Thursday, March 23, 2000

Fractions part 2

Stray cats

The first time I see Patrik is in ninth grade. It’s after our second class and as we walk towards our lockers, I notice in the corner of my eye that there is someone sitting at our table. The nerdy girls table. I gasp for air and I feel the hair of my neck rise and a shiver run through my body when I realise what's wrong with this picture. There is a teacher standing in the eastern corridor chatting with a group of boys, and all these students moving to and from class. -All while this boy is sitting on top of the table, curled up in fetal position with his hands covering his face, -crying. No one else seem to even notice him. I put my anger aside and hand my books to Anna, I swallow the big lump in my throat and go up to talk to him.

Wednesday, March 22, 2000

Fractions part 3

I'm becoming better and better at dealing with my panic attacks, learning how to push them aside as soon as I get that first tingling feeling in my stomach, when my heart starts racing and my breath speeds up. Warranted or not, I credit this to Patrik and the changes that the move brought on.
I learn that there is a difference; that there is a sort of tingle that is not at all unpleasant, and doesn't end with me fleeing for my Life.
When I watch Patrik from a far or when I look at his hands, it is with a warmth that spreads from my stomach through my body, warming my heart.
It can be a chill that starts at the bottom of my neck and quickly shoots down my spine and trickles across my shoulders and down my arms. And finally: It can hit me suddenly and with such strength that it stops me in my step and effectively turns my brain into a useless mush, leaving me standing there with my mouth gaping wide whenever I see a guy in a wheelchair or one with a severe limp. Luckily for me, this doesn't happen too often.
-Of course in my conscience I knew all along that I had this feeling but now that I can separate it from the anxiety, fear and stress I’m seeing the pattern more clearly.
Being with Patrik makes me feel good and I have felt that way from the first day in school.
But once I'm aware of it on another level and I find myself actively chasing and looking for that
thrilling feeling, filtering out other things, it’s also making me feel uncomfortable. THIS, this feeling, is this what’s been driving me? Is this feeling controlling me and my actions?
Some days I feel like a predator and a junkie who needs a fix, but the bottom line is; when you are in the moment, it feels really really good. I like it, I deserve it, and I want it.

Everything seems to slow down for Patrik when October ends and November starts. Nano says in his usual dark ways that “The birds take Patriks spirit with them when they move south.” It's as if some of his old gloom has returned and I even ask him if his parents has contacted him, but they haven’t spoken to either brother since Patrik moved out several months ago. He confesses it’s his joints that are bothering him and that’s the end of our long walks in the parks and we don't go out as often.
Nano gives Patrik this job; a task to solve during the fall holiday when we have a full week off school. -He wants him to use his computer skills to help him find his biological parents. All he has is his fathers and his brothers names, and the town where he was born; Diyarbakir. A kurdish town in eastern Turkey. The three of us spend the evening searching through the limited records online, but Patrik comes up with the idea of sending emails to the local mosques. Nano speaks turkish and sorani, so he writes an email that we send out, and Patrik also have him write emails to two local newspapers and a library about any births or events around the time he was supposedly born. After two and a half weeks, Nano has the phone number to his older brother and his uncle, but he hasn't decided whether or not he wants to call them, nor has he told his adoptive parents.

It’s not often that Patrik and I are alone at the apartment, but on one such evening when we are hunched up on his bed watching a football game, he comments on a perfect kick:
"-Mom wants everything she does to be perfect,.. thats why she doesn’t like my hands."
He notices how I tense up and I turn to him, because he doesn't normally talk about these things.
He looks away, but he turns the tv off and leans back against my shoulder; -the physical contact not quite making up for not wanting to make eye contact.
“-I’m her son, but I’m not perfect like Rickard, who is Josefines son.”
I want to argue against this, because Rickard is far from perfect. He is irresponsible and reckless, but he is not saying that he is envious of Rick, only referring to his mother.
I knew Rickard had a different mother, but I didn’t know her name. I ask about Josefine and he explains slowly;
"-Dad was dating Josefine and she was already four or five months pregnant when he met mom.
He kept in touch with her because of the pregnancy but when Josefine died giving birth to Rickard, dad had to take care of him.“
I also didn’t know that she had died giving birth to Rickard, and I think about what that must mean to him.
“-Mom has always been extremely jealous. She was jealous of the baby and jealous because dad must have been upset that Josefine died.”
“-She said that having a child to take care of really hurt her career, but she wanted a baby that would be hers and dads, -they tried for a long time but she had two miscarriages before I was born. “
“-Thats what she says: that she wanted me, but when I was born all I did was ruin it for her.
That I was a big disappointment. She must have wanted me to be perfect, like her looks, her career and her marriage, but I’m not.”
"-She is wrong." I tell him.
He pulls his legs up on the bed, glances at me and continues, changing the subject:
“-She never dared to lay a hand on Rickard. He told me that she tried to make him hit me when we were kids, like part of some game. I don't remember it, but if he did she could blame him and punish us both. Dad didn't see it because he was always working. -He inherited these restaurants from grandpa: I never met my grandparents, -and he built everything from there, buying small businesses and expanding to other suburbs."
"-When I was six and Rickard must have been about 13 he tried to run away with me.
I remember being outdoors and dad came and took me from Rickard and first he put me in our car, then he dragged Rickard into the car: Once they started driving, Rickard opened the door to jump out, but dad held his arm and mom,.. -she kept on driving! He was dragged alongside the car and he broke his foot and hurt his shoulder."
"-Mom started taking jobs abroad and we were left alone with different nannies or just on our own.
-I think that dad didn't know what to do but send her away. -I like to believe that he did something.” He pauses.
“- It... It just wasn’t enough. -It wasn't until her job offers stopped coming that she started to hurt me and threaten us. It escalated and she could be really aggressive.”
“-Cigarettes if I wasn’t home on time,.. nails if I said something she didn’t like or if she saw my hands. -That time when she broke my fingers, it was because I had defended Rickard.
I know that he feels guilty because she hurt me and not him, and because he could move out before me, but its not true, -she did it to both of us, she only did it to me physically.”
“-She didn’t want me to bring friends home, or get to know kids in school so that they would know, and she would make me change schools.”
“-Know what? I ask.
“-Wait, you are saying,.. ” I interrupt him before he speaks and now I'm the one who can’t face him:
“-You mean she hurt you for spending time with me?... Patrik?”
He sits quiet for a long while and I repeat his name.
“ -I just want her to leave us alone. I only need three more years."
It’s becoming clearer to me how complicated his relationship with his parents is and how the bond between him and Rickard grew this strong. There is no hatred in Patriks voice but I understand him.
-He doesn’t miss his parents. His misses the parents they could have been. Maybe sometimes he wishes for more, to be appreciated, but he just wants to endure, he doesn't want any more trouble. He doesn't need revenge, he just wants to feel safe.

