Soon,a relationship going far beyond that of any ordinary helper-patient attachment developed between Katarina and myself.
After some weeks, we were like two people who had known each other for decades. I felt as if I was visiting my second mother. My own mother was living in Bosnia at that time and I only went to see her during my holidays and probably Katarina filled that void.
If I came by in the morning we would drink some tea or coffee and at other times she would not let me go without tasting her food. She was an excellent cook and whatever she made tasted delicious.
Sometimes, I helped her with chopping and peeling vegetables or carving the chicken. She liked fish and I would accompany her to the supermarket which got fresh fish from the coast twice a week.
Katarina had been born in a little town by the sea and knew everything about fish and any other type of seafood. The town we were living in then was in the middle of the country and it took lorries hours to transport their cargo to its final destination.
I never understood how she could tell that the fish behind the glass counter was not fresh, but her ability to decide the quality of the fish was extraordinary.
Before I had said anything she would raise her walking stick over her head and wave it at a young shop assistant who blushed with embarrassment.
"This fish is old, isn't it?"
"It is from yesterday," the assistant's face was now a deep purple and if she had been able to, she would have disappeared into the plughole in front of her never to resurface again.
"In my home town we do not feed such fish to our cats," Katarina said and demonstratively turned round and made for the exit.
This scene repeated itself in all the other shops we went to and the effect was the same. The poor shop assistants were left with deep emotional scars that showed in profuse sweating, palpitations and bouts of shaking as soon as they saw us enter the shop.
Once, she even demanded to speak to the manager of a supermarket because the stench of decaying fish was unmistakable.
It was a hot summer and probably the cooling system was not working properly. The manager was a tall, lanky and blond middle-aged Swede who looked like a basketball player turned businessman.
The sleeves of his suit were too short for his long arms. He had probably already heard about a certain woman with her walking stick who was causing havoc in the shops and he was blushing even before Katarina uttered a word.
When she raised her walking stick just a few centimeters from the ground he winced and stretched out his hands if front of him as if to say, "Please, do not hit me. I am innocent!"
Katrina used both the higher register of her voice and her past experience as an actress to voice her utter disgust at the audacity to sell such old fish.
I looked through the glass and I saw a few cod, salmons and mackerels lying on the pieces of broken ice like cadavers and I noticed that the manager's face and the salmon fillets were the same shade of pink.
The man apologized profusely and promised that no such thing would ever occur again. I could almost hear him call his psychotherapist the same day,requesting (asking for)an emergency appointment. He would need several more sessions to work through this unpleasant encounter.
"Don't you sometimes think that 'these bloody Swedes,' are just so mean?" Katarina asked me when we were on our way back to her flat.
"I do," I answered, "but I wouldn't dream of criticizing them because to whatever I say they'll answer, "If you don't like it here why don't you go back to where you came from?"
This is just a quick first take