Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Concentrate, concentrate, please. Homework. Physics. Due tomorrow. I’m fucked. I’m fucked. Tic-toc, tic-toc. The pendulum. It swings, swings, swings. Drink? No. Not tonight, you fucking imbecile. The time! Eleven o’clock. Haven’t written a single letter. Alright. To the pub it is. But make haste, make haste, make haste. Almost midnight. Fuck it. No way to meet the deadline. Out I go. Out of the house, into the streets. Cars, cars, cars. Flooding the road like a swarm of ants. They honk. They honk. They never stop doing so. Oh, my poor head. Already aching, aching. I haven’t even a drink yet. Fuck those drivers. They should crash. Crash against one another. Oh, yes. I’d love to see that. It’s true. It’s true. It’s true.
Love the pub. Love the bartender. I ask for vodka. An overflowing tankard he gives me. Charity. Actually, no. Not charity. Had to pay for the damn thing. It’s late. It’s late. I ought to sleep. But how? Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Silly me. The vodka. Imbibe enough of it. Should knock me out. Looking around, looking around. Many men chatting, laughing, shouting here and there. A few women too. Never forget about that. Sip, sip, sip from my glass. Not yet drunk. I was cheated, was I? Probably not. Tolerance, that’s all.
Sex and sex and sex and sex. Thinking only about sex. Try to pick up a girl. No, that’s stupid. Haven’t got a condom. To have children? To contract disease? Not worth it. Want to go home. Just home. Drunk I am. Not to worry though. I know the way back. To the door, to the door. Waddling in the street outside like a penguin. Carefully, carefully. Bang! My head smashes. A street light. Someone tear that down. I hate it.
Almost home, almost home. What a triumph! Yes! Yes! Yes! The snows, the snows. They’re falling, falling, cascading upon the city bright with lights. Cold. Cold. Frostbite, maybe. Tucking hands into pockets. Cars, buses, trucks. Passing and passing like the wind. I hate myself. There goes my Physics homework. Spurned, abandoned, desolated. Ugh! What have I done? Paving… paving… paving the path for my own demise. Failure. That is my fate. Call me stupid. It’s true. I can hardly care. Everything ends with death.
Faltering, faltering. Collapsing. Face sinking into drifts of snow. Pushing myself up. Crawling the sidewalk on all fours. I’m falling, I’m falling, I’m falling. Cadence of thoughts. Everything fading, fading, until all is consumed by utter darkness.
Opening my eyes. Turning them left, turning them right. I’m in my own bed, stretching my arms. Oh, my head, my head! My skull collapsing upon itself. Not good, not good. Hangovers. They are the worst. And who is that I see standing by the door? Oh my god! One of my classmates. God, this is embarrassing. Must hide beneath my blanket.
“When I found you, I thought you were dead,” says Magnus Almstedt.
“Couldn’t finish my Physics homework. I decided to drink.”
“Not very wise now, is it?”
Not wise. Not wise at all. “I couldn’t help it.”
“I’m telling you, brother,” begins Almsdedt, “I can lend you my notes.”
“Thanks,” I say to him. “I appreciate that.”
Almstedt wears his overcoat. “Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have a class to attend.”
“Wait. Before you go, tell me how you brought me home.”
“Okay,” Almstedt concedes. “My classes can wait, I suppose.”
“I won’t interrupt you, I promise.”
“Very well.” Almstedt coughs on his clenched fist. “You’re a lucky one, you see. No one robbed you, or beat you up. Umeå has to be one of the safest cities in Sweden, if not the most. Anyway, I found you lying face-down in a sidewalk, partially submerged in snow. I thought you were dead so I called emergency. An ambulance took you to the hospital, myself by your side. Then a doctor examined you, giving me a deadpan expression that told me I was wasting his time. Finally, he said, ‘He’s drunk. That’s all. Take him home and let him rest.’ And so I called for a cab and took you home myself. You left your door unlocked, by the way.”
What compassion! I can, can, can… I can hardly believe it. Women, women, women. Sex, sex, sex. Thinking of sex once more. No, please stop. Stop! Think of something else. Christmas. Yes, that’s it. Shall be back in Stockholm. My father, my mother, my sisters. I don’t miss them. Presents. Something to be excited for. Ought to give Magnus Almstedt one. He deserves it.
“So, Karl Engström, what do you intend to do now?” asks Almstedt.
“To study your notes, and to ask Professor Forsberg for an extension.”