It’s november 30, and I ask Patrik to stay at home that evening, because it’s one of those nights that are traditionally messy, with manifestations from both racists and antiracists throughout the city. But his class is going out together, and then he will continue to the club. It’s one of the last club nights of the season and Rickard has asked us to come.  I go to sleep restlessly as I’m alone at the apartment and I leave the tv on for some background noise. Just after two, I wake up as Rickard bangs on my bedroom door and practically falls in over the doorstep. Breathless, stuttering, he says:
"-Carol, you need to come. Get up! Patrik... -they tried to stab Nano. He tried to stop them. He's at Karolinska." Not awake, I don't understand, and Rickard is clearly drunk: Karolinska, thats a hospital, thats not right. Nano has been... -No: Patrik has been stabbed. This is not happening. This is NOT happening. Hundreds of different scenarios run through my my head while I rush to get dressed. Jon is there and he drives us to the hospital, because Rickard is too drunk and way too upset. Rickard goes through the ER like a madman screaming at the staff. I try to calm him down, I grab his arm and he shuts down. 
He sinks down to the floor and I hear myself saying "-Lets just hear what they have to tell us?"
Jon explains to a nurse why we are there but he doesn't know anything about the patient.
-Patient. It’s Patrik, not a patient, I think and my head starts spinning.
The nurse takes us to another waiting room. He asks us to confirm Patriks personal details and social security number because he is not conscious. I mechanically list the names and dosages of his medicines, in case it is important. A second nurse comes in and says that Patrik is in surgery. She doesn't want to say what they are operating on. Jon recalls that Nano is in the ER too being looked after and he leaves to ask for him. I’m alone with Rickard who is sobbing and alternately pacing across the room and sitting down on the floor.
Nano limps in with Jon under his arm, he is bruised and has a cut over one of his eyebrows. We hug gently and he explains that he has a concussion and he asks for news. But we don't know anything and we ask him what happened. Worried he looks from Rickard to me and back.
"-We were at the club; I refused some guys entry. Skinheads. They were waiting for us outside when we finally closed up. We were almost out the alley when they attacked us. I was hit on the back of my head and dragged and I saw Patrik on the ground too. I don't remember anything else."

