from A Fool’s Paradise

Context N°19

by Anita Konkka

I was in my twenties when I met Alexander for the first time. He appeared before me unexpectedly from between the shelves of the Elanto grocery store and asked if I worked there. I didn’t answer; I glared at him crossly and turned my back. I didn’t like him; he was a handsome man and smiled conceitedly. I thought that he was trying to hit on me. In those days when men talked to me, that was all they had on their minds. Some asked for directions, some asked the time, but in the end they still always asked if I’d go with them to gaze at the moon. I went with some, too. Alexander explained later that he thought I was a salesgirl, because I had a green coat on. The mistake embarrassed him afterwards. He didn’t know what had gotten into him. It became clear last night when I was reading Lawrence’s essays. Lawrence writes that a woman sends a dark, intense invitation through the air. Some man who has the same vibration frequency senses the call in his spinal cord. The man’s daytime consciousness and sight become dim, and he drifts helplessly into the woman’s magnetic field. There’s a natural explanation for everything, and if there isn’t, someone invents one. But what I don’t understand is why I didn’t run into Alexander at all for fifteen years, even though we walked on the same streets, knew the same people, traveled in the same buses. I met him for the second time in the No. 6 streetcar. I didn’t recognize him because he didn’t look the same as when he was young. He introduced himself and asked me how some of our common acquaintances were doing. I didn’t know because I hadn’t seen them since my student years. We didn’t talk about anything important, but I was so thrown off by meeting him that I inadvertently got off the streetcar a couple of stops too soon. I wondered why he came to talk with me. I thought that it was because of my colorful wool jacket, even though that didn’t seem like a very logical explanation. That night I had a nightmare. I woke up to a commotion echoing from the stairwell. When I went to see what was happening there, I saw that the outside door’s lock was broken open, the door was ajar, and there was a black handbag sitting on the grating that served as a doormat. I felt like something terrible must have happened. In the morning there was a stabbing pain in my right temple, which developed into a headache that lasted three days. I wrote that sorrows come in a black bag, and that falling in love happens during moments when you don’t realize you need to be on your guard. When you notice that it’s happened, there’s nothing you can do. I was so close to falling in love then, but when I wrote that, I wasn’t thinking of Alexander, nor did I know that he had married Vera half a year earlier. I presumably didn’t even know that his first wife had died.

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Translation by A. D. Haun & Owen Witesman
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