.The man sitting opposite me was reading a black hardcover book, whose title I could not see. He was middle-aged and looked frail. His blond hair was receding at his forehead. He wore glasses with golden frames, which he adjusted with his slim fingers now and then. His grey eyes followed the text attentively. He behaved as if I were not in the compartment, not bothering to give me a glance. I had nothing to read, and even if I had, I would not have read it,
be reading,because I do not like to read while travelling. I looked out of the window at the thick forests we were passing through, and I thought howwhat excellent shelter they would offer in case you had to hide. They were intersected by lakes, which sparkled in the sun. I should return to this place one day, pitch a tent and spend days walking around and fishing in those lakes and rivers. I was tired of people, of their predictability, envy, greed and never-ending talk about money. I knew this unspoilt nature and stillness would do me good.
The man was so engrossed in his book that he paid no attention to the landscape outside. I never liked to stare at people, but this time I
hadtook a proper look at him. He was dressed in a brown blazer, grey shirt without a tie, and olive-green corduroy trousers. He reminded me of the bookish types I'd met in antiquarian andbookshops. Many of them looked as if they had not been outside for weeks, with their pale, thin faces and their weasel eyes, of a weasel,darting everywhere in their search for bargains. I felt a stab of regret rememberingas I remembered my books which I had collected for years only to see them disappearingperish in the flames of war. What am I doing in this country, thousands of kilometres from my homeland? I should not be travelling to thenorth, but in the opposite direction, to the land of my birth, where I had spent the most beautiful moments of my life.
The train rolled on, and the landscape remained the same – the lush forests and blue lakes. Occasionally, you could see a village or a town in the distance, but
theythat would soon disappear behind the trees and hills. My companion read for a long time, and then finally he closed his book and put it on the fold-away table. He took off thehis spectacles and massaged the root of his nose with his thumb and index finger. He looked up, and our eyes met.
“Going north?” I asked just to break the awkward silence.
“Yes. Lapland,” he answered in a weary voice.
“I am visiting my friend. He has bought a new house. I am going to help him with the small repairs.”
The man nodded politely, but I had the impression his mind was far away from here.
“You are not Swedish?” he asked.
“No. I am from Bosnia. I came here in 1993 because of the war.”
“You are from Bosnia!” His face broke into a smile. “I have some work colleagues from your homeland. You are different from the Swedes.”
“Very much so. We don’t hide our feelings as the Swedes do. And we don’t drink ourselves into a stupor at weekends.”
The man nodded in agreement. “The Swedes numb themselves with alcohol. Maybe it would be better if they talked more to each other.”
“Something is wrong with the Swedish system. It creates conformism and discourages people from rebelling. This is probably one of the reasons why the Swedes behave so wildly when they are abroad. They enjoy the freedom they never feel in their own homeland.”
“Very good observation.” My companion chuckled. “I never thought about that, but now when I hear it from you, I can only agree with you.”
TO BE CONTINUED
Student or Learner