I sit down in front of Rickard on the floor and wait. I hear the door open and I see Rickards eyes go wild. I don't even have to turn around to understand and when Rickard stands up I hear myself yelling:
"-No no no! They can't be here, not in this room! Take them somewhere else!"
Confused the nurse stands there for a second but Jon and Nano has to hold Rickard back with all their force and slowly she backs away out of the room, with Nev and Thomas behind her.
Rickard is his emergency contact, but I should have realised that as soon as Patrik’s identity was confirmed, the hospital staff had to contact his parents, because he is under 18. Everything seem to happen in slow motion. Hours and hours pass, I lose track of time and I ask aloud if maybe his parents are getting information that we are not. This only agitates Rick and I stay quiet.
-For a second, I think that the police arrives for Rickard and I stand up defensively; but they are there to take Nanos statement. They also tell us they believe one of the attackers called the ambulance. Nano refuses to go home to rest but Jon leaves to get Linn who has just finished work and to get some clothes for both Nano and Patrik, just in case.
That’s when I see that the lower part of Nanos jeans are covered by a dark crust of dried blood. I look up at him and I remember that he did not hurt his legs that bad and I start crying and repeating
"-Oh god, oh god" when I understand that the blood must be Patriks. I can't breath, my chest tightens and I don't remember anything until I'm sitting on a chair and Rickard is holding a white plastic cup of water to my lips. I'm shaking and I ask if I missed the doctor. Rickards hand squeezes my shoulder and he repeats:
"-He is out of surgery. Carro... he has a skull fracture and they operated to ease the pressure of his brain. They have to keep him sedated.“ he pauses to make sure that I’m recording what he is telling me, and continues: “-He was stabbed in the left side and he lost a lot of blood but they only punctured his lung.“ I feel myself panicking again but Rickard hurries to say that it’s a good thing, -no other organs were injured.
“-They think they kicked him in the head and the chest. He has a few broken ribs, and his jaw is broken. They crushed his kneecaps and his right hand -so they still need to fix those things."
“-His right hand?” So typically me to notice the least important thing. I need something to focus on, but the thought of them operating on Patriks skull is too scary. I apologize. I want to hear him say that Patrik is going to be fine. “-He’s sedated?” I ask. “So he won’t wake up now?”
Jon who remains calm tries to encourage us to go outside and get some air but neither me or Rickard want to leave in case there are any more news. But since we have used the room for over six hours and others might need it we move camp to the hospital cafeteria. Rickard has sobered up fast and we force him to drink some water, but he can’t eat. Exhausted I try to eat some breakfast and then me and Linn finally fall asleep on a sofa leaning against each other. Mum and stepdad arrives but we have nothing new to tell them and they stay for about an hour.
A doctor though not his surgeon is very good to us and tells us about all the things they are monitoring and that the jaw is now also fixated. He repeats that there were no internal organs injured except the lung, and that they have to wait for the swelling to go down. He tries to make Nano go home and rest but he refuses and 15 minutes later Nano is admitted as a patient again and we are all waiting in his room. Luckily; because we learn that the press has already found out that Nev Hansen’s son has been assaulted and they are asking for Rickard and Nano at the service desk. I look to Jon “-They can’t write about this.” Any deal that Patrik had made with his parents is off. Without a doubt, they are going to blame everything on Rickard.
Finally in the afternoon another nurse comes over to tell us that Patrik will only need surgery on one of his knees but that they have to wait until he is more stable. 16 hours after Patrik was admitted Rickard is asked to the NIVA to see him and he says: “She needs to come too, she’s his girlfriend”. Girlfriend. Patrik doesn't have a girlfriend? Or I’d know. I don’t connect the dots that he infact means me: -I have a boyfriend. Patrik is my boyfriend.
They explain to us with low voices how the pressure in his skull is monitored, and how they are attempting to lower it. How it was difficult to intubate him because of his broken jaw and all the swelling. They can't give us any prognosis on whether or not he will have permanent brain damage and they will keep him sedated. Brain damage. I can feel the ground dissolving beneath me and I can't listen anymore. I am not ok with this. 
We only have eight minutes. I can only stare at his bruised, swollen face. This boy doesn't look anything like Patrik and he looks so small. I feel a false relief for a second: It’s not him, It’s not him, but it passes. He has a weird looking bandage around his head, what's left of his black hair is a dirty mess. His lower lip is split. His chest and both his hands are bandaged. There are tubes everywhere. I don't understand why his swollen eyes have to be taped closed.
-And there is blood. I am upset over this and ask why they haven't washed him. The nurse says that they have to focus on the primary care. Both Rick and I are too scared to ask any more questions. She leaves us in the hallway outside the common room and I start crying again and Rickard sits down apathetic on a chair in the corner. I take the elevator down alone to where the others are waiting, and motionless I try to repeat what the doctors have said. Jon will tell Nano and then head home, but I take the elevator back up to the fourth floor and take a seat next to Rickard.
We are alone. I sit there staring in front of me, and I catch myself mumbling Patriks name over and over and shaking my head. Rickard finally falls asleep of exhaustion and I leave him to find a nurse and ask a few questions. A nurse finds me in the hallway as she exits another room.
"-Who are you here to visit?" she asks.
"-Patrik. Room 23.
"-Is he the young boy?"
She asks who I am and I tell her I’m his girlfriend and she comes with me back to his room, but we both stop in the doorway. The room is lightly lit, the machines are glowing and it makes him look even more strange.
"-Are you staying the night?" She asks.
"-Yes, but I don't think I can sleep."
"-Nothing is likely to change the next few hours but the doctor will be here at six and probably when his parents come back."
I feel cold. I don’t know whether to be angry because his parents were here, or because they decided not to stay when he is in critical condition. Both. It’s easier to focus my anger on them than to allow myself to be scared.
"-When will he wake up?” I ask even though I know the answer.
"-As soon as the swelling goes down they will try to wake him up."
The nurse checks on us a few times at night, and in the morning before she ends her shift she has another nurse with her that brings sponges, towels and water. She tells me I can go and see him but to not get the patient or the bed too wet. Again with the patient. She speaks to me like a child but I don’t mind being taken care of right now.
First I'm relieved to be able to do something, but then I’m too scared of hurting him to touch him, and I mostly watch. The nurse explains that it’s not all blood; but antiseptic and bruising of the skin. I'm grateful and I feel comforted by how gentle she is with him but it's so scary to see him this way.
At six a team of three doctors come to see Patrik, but all they can say is that they can’t wake him yet. Jon comes to pick us up in time before his parents arrive, and we go home.
Nano is already home, perched on our sofa, he is in shock, shivering, and Tess is watching him. Jon takes Linn with him to the club to make sure it’s closed up properly. Rick wants to go with them but I hear Jon saying he shouldn't; there is still blood on the snow and on the pavement. The thought of Patriks blood on the pavement makes me sick to my stomach and I rush to the bathroom. Afterwards I take a long hot shower and a change of clothes. I go up to Patriks bedroom but he is not there: I can't step over the threshold and I start crying again. He should be there. Rickard and I take a taxi back to the hospital. The driver tries to ask if we are visiting someone but none of us want to say it. We are told that we can sit with him for two hours, but we need to be quiet. Patrik is the same, except he has a hospital gown or shirt on and his arms are tucked underneath a new sheet. Rickard is restless and when he doesn't walk around the room he sits on a chair with his right leg nervously jumping up and down in line with the beeping machines, and I know I’m his mirror image. I’m tearing up and I can't help it even though my eyes are sore and hurting already. I keep pressing my nails into my fingers and into my palm to be able to focus on the pain. It’s much harder to see Patrik now in the daylight and when the initial shock perhaps is over. I want to know that he will wake up. I want to ask if I can hold his hand but I remember them saying his right hand was broken, and both hands were taped and bandaged.
“-It doesn't look like him” Rickard finally speaks.
Patriks face is blue, red, purple and swollen, and there is some kind of bruise or wider scratch mark on his forehead. His hair seems to be shaved off in sections. I go with Rickard as he takes a smoke, and when we come back a nurse comes in and we repeat the questions but still without any clear answers. I don’t know how time passes, because every second is painfully slow and even though I'm desperate to see him, I’m glad they have limited our time.
The image of his unresponsive body is etched in my brain. I ask aloud if he can hear us and Rick assures me that Patrik knows that we would be there if anything happened to him. I try to find comfort in this but I feel like I don't have the right to. There are so many thoughts running through my head and I feel like I have wronged him. -We couldn't stop his mum from hurting him, and now he lies here, beaten because he wanted to help Nano.
That evening, the same nurse from the previous night asks me about Patriks old burns, scars and bruises. She asks if I know if they are self-afflicted. She assures me that if I tell her,
she is still bound to keep it confidential. I want to tell her everything but I can’t. I tell her that they aren’t, that I don’t think Patrik wants his parents to visit him, and that he doesn't live with them anymore. I tell her that they haven't spoken for months. But I understand that he is a minor, and that they are his parents. As I say this, another worrying seed starts to grow in me: -What if they try to stop us from seeing him?
My gut feeling says that I need to tell the nurse everything; surely the police would stop his mum if the hospital told them about his old injuries? But I can't risk it; it's not about me, it's about Patrik and Rickard and they have asked me not to, but I'm less and less and convinced that they have made the right decision.

