Short story, with some illustrations. Typical good-hearted emotional Backman, though with a small twist near the end.
Helsingborg and I will never find peace. Maybe everyone feels that way about their hometown: the place we’re from never apologises, never admits that it was wrong about us. It just sits there, at the end of the motorway, whispering: ‘You might be all rich and powerful now. And maybe you do come home with expensive watches and fancy clothes. But you can’t fool me, because I know who you really are. You’re just a scared little boy.’
I know what you’re thinking: what a bastard I am. And you’re right. But the vast majority of successful people don’t become bastards, we were bastards long before. That’s why we’ve become successful.
‘You’re allowed to draw on the furniture when you have cancer,’ the girl suddenly exclaimed with a shrug. ‘No one says anything.’
Every parent will take five minutes in the car outside the house from time to time, just sitting there. Just breathing and gathering the strength to head back inside to all of their responsibilities. The suffocating expectation of being good, coping. Every parent will take ten seconds in the stairwell occasionally, key in hand, not putting it in the lock.
‘Are you brave too?’
‘Everyone always says I’m so brave.’
Her eyelids fluttered. So I replied honestly: ‘Don’t be brave. If you’re scared, be scared. All survivors are.’
You stopped at a jewellery shop on the way back to the ferry and bought some earrings with the money. It took me a whole year to realise that they weren’t for some girl you were trying to charm. They were for your mother.
You never played poker again.
I failed with you. I tried to make you tough. You ended up kind.
We said very little, because there was too much I wanted to say. That’s always when we fall silent.
You’ve always touched the things you like as though they had a pulse. You cared about that bar, adored this town. The people and the buildings and the night as it approached over the Sound. Even the wind and the useless football team. This has always been your town in a way it never was for me; you never tried to find a life, you were in the right place from the start.