För ett tag sedan fick jag hem antologin ”Drivel: Deliciously Bad Writing by Your Favorite Authors”, där författare som Gillian Flynn, Chuck Pahlaniuk och Mary Roach bjuder på sina pinsammaste ungdomssynder i litterär form. Vi har alla gamla texter som legat och samlat damm i byrålådor. Oftast hör de hemma där, men ibland kan det vara roligt att lufta dem, tala ömsint till sitt yngre skapande jag och ändå försöka fokusera på det potential som kanske fanns där mitt i poserandet och de alltför tydliga referenserna. Jag blev lite inspirerad av ”Drivel” och gick således på skattjakt i byrålådorna och filkatalogerna. Hittade min antagningsnovell till Creative Writing på engelska institutionen 2001 med den Hefnerdoftande titeln ”We Love the City”. Här kommer den, here’s a song som Michael Stipe skulle ha sagt. Passar kanske extra bra denna Morrisseyvecka, då vi är många som tar vår inre panda i hand och ställer oss och skrålar/gråter/nostalgidansar till vår grånande hjälte. And when you’re dancing and laughing and finally living, hear my voice in your head and think of me kindly.
Här har vi alltså henne: min inre pandabebis i tokanglofil form. Jag var tjugo år när jag skrev, och måttlöst inspirerad av – i fallande ordning – britpop, TV-serien ”This Life”, Bret Easton Ellis och tidningen Pops skribenter. Det är Stockholm, det är sent nittiotal, det är ångest, ensamhet och eskapism med kajal och surt rödvin. 100% elitism, ganska många självbiografiska inslag. Ömsom skämskudde, ömsom respekt. VÄLDIGT många låtcitat, såväl direkt som indirekt. Det kliade i fingrarna att ändra och lägga till med trettiofyraåringens blick och språk, men jag höll mig med ett undantag – novellens sistamening, som är ny. Men det är kul att skriva på engelska, det märker jag även nu när jag försöker översätta mina två första noveller för att se hur de funkar på ett annat språk.
Enjoy, fellow pandor, geeks, freaks och fd skrivbordslådeförfattare – och har ni några gamla alster ni vågar dela med er av vore det jättekul att läsa!
We love the city
Have you ever seen Stockholm after dark? The urban, hysterically neon-smothered part of it, that is. If you squint a bit in your sorry state, induced by cheap red wine and at least three too many Vodka & Red Bulls, you could think you’re in London. Or New York even, or the dodgy parts of Paris. It doesn’t matter. Been there, done that. If anything, my pilgrimages to other, presumably more glamorous parts of the world prove that happiness has fuck all to do with geography. You can’t run away from yourself, and all the plane tickets, Prozac and one-night stands in the world can’t change that fact.
Nor can inhaling each other’s stale sweat in a tiny subterranean club, dancing and cheering along to indie anthems we’re all too familiar with. This we all know, but that won’t stop us from repeating the same mistakes every Saturday night. Eyeliner and nauseatingly sweet white wine in someone’s flat. Oh, whatever makes her happy on a Saturday night. Seemingly endless tube rides, away from the dreaded suburbia where people are too jaded to question stagnation, down, down into the centre of things. This is where it’s at. This is where we want to be. This is where we all, one night a week, get to pretend we’re the epitome of alternative inner city cool, with the shoes, outfits and hairdos to prove it. We love the city because it lets us down. We love the city, not the suburbs that surround. Come 4 am we’ll all be on the last tube back to out dull suburban homes but until then we are the masters of our own twisted universe.
Anyway. Off crowded streets we go, beyond the flourescent radiance of the McDonald’s restaurants, the 7 Elevens and all night cafés. Past the frantically busy clubs where those who live in ignorance, wear Buffalo shoes and listen to music that says nothing to us about our lives reside. We chose the road less travelled by and so forth. Of course, our enemies the blonde and peachy designer’s mafia – those who end up in docusoaps and consequently sell their already filthy souls to the Mainstream Devil – will claim that our hatred is not self-chosen but rather our way of coping with the fact that we are not wanted there. Don’t listen to them. We are right and they are wrong. And aren’t we having a blast, getting drunk on cheap wine, smoking Luckies or B&H or, if we feel a bit conformist, Marlboro Lights, dancing our feet off to the new Belle & Sebastian single? We wear the same clothes because we feel the same. And we dance and drink and screw because there’s nothing else to do. Here we come, the beautiful ones. I’m a girl and you’re a boy, la la la. We are freaks by birth and uncontrollable habit, doomed to lead a shadowy existence behind our fair-haired and -minded brothers and sisters. Of course, our colour of hair, ranging from ruby red via deep purple to the customary pitch black is very much self-inflicted. The same goes for our fringes, our heavily eyelinered eyes (it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl) and our so obviously homemade tiny tee shirts with various appropriately obscure bands scrawled across our voluptuously challenged chests. Mine is deep crimson with a Hefner print on the front and the rather embarrassing quote ”I don’t want to get laid, I just want to be held” all over my back in indelible ink. What the fuck was I thinking? Doesn’t everybody know that it’s those who go on about tenderness, respect and ”just someone who’ll hold me when I’m asleep” who are the ones dying for a shag? And yes, we’re all that transparent.
So here I am revealing my desperation to the world – which is alright, really, as I can hint the very same if not from their tops then most certainly in the eyes of my fellow pale boys and girls with chipped nail varnish. Tonight the skinny DJ with the sideburns and the old Primal Scream tee shirt (pre-”Screamadelica”) seems to have a Morrissey/Smiths theme night, which is fine by me as I feel like I’m sixteen and locked into my room again. It does, however, strike me as somewhat bizarre that the first steel-like chords of ”How Soon Is Now?” are greeted with deafening cheers. I mean, isn’t it just too ironic to joyously sing along to lyrics oozing with self-hatred and alienation, thus showing the world that we so fully identify with the lyrics that we might as well be cheerful about our destiny as grumpy celibates? ”There’s a club if you like to go, you could meet somebody who really loves you. So you go and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home and you cry and you want to die.” Story of our fucking lives. This is the cattle market for the formerly bullied. I suppose that is what links us together; we were all crap at PE and never got to dance to those neverending Bryan Adams power ballads at parties.