On day three, Christine comes to the hospital but she says she doesn't want to see Patriks body. I want to cry again, because I don’t like the way she says “body”, as if Patrik, his person and soul, are gone. Mum brings newspapers, a book and some snacks. She sits down with me and shows me the news article and the statement that his parents have made but I'm too upset already to let it get to me. She says I don’t have to go to school this week. This week? I ask myself, and I don’t even know what day it is and school is the last thing on my mind. I have no sense of time, it’s all about when Patrik will wake up. In the evening the doctors discuss whether or not Patrik should be moved to the childrens hospital, but no decision is made.
On day five we don’t get to see Patrik during the day because the pressure in his skull has gone down somewhat and the doctors want to attempt to wake him up. This is the news we have been waiting for and I allow myself to replace the empty hollowness with a little bit of hope, but not too much until we know more. Later we are told that we can see him for a few minutes, but we are warned that they are watching him very closely and that they might have to sedate him again. I’ve never been happier to see someone turn his head just a little bit.
The next two days, we are allowed to see him for two hours, but he is sedated again. I have no recollection of how we make the rest of the day go by, how we make do, but both Christine and my class teacher calls me at the apartment to see how we are doing and when I will come back to school.
It's difficult for me to fall asleep in the evenings and in the middle of the night I sneak out of my bed, I briefly hesitate before I cross the threshold to his room, but I decide to try to sleep in his bed where I'm closer to him. When I wake up, Rick is sitting on the floor, asleep, leaning against the bedpost. I leave him be and fall back into a dreamless sleep.

On the morning of day eight, they wake Patrik up again, and he is extubated. He is breathing with shallow breaths on his own. He looks into my eyes and I know he recognises me, and I can't help but start crying again like there is no end. We can stay in the room when the doctors release each other one by one, examining him. He tries to move his arms and he tries to but can’t speak in words that we can understand, and the nurse increases his pain medication. The doctors are looking into his eyes and his ears and then they tape his right eye over again. It’s not responding to stimuli correctly. I don’t understand what that means but I don’t care, because Patrik really is waking up. We are asked to let him rest and we linger in the hospital cafeteria, hoping that his doctors soon will be able to tell us more, and we see his parents from a far taking the elevator up to his floor. Rickard squeezes my shoulder and we look at each other but there are no words. At home Jon and Nano listens carefully to any news that we have, because they still haven’t been allowed to visit him, and I feel selfish, because they have both known him for much longer than me.

