I could see green everywhere, with many rows of old trees and hedges around the buildings. It seemed very lush compared to Helsinki, even in the grey drizzle. I could see why Stina was happy there. Perhaps she would ask me to stay. All the way down the street when I was not dodging cyclists, I was daydreaming about what my life might be like if I lived there. Then I took a wrong turn on Vestergade, but finally I went back in the right direction and found her flat up a flight of stairs from the street. Her key fit in the lock; I turned it, and went inside.
Stina had many talents, but she was no housekeeper. The place was a terrible mess. It was dingy enough anyway; the floorboards were so old and chipped and worn away that one could glimpse down into the hair salon beneath through the cracks between them. But Stina had done nothing to pretty it up or even clean it--in fact. from the state of the flat and the stacks of dishes in the galley kitchenette, it was difficult to tell whether she had even been home at all recently. However, there was a note cello-taped to the mirror above the hall table addressed to me. 'I'm still rehearsing, dearest Lemo, and won't have time to meet you at the flat, because you'll never guess what--Birgitta, who was the lead Ophelia is in the hospital with a terrible case of food poisoning, so I will be taking her place in the play tonight!!! Isn't it exciting? And you will be there for my world premiere onstage in Shakespeare! Come to the theatre at 8 or so, but don't come backstage--it isn't allowed. So I'll meet you at the coffeehouse across the street after the performance is over. But promise me you'll be there to see me! And hoping I 'break a leg'!! Oh, Lemo, isn't this exciting? It's just what we've always dreamed of.' So I would have two more hours to kill, I thought, glancing around in the gloom, illuminated only by the grey daylight through the curtains and glowing strips of pale light leaking through the floor from below. Perhaps I would get something to eat at a local restaurant or bakery in the meantime; certainly there was nothing left here to eat. Then I noticed her journal on the table directly beneath where she had left the note, carelessly left flung open with a pen on top of it.
Now Stina had always kept a journal, and often during our months together she would read to me from it; bits of poems, thoughts about her future, gossip from school, reasons why she hated Finland, even short stories set in the mystic forests of the Norse twilight. 'Someday I'm going to be very famous,' she would often tell me. 'Then we'll both be glad I kept a record of all my thoughts and dreams.' Still, I did not feel I had the right to read from it without permission. I had never done so before. Yet...in this case, it seemed an easy and very tempting way to discover exactly what her feelings for me really were and whether or not I had in fact wasted my time and money by coming here at all. In addition, by leaving it wide open in the hallway beneath her note, it seemed fairly evident that Stina, who left little to chance, was choosing this means of communicating with me. But what was she trying to tell me? I stood there, wavering back and forth, unable to decide what to do and filled with a vague sense of trepidation at what i might find inside those pages. I remember once, many years ago, reading of a famous Japanese poet (I cannot remember his name) who had committed suicide in the 1920s. In the note he left behind, he said his reason for killing himself was from 'a vague sense of trepidation.' So this was my emotion also at that moment. Finally I picked up the notebook and read it. Naturally, I turned on a light first.
The early parts of it--written in the spring--still bore some resemblance to the girl I knew. Several I times I was even mentioned in the first few pages, such as in: 'Note to L: Shave no more often than every other day, but whatever you do, don't ever grow a beard, as so many of the ugly Danes here do.' The 'beard', it turned out, belong to Paul Hagen, the veteran character actor who had recently become a household name all over Scandinavia for his role as the pet shop clerk Clausen, in the Danish TV soap opera "Huset på Christianshavn'. There was no mention of his taste in shirts or shoes.
In Stina's words, 'this gentle, sensitive, yet much older man' was deeply troubled by a bad marriage with his wife at home. They had met after some sort of theatre program speech he had given at her school; he had then 'taken her under his wing', and recommended an agent in Copenhagen. In fact this agent, Holger was his name, was responsible for her to be in summer stock right now. She had also, at his suggestion, joined the Danish Actors' Union. There were perhaps a dozen pages where she agonized deeply over Hagen's growing affections for her, because she found him physically 'repugnant, even repulsive'; however, when at last after a week or two their relationship was finally consummated, 'this very aged and frail, yet still aggressively masculine, figure made love to me tenderly and sobbing with gratitude, exactly as would a baby or small child' and afterwards 'wept nakedly and unashamedly in my arms'. (BTW, I just looked him up; the very aged and frail fellow was 52 at that time, exactly two years younger than I am now. Stina's present age, in fact).