One of the greatest disadvantages of our anti-mainstream attitudes is the slightly incestuous behaviour that emerges when the same people get together night after night. Perhaps that’s why we do not socialise with each other when sober – too many embarrassing moments to answer to. Occasionally we see each other at trains and buses, sipping lukewarm cappuccinos in various cafés, attending gigs or fighting over the last, vinyl-only Tindersticks single in a record shop. We give each other long, scrutinising looks but usually fail to utter a word or even show a gesture of recognition. After all, we’re competitors. Over what, none of us has managed to figure out yet, but that doesn’t stop us from looking the other way. Needless to say, this does not apply to Saturday nights. This is the night when we are most likely to drop our masks and actually make an attempt to be friendly to each other – at least if it’s past midnight and the thought of yet another lonesome night seems unbearable. The problem is remembering who you’ve snogged before, so as to avoid repetition.
Tonight is definitely not my lucky night. But then again, I’m in one of my fashionably celibate moods, probably caused by too much Morrissey or, to be honest, precious little luck with the opposite sex. Besides, there’s no point in denying the fact that I’m too old to be truly desirable. One only has to look at all the waifish fifteen-year-olds currently playing tonsil hockey with all the Brett Anderson look-alikes in the building to realise that the wisdom that comes with a certain age is not wanted here. My friend Simon, who usually presents himself as a professional cynic (that is a Blur quote and thus intellectual theft. Nevermind that), appears to reflect upon the same thing. Sprawled out in a dusty velvet sofa, fag in hand, he looks around and sighs.
”You do realise, don’t you, that we’re getting too old for this kind of thing?”
I nod emphatically, too depressed to respond. Instead I sip sour red wine and, leaning back, listen to the rant of an ageing fool.
”Ours is a society obsessed with age. Does it want us mature and perceptive sources of wisdom? Why of course not; not when it can have sweet little sixteen-year-olds like those two semi-shagging Brian Molko clones over there for breakfast. And I don’t fucking blame them. Did you know that from a strictly biological point of view, men are at their sexual peak at sixteen? Sixteen for Christ’s sake! What were we doing when we were sixteen? I’ll tell you what we did. We were being the average Radiohead fans, staring into walls and fretting over pimples the size of Pammie’s tits. Trying to read Dostoyevsky or whatever. Anything but getting laid anyway. And now it’s too late. No, really it is. Our genitals begin to shrink at the age of 21. I’ve seen some intensely depressing footage in a Sunday newspaper.”
At this point, I feel obliged to inform my troubled friend that according to the very same strictly biological point of view, women tend to peak sexually in their late thirties, thus leaving me with decades of dirty fun to look forward to. Obviously hurt, Simon downs the gin and tonic I paid for and continues:
”You, well, whatever. Fuck sex. We’re losing it in many other aspects as well, aren’t we?”
”Like?” I inquire, suddenly cheerful or at least not funereal thanks to my alcohol consumption.
”Like, when you’re no longer a teenager you’re all of a sudden forced to compete with actual people as opposed to heinous hormonal monsters. People with skills, education and manners. So” – he pauses and gives me his most convincing Cruella deVille look – ”if you’re still holding on to those dreams of becoming the literary voice of your generation you’ll have to complete with people who have way more experience – not to mention talent – than yourself.”
Ouch, that hurt. All of a sudden I regret ever having befriended the drunken bigot that is currently sizing up underage girls and shamelessly taking advantage of my student’s grant. The man does have a point, though. We are both reaching that age when the dignified thing to do would be to replace our Suede and Trainspotting posters with tasteful but reasonably priced art and stop referring to pop songs whenever we want to make a statement about our lives. No doubt we should move on, either burn or slowly fade away into white middle-class oblivion. Otherwise we’ll end up like that quasi-famous music journalist over there, desperately trying to conceal his beer gut and bald patch whilst coming on to fifteen-year-olds. How old are we, Simon and I? Twenty-one and twenty-four, respectively. Yes, we are deranged with no sense of proportion whatsoever. It’s not our fault though. If anything, blame that Dawson’s Creek. All those shows masturbating over youth and Britney Spears. Where else, except in our Western society, do twentysomethings sit around worrying about pension schemes, as if we already have one foot in the grave? Downing that foul wine, I tell Simon that that the only sane thing to do would be to emigrate to Japan or some other country where age is not considered a disease. If such a decision seems too drastic we should at least hail Pulp’s ”Help the Aged” as our indie anthem of choice.
I feel obliged to end here, as this – at least this particular night, in this point in time – is as good as it gets. Every Saturday night we experience the same thing, with the occasional angsty visit to someone’s bed, and every Saturday night we vow never to repeat our mistakes. We know, of course, that come next Saturday we’ll be on our suburban trains back to the deceptively glittering city, where all our unpronounced wishes are drowned in abundances of cheap alcohol. However, I must beg of you not to feel sorry for us as we brought this on ourselves. It’s become rather a habit and should we feel inclined to change our ways we wouldn’t, as our patron saint the Anglo-Irish celibate has it, know how to start, where to go, or who we need to know.
The city has let us down, once again.
© Helena Kilander, som jag hette då, hösten 2000, i ett Stockholm då man fick röka på krogen och årtusendet var nyfött.