That night things turn to the worse. We were told Patrik received a lower dose of a sedative to help him into a light sleep. Hours later, the nurse registered that his temperature was rising and he was developing a sort of fever. When the doctor on call arrives Patrik won't wake up and he sees that the oxygen level and blood pressure is also dropping, and Patrik is taken to an emergency room as he needs to be intubated again and to remove a possible blood clot in his previously collapsed lung. Because he still has a drainage in his chest, the doctors have no problem finding and dissolving the clot. When they call Rickard in the morning, they describe the procedure as successful, but Patrik isn’t waking up and he isn’t breathing on his own.
On december 10, Rickard has a big surprise for me. I’ve not forgotten it’s my birthday even though I’ve tried, but he tells me he has a present from Patrik. “-How?”, I ask. It’s not been wrapped, but Rickard picks a brown teddybear out of a plastic bag.
“-He showed it to me after he bought it. I know he wants you to have it.”
It’s a handmade collectors teddybear with movable joints, not something you buy in just any toy shop. It has black solid glass eyes, and a black bow tie. It’s cute, and even if I feel awkward because Patrik isn’t here, I will never grow too old for teddybears, -he remembered, and he thought of me. And what would be a better gift now than something to bring you comfort?
His own gift to me is something I can’t begin to explain; he lets me see Patrik alone for one of the two hours of visitation we have. I bring my chair close to his bed. Most of the swelling of his face has gone down, but he is still bruised, and the bruises are now dark purple to brown and yellow. I know all the tubes are necessary but they are intimidating and scary. I let my fingertips touch his cheek and then I place my hand around his wrist, since I can't hold his hand. When I can feel his pulse and that his skin is warm, I feel much calmer. 
Without hesitation I start telling him all the reasons to why he needs to wake up.

We are all expecting retaliation from his parents, but nothing is happening. We are waiting for Patrik to wake up and we are waiting for his parents to kick us out of the apartment, to close Rickards bank accounts, to call the police or to do something, and the wait puts a lot of pressure on all of us. I can always go to mom’s place, but Rickard, Nano and Jon has nowhere else to go and Jon starts to look for a new apartment for himself and Linn. It would mean that he would no longer live with them and I ask myself who will take care of Rickard if Jon leaves?
We have reached the 17th of december, and I hear it through Rickard, and he is furious, -red faced, skin boiling furious. All his anger is directed towards his parents:
”-They did WHAT?" I reply in doubt. Rickard repeats:
“-They moved him to the house. They hired two private nurses and moved him to the house.
The doctors said that since there is no telling if or when his condition will change he can just as well be at home.”
“-It’s not his home, she hurt him!” I don’t mean to raise my voice against Rickard, but he understands. Not in my wildest fantasy had I thought this would be an option.
“-If I try to see him at all they will call the police.” he fills me in.
Rickard closes his fist and slam it at the open door to his bedroom, and his fist goes through the first and second layer of wood, and the door bounces off the wall and smacks into his arm on its way back.
He slides down to the floor leaning on the doorpost, and I sit down to look at his hand.
He’s got some red scratches on his knuckles and splinters on his wrist, but he won’t let me take them out.
“-That has to hurt” I say.
“-They took my brother.” he says.
Just like at the hospital we sit opposite of each other on the floor and lean our heads on the other, but now we are both crying quietly, and our tears mix on our cheeks. I don’t know how we can even have any tears left.

It feels like Christine has to lift my legs one by one, one step at the time to make me go to school. I want the distraction, a focus, but it’s not working. But there are just three more days of school this semester before the christmas holiday. I’m not getting into the christmas spirit.
I have failed Patrik so bad. I couldn't protect him, and now he is back with his parents who hurt him. I’m so scared for him and I miss him. People aren't asking me how he is doing anymore, but the computer science administrator has news for me instead. His parents will have nothing to do with us, but the administrator has called them to ask if Patrik is coming back to school next semester and how he is doing. There is no change, he’s not returning to school. The news is still covering the story as well. Mom wants me to come home, but when I’m there I just walk around in this fog. When I’m at the apartment, I mostly sit in Patriks bed mumbling to myself, swaying back and forth. I hardly notice that christmas or new years eve pass by.

That morning I dream of birds. Magpies in shimmering black and white. The small plum tree outside my bedroom window is full of magpies and when I look up they lift from the tree all at once.
At 10:15 Rickard is at our door, mum answers and he asks for me. And I know. He doesn't try to explain. He just stands in the doorway and reaches out his hands for me. I run up the seven steps of stairs and fall into his arms. He is so much taller than me and I scream into his chest until I run out of breath.
They turned off the machines at 8:17 and at 8:35, january 6 1996, Patrik was declared dead.

His parents decide not to have him cremated, and they have their ceremony. We heard there was a lot of people at the funeral but neither of Patriks friends could stomach it. Instead Jon contacted his priest and on Rickards bidding we walked through the heavy snow in silence, across the field to the stone ship where we stood in an arch around the largest stone catching the last light of the day as the priest said his prayers and we said our goodbyes.

