Student or Learner
This is the third part of my short story, "The Tumour". Please would you take a look and correct my mistakes.
One day Ingrid bought expensive tickets for us for Madam Butterfly at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm. I did not want to go. I was afraid what was going to happen if I got one of my attacks, but she told me I could not live like a recluse for the rest of my life. I had to confront my fears and problems. She even bought a new suit for me, which I could have never afforded with my welfare benefit. We took a train and spent about one hour in a well-conditioned compartment chatting and looking out at the passing landscape. I was relaxed and self-confident in her company, and I was looking forward to seeing the opera on the stage for the first time in my life.
We left the train station in good mood, holding hands and laughing, but when I saw the crowds flooding the streets and heard the hubbub of voices and heavy traffic, I was overwhelmed by the sensations and unable to prevent sweat pouring out of my every pore. I tried autosuggestion, ordering my body to stop sweating, but my body never obeyed me before, nor would it now. I stopped walking and told Ingrid I could not follow her to the opera.
“What? You’re joking?”
“No, Ingrid. It’s not me who doesn’t want to go, it’s my sweat...”
“You can’t leave now!” she burst out blushing. “You know how expensive the tickets are.”
Passers-by stared at us, and some slowed down, amused they could see a blond Swedish woman arguing with a dark-haired immigrant. “You deserve that,” they must have thought. “Thousands of lonely Swedish men around, but you chose an immigrant. He’ll beat you up soon.”
My body was boiling, sweat was soaking my clothes, and I could not stay on the street one moment longer. Nobody could have persuaded me to sit among hundreds of well- dressed and well-scented spectators and smell my own sweat, which would unstoppably pour and pour and pour. I turned without looking at her and darted back to the train station. I took the first train available, and had only one thought on my mind – to get as quickly as possible under the shower and find calm behind the walls of my flat. In the morning, my heart palpitated as I called her believing she was going to dump me, but she had a different idea on her mind. Of course, she was disappointed, but she was also considerate. She did not blame me for anything. She knew how helpless I was. The sweat was my master and tormenter which governed by its own rules and whims.
The next time we went to a performance, it was in our town. A local pianist was going to play works by List, Chopin and Brahms. It was Ingrid again who talked me into going. “You don’t need to feel guilty if something goes wrong this time,” she said, “the tickets are cheap, and we don’t need to travel.” So off we went, dressed casually and relaxed. We sat in a little theatre close to the stage, and I tried to concentrate on the music performed by a middle-aged pianist with a grey, pointed beard and little hair on his head. I went through List without a drop of sweat, but when I heard Chopin’s Nocturne Number 1 Opus 9, something exploded inside me and the river of sweat burst its banks. I touched Ingrid’s arm and whispered in her ear that I was going outside. She followed me into the street where the streetlights gleamed in the dark autumn evening. The cold air pierced my clothes, and its contact with my sweaty body made me shiver. I wished to hold Ingrid by the hand, but it was so clammy, and I shoved it deep into my jacket’s pocket.
“You don’t need to apologize,” she said. “I shouldn’t have pressurized you into this. I see how you suffer.”
“I know you wish me well, but every time I start sweating, I feel defeated, beaten.”
“You’ve to learn to live with your handicap just as the blind or deaf do. You’ve to accept your excessive sweating as part of your body.”
Ingrid was an intelligent woman who did not care about superficial things, nor did she lack empathy, but I saw how she felt uncomfortable whenever we had to leave a cafe, restaurant or shop hastily, or when we could not sit in the sun. She sometimes must have felt more like a carer than a lover, trying to please me and alleviate my worries. One evening she invited her two girlfriends. We sat drinking wine and chatting. I enjoyed their company. The two young women were also librarians, and our discussions were mostly about books. After a while, I became sweaty and went to the toilet to dry myself. I did not close the door, and could hear one of her guests saying, “Why don’t you dump him? You’ve no future with him.” And Ingrid replying, “I feel pity for him. I don’t want to hurt him.”
I returned to the table, and they all gave me a plastic smile you could see on TV adverts. I smiled also, but inside of me I was angry with myself for allowing myself to be in a situation in which I was powerless and depended on Ingrid’s good will. She meant everything to me, but I was just a brief episode in her life. A few weeks later, when she called me to tell me that our relationship was over, I was sad, but at the same time, I was relieved. If we had continued longer, I would have suffered even more. Now I had at least some beautiful memories to comfort me for the future.
It would take me months until I met another woman. After our first sexual encounter, Sanna, whom I had met by chance in a cafe during a poetry reading one evening, told me my sweat was so repellent that she would never be able to feel horny in my company. She told me never to contact her again, and she burst out of my flat. As I stood under the shower and felt the soothing water washing away my sweat, I was not angry with her. Why should a healthy young woman waste her time with a disabled man when there were thousands upon thousands of perfectly young men offering their well-toned bodies to the women who craved for pleasure and satisfaction? Since then I had been living in a celibate and did not even try to have relationship with women. I ignored them to avoid embarrassment and pain for both of us.
To be continued
Thank you Tarheel,
Regarding the phrase "she burst out blushing" I can tell you that generally speaking, the Swedes blush so easily when they are angry, probably more than Americans do or some other nations. They do not talk much, but nevertheless, the anger must come out in some way, so blushing is the easiest one. Is there any other phrase where I could use the word "blushing"? Maybe I could write, "she turned red" instead?
I would like to tell you how grateful I am for your help. I go through your corrections and try to learn where I have make mistakes, so not to repeat them again. This is a long process, but I think it is the only one possible. It is like clambering over a steep rock. You have showed me where is the safest path.