Feeling very nauseated, I skimmed through the next chapters a bit, noting the absence of any more references to 'L', and arrived at June and with it, the arrival of Bille August. 'What a relief it is at last to be around a man of nearly my own age, and not only that, one who is frighteningly, almost terrifyingly cerebral. I feel that around him I am almost naked, he seems to see right through me, leaving my every emotion open and stripped bare to his gaze. He agrees with me that Holger is not really doing his job properly and has some very sardonic and witty things to say about P. Whatever am I going to do on this score?' Then later. 'B. has extensive experience and has suggested more professional representation in Stockholm. He is coming over tonight, and I will cook him supper. I have told him of my Cordon Bleu classes in Paris. He says there is even a chance I might land a part in a TV series next year! Imagine that! P. will object, of course, but his possessiveness is becoming creatively stifling. I will have to put my foot down with him soon. Yet each time we are together, his childlike need overwhelms me once again.' Then there followed a list of healthful suggestions for Hagen to improve his appearance, including exercise, weight loss, and dental and cosmetic surgery. The beard, it seems, had been shaved off some time before.
Now her writings appeared to contain more 'B's than 'P's. Such as: 'B's need for me terrifies me, as does his jealousy. I am becoming convinced that any moment he will become completely deranged and attack P. Last night, he made violent love to me more than 5 times, by my count, though his passion overwhelmed him quickly each time after just a minute or two. Still, I am most satisfactorily sore this morning, thanks to his masterful and artistic performance. I even offered to bring the "maestro" breakfast in bed this morning, but he insisted that he had to dash out. I think he is afraid we will be discovered by P. Of course, I have pointed out that as a still-married man, P. is hardly in any position to cause a scene. Still, I am beginning to see that B. is often unrealistic and inclined to endlessly over-intellectualize. It is all very well to have a "meeting of the minds" with a sexily charismatic partner, but sometimes one wishes for the all-consuming embrace of a raw, animal lover, who doesn't cry or beg for permission or make excuses but simply savagely attacks, literally ripping my clothes off before raping me most deliciously.'
Enter 'S'. 'At the beginning of rehearsals, I had thought Stellan to be arrogant and foolish. After all, what is his theatrical background? None at all, really, merely the role of a juvenile delinquent in a popular TV series. Hardly any sort of qualification to play the part of "Hamlet", one would think. And yet, I have found him to actually be both sensitive and genuinely charismatic. And Swedish men are always so irresistable to me! Last night we escaped from the 'grownups' and went off on our own after drinks. What a relief to finally be around a man of my own age, to laugh and joke together like happy children. If I am honest with myself, B. is awfully old and serious for his age. And P. has already become a grandfatherly figure to me in my affections--often I will simply allow him to doze off and have a nap. But S. is so different from either of them. How powerfully huge he is! His thighs are like a bull's! His wild thrusting was so painfully and thrillingly vigorous, I was actually afraid I had injured myself! And yet this morning, I find myself only wanting more. He has suggested his own agent in Stockholm would be perfect for me!'
Now I need hardly tell you that as I slowly read all this (and much more besides, which I have mercifully forgotten after all these years), I became filled inside with a growing sense of horror. In fact, I felt very numb and cold, as if I could not move. Yet, with this feeling came also a strange sense of mental detachment. For one thing, it is important to remember that Stina was very dramatic and always inventing her own fantasy world. It was quite possible, perhaps even 50% possible, that none of this had actually happened at all, except in the pages of her journal. If I confronted her with it, aside from being able to accuse me of violating her privacy, she might simply laugh it off as 'ideas' for a script or short story. Or, worst of all, she might admit to all of it or some part of it merely to get rid of me. I was actually in a terrible quandary. If I started a fight with her over this, I would either force her to dump me--or else I would have to 'officially believe' her explanation and accept things the way they were forever after. But if I said and did nothing, I was accepting her right to do whatever she wanted to do in future, to sleep with any lovers she liked, and therefore submit me to endless humiliation, without a word being said aloud (which is quite typical of many Scandinavian marriages, actually). So you see, I had just been thoroughly checkmated. And that is why I decided, in my shocked, numb state of mind, to do nothing, to postpone all judgement in the matter for the evening. I would simply go to the theatre and watch her performance, then meet her in the cafe after. I had never set eyes on any of these guys, this 'P' and "B' and 'S'; I had no idea what any of them even looked like. Perhaps none of them actually existed at all. But if I met them and saw them with her, I thought, then I would know for certain. It seemed the wisest and most natural course to take. And besides, it was a bit late to find a hotel room.
And so, armed with this dreadful foreknowledge, I went to the play.
Next time: Alas, poor Likkanen...