I’m sick with grief. A high fever runs through my body, I can’t stop coughing and my chest hurts badly. Rickard stays with me at moms house for just over two weeks. He starts out sleeping in my little brothers room next doors but ends up on a mattress on the floor next to my bed. When we do manage to sleep I have feverish nightmares, he has regular ones. I feel like I’m not a part of this world but I know somehow that my heart is still beating. I’m treated for pneumonia and unwillingly the fog in my head slowly clears. Mom starts asking too many questions and Rick needs another place to stay. He reminds me that we need to go back to the apartment and clear out our things: -And Patrik’s things, before they do. I don’t want to do it. I want to stay in my feverish existence where there is a small, small chance that none of this is real.
There is already a thin layer of dust covering the bookshelves, the tv and the desk in Patriks room. The bed is unmade but I was the last person to sleep there, not him. I pick two books from his nightstand that he hasn’t finished. Maybe I can finish them and tell him how they end, I think to myself. I rumble through his drawers but I can’t make myself pick up any of his clothes. I pack the books in my bag together with the clothes and items from my own room. Jon has promised that we can store anything of value at his new place. We pack the computers, some paintings from the living room, the cutlery, porcelain and some kitchen appliances. Rick packs Patriks room on his own in determined silence, his books and clothes filling three boxes. I try not to feel, but how can I not feel like all that is left of Patrik are these three boxes? The little knot in my stomach keeps growing and growing until I can’t stop it, I can’t breath and it feels like someone has put their hand around my heart, squeezing it. Rickard takes a break and he stands next to me looking out at the apartment, running his hand comforting up and down my back. Once all the boxes are carried out to the van, he locks the door, puts the key in an envelope and pushes it through the letterbox. That’s it, we are never going back in. We are never going back home.

The school semester has already started -it actually started two days after Patrik died, or as I sometimes feel like saying; was killed; -and I’ve missed the first few weeks. Everyone at school knows that Patrik has died and how the story evolved in the press. I’m not open to the overwhelming support and curious questions I receive from students or teachers that I don’t even know. I feel uncomfortable and threatened; hunted, questioned; -irrationally anxious and scared. I feel their eyes on me wherever I go. They have questions, but I don’t know how to answer them.
Even worse is how I ignore everyone who really cares about me, I don’t understand that they are trying to help and at the end of the day I sit there alone crying, wondering why nobody else cares that he is gone.
Rickard and I take long walks together to stay busy. Because staying busy keeps us from thinking dark thoughts. Almost. We take the bus to the castle ruins a couple of times and we walk up to the stone ship and just stand there staring in the freezing cold until we can’t take it anymore. Only on one occasion do we visit his actual grave together. He doesn’t break down like I do with cascades of tears, but he calls me one evening and I find him sitting on the stairwell outside the old apartment. His eyes are red from crying and he is shivering. I sit down next to him and he leans his head on mine and starts crying again. I put my arm around his waist and start crying as well. After what seems like hours we let go, and he leans forward and kisses me. It is my first kiss but Rickard looks so much like Patrik and I only wish it could have been him and not his brother.
Rick stays two nights at Jons, two nights here and there at acquaintances and friends, restless, unsettled. He picks up women at clubs to have somewhere to sleep, destructively. Nano has a second hand contract for a student room but Rick can't stay there. I’m oblivious, hiding in my own grief and my foggy mind, and way too naive to understand. Then Linn calls me and comes to pick me up at home. -Rickard showed up at their door, high on some unknown drug, unable to make himself understood, then passing out. Jon didn’t wait to call an ambulance but drove him to the ER himself where they had his stomach pumped. He is asleep when we come up to the ward but I am so angry, furious, at him. He is released the same day and Jon takes him home. But it’s only the first of events where Rick leaves to get drugs and we don’t hear from him for days at a time. We try everything, the police, the shelters, but in the end he always shows up at Jons place. I know it can't continue like this.
Nano has just about had enough of everything; the attack, losing Patrik, leaving the apartment nearly being homeless, getting all worked up over Rickard who doesn't care about anything,.. and we don’t blame him when he leaves for Diyarbakir to finally try to locate his biological parents. He plans to be away for approximately two months. Rickard is detained at a police station for substance abuse and sent to rehab for two weeks and then set free awaiting sentence. I’m still very angry with him but it feels like maybe this is just what he needed. We have been so scared that Rick will be reported to the police but now that they can’t stop him from being with Patrik anymore,.. -maybe he needs this to turn his life around. I hold on to this thought as Rickard disappears again for several days.

When Jon gets strange and confusing phone calls from Rickard saying that he is in Oslo and we need to come and get him asap, we do just that. In panic Jon, Linn, Tess and I get on the next train from Stockholm to Oslo. Mom doesnt want me to go but she can’t stop me. The train takes 6 and a half hours and we meet him on the central station but Rickard is high again. He is confused, he doesn't understand what we are saying and that we are trying to take him home. He refuses to say what kind of drugs he has taken and he talks about Patrik. He repeats over and over that they have taken his brother. He becomes more and more agitated and John tries to get a hold of his jacket, but he pulls himself loose then stumbles a few steps, turns around and starts half limping, half running down a short staircase to one of the platforms. When the train comes in I instinctively turn away. I hear the screams and I know that one of the voices are mine.

Whatever happened afterwards I have only been told because there is a big gap in my memory and I don’t come around until two days later when I’m boarding a plane back to Sweden with Tess dragging me to my seat. Jon has stayed behind, -to arrange everything, as Tess states. I just sit there staring in front of me, still hyperventilating.
Mom, step dad, Christine and Jimmy meets us at the airport and I’ve been told that I just kept asking for Patrik; that I had to tell him about Rickard.

Part 4

Back to Table of contents

Tuesday, March 21, 2000

Fractions part 4

Note: To follow the story it is recommended that you first read the previous parts, or from part 2 and forward, where several of the characters mentioned are introduced.
Back to Table of contents

John tells Nano about Rickards suicide over the phone. He has not been easy to get a hold of since he has already left for Diyarbakir to find his family.
He immediately makes arrangements to go back home. -He has learnt that his biological parents has already passed away but that he has several siblings, and it's a lot to take in.
Two days before his flight home he is having lunch with his uncle and cousin at a cafe in the eastern part of the city, outside the walls, when a car bomb explodes. Nanos uncle dies and his cousin is badly injured. When Nano is able to reach Jon several days later trough embassy personnel, everyone are worried sick because obviously he didn't make the flight home.

We are shocked to learn that Nano is in hospital, with burns on his stomach and hands, and with both his legs amputated. He has had three operations, but now awake, they won't let him fly home. Jon asks around about ambulance planes but is told that since Nano is not critical and because he is also a turkish citizen, they can't send a plane for him. He talks to Nano everyday and makes plans to go to him, but we understand that he really can't stay there much longer, and three weeks in, he has caught an infection. Jon takes all the remaining money from the bar and Rickards savings as well as an emergency loan to pay for the ambulance plane and it's ready from him three days later.

Monday, March 20, 2000

Fractions part 5

Patrik is constantly on my mind, but some days are worse than others and I miss him so much it's unbearable. I can wake up in the mornings, already sad, shocked and disoriented as if I’ve had a bad dream that won’t let go. I can also feel fine an entire day to just suddenly be hit by it and end up in tears over absolutely nothing. Something that won’t bother me at all one day, leads to a meltdown the next. No one can prepare for that.
On these evenings I hide away in my room, and when I crawl up on top of my bed against the wall and close my eyes, I can picture him sitting next to me and I can feel his weight as he leans against my shoulder. I try hard to catch that feeling of safety and calm that he brought me. If it doesn’t work, I go to sleep holding the teddy bear he bought me.
Wherever I go, I feel like I have this dead angle; as if I just look over my left shoulder, he will be right there, behind me.
Slowly the edges softens. I learn not to react as strongly to things that are not from within me;- things that I can’t control like what people say, places, certain items that I connect to him, songs, sounds, scents… But there is also another feeling that is so difficult to explain. I need to miss him. I need to also have these items and places and all these memories that makes me want to scream and tear my heart out.

I have to concentrate so hard in school where memories of Patrik are everywhere, every day exhausts me and I’m glad when school ends for the summer. I’m glad, but I also walk around close to tears the entire day because it’s exactly six months to the day since Patrik died, and I don’t know where I’m at with Christine and the others, if I will even see them again before school start again in the fall.
Ajje, being a year older than me, has already graduated earlier the same week but he has decided against having a celebration. He has been studying on his own pace from the nursing home with teachers coming to see him a few hours every other week, and he has completed each subject one at the time.
He challenges me to think in patterns that I have never done before. I’ve never had a friend besides Nano who were not born in one of the nordic countries, and even though I belong to a minority, I’ve never had to consider what this means, and I don’t identify with the swedish-speaking, Finnish community. He patiently tries to explain to me how his family's history, being a minority both as a disabled person; a muslim, an immigrant, and belonging to a kurdish minority in Turkey; -how all of this affects his life and his decisions on daily basis.
He is funny, kind and both straight forward and very soft in his ways. He has made it clear early on that he considers me more than a friend, but he has not asked me for more than my time, he has not asked me to declare my eternal love for him or to put words to how I feel.
If he has a bad day he will tell me, and he will tell me what he needs from me in terms of both emotional support and if he needs help with things that he just can’t do physically.

-The insecurity that I struggle with comes only from myself: There is no doubt that I have feelings for Ajje, and there is no doubt that I’m still hurting from losing Patrik, and in my
mind, it should not be possible to combine these feelings. It throws me into a chaotic spiral where I know that the relationship I had with Patrik meant so much to me, but it wasn’t the same kind of relationship that I can see myself building with Ajje. Still, I owe Patrik so much, and there are days when I am really upset because I feel that I should be respectfully mourning Patrik and not looking forward to go out to see Ajje.

Having to stay at the nursing home is wearing a lot on both of them, -it’s been nearly six months. Ajje is really struggling with living away from his family, even if they see each other every day. Relying on the different nursing aides and waiting for the answer on his brothers appeal is very stressful.
I’m starting to feel like I’m living two different lives, not knowing how to combine them:
-One where Ajje is letting me into his world; -and one when I leave them there and I have to go back to a reality where I am alone.
With the increasingly warm and beautiful weather they are feeling trapped not really being able to go anywhere. Nano has received some good news, he will be able to rent a small adapted apartment, but it will not be free until the end of july, -and yes, his new wheelchair is a lot smaller than Ajjes.

We go to the park and we go shopping at the local mall and sometimes we have a train of kids with us which is great fun. One of Ajjes relatives always drives us there in his van even though it's almost close enough for us to walk.
-One saturday when I know that my mom and my step dad are going to be out, I bring Ajje home with me. It's only a 20 or so minutes walk from the nursing home and excited about the idea he assures me it will be alright.
It's a detached 4 bedroom house in 2.5 floors with a small patio on the front and a large back yard. There is a stair before the front door of the house, but the terrass door on the first floor is just wide enough for him to pass.  
"-You own this house? He asks.
"-My stepfather does".
He is eager to see my room. I show him around and we pass the two first bedrooms, the bathroom and the utility room, and we go down a hallway to my smaller room.
“-I’ve never lived in a house.”
The room is just big enough for him to be able to turn around in, and I leave him be as he looks through my things; my desk, the big bookshelf, the bed and the small tv on top of the wardrobe.
“-You like to read a lot of fantasy.”
“-Yeah… David Eddings.. that sort of thing.”
“-Fun... it would be pretty nice having someone with magic powers fighting for you...” he grins and doesn’t try to hide his amusement.
“-But I like your stories too”.
I run upstairs to get us some drinks and when I come back he turns and points to one of the shelves where I keep some trinkets and photos.
“-Is that your father?” he is looking at a photo of two men standing in front of a large painting at an art exhibition.
“-Yeah that’s my father, and grandpa.”
He tries to get closer so I take all the pictures down from the shelf and put them on the desk in front of him instead.
“-That’s Nano. But I don’t know who the others are.” he says.
“-Yeah that’s taken at the bar, before it closed. Some of these people are just customers.”
“-Nice legs.”
“-Ajje!” I burst out and punch him playfully on his arm.
“-I meant the girl! The girl in the short dress!” he laughs.
“-Oh my god... you!..”
But he is already reaching out for one of the other pictures that I've purposely put in the back and my laugh fades.
“So that’s Patrik. The driver must be his brother.”
It’s a photo of Patrik and Rickard in the Saab, with Rickard in the drivers seat smiling and Patrik in the passenger seat, leaning back.
I take a few steps back and sit down on my bed and he turns around so that he can see me.
I’ve avoided talking about Patrik as long as I’ve possibly could.
“-Yeah thats them, -how did you know?"
“-You don’t like your brothers, but you have held on to this picture. It's good to know what they looked like. "
It's good to know? Sometimes Ajje mixes the words up...
"-They mean a lot to you. He looks happy."
He pauses and then asks me what's in the rest of the photo albums that he has spotted on the bottom shelf. I bring them out, and I show him snapshots of my life. No one has asked to see them before that I can remember. Perhaps I've been unfair. I see his family all the time but he hasn't even met my mom.
We look at baby pictures, graduations, celebrations and everyday pictures, and I tell him a little about each page. He laughs at the pictures from the family holiday to Turkey when he hears that we had roaches in the bathroom of the hotel room.
When we reach the end of the second album, he asks if he could lie down a bit before we have to go back, so I take off his shoes and lift him on to my bed.
Because of the way his spine is curved, he is half lying on his right side, half lying on his back, and the way my bed is placed, he has to face the wall. I know he is not comfortable lying down with the back brace on for very long but we don't have time to undress him to take it off and then put it back on before we have to go.
I squeeze myself in between him and the wall, lying on my side and supporting myself on my elbow.
I straighten his legs a bit, then I lay down beside him, even if it's tight.
His eyes are closed and his hand is resting against my stomach. He moves his thumb a little in a gentle caress.
He has gained a little bit of weight since we met but it’s not muscle mass and since I see him all the time it is barely noticeable to me and he is still very very thin.
I love watching him, how he moves and how he compensates -or completes, his body language with different gestures and a large variety of facial expressions. I’ve learnt which signs means to move his arms, his hands, his legs and so on. Right now he has a relaxed, content look on his face.  
After a while I whisper to him:
"-Your back is not really hurting, is it?
"-Only a little" he admits with a big smile but keeps his eyes closed.
"-Chest is a little tight." he says, clears his throat and repeats the movement of his tongue
that he does when he has problems swallowing.
"-Oh, do you..." I start but he hushes me:
"-Sssshhh -I've never been in a girls bed before. Let me enjoy it. But it's very soft. It smells nice."
"-I've never had a boy lie in this bed before."
Clumsy! Don't ruin it... please please please don't ask...
He opens his eyes. Serious again he asks:
"-You did not allow Patrik to be in your bed?"
Always so straightforward... perhaps less tactful this time.
I can't tell if he is jealous, a little upset or just asking. Should I have hidden the photo? No.
I loved them and I'm not hiding them. I suppose he has the right to ask.
I raise myself up on my arm again so that I can see him better.

"-Not Patrik... -no he didn't... -He only came here to the house one time. It was that evening that he showed me how his mom hurt him. -Two nights, when he was very upset, I slept next to him in his bed at his parents house.
-There... there were two other men. One is a friend of mom... I did not allow them...
I didn't understand. And mom wouldn't listen to me. Thats why I'm not good friends with my mom. -Patrik didn't ask me to live with him for his sake, but for mine. He was very kind to me and very important to me.
-I'm sorry, I didn't want this to be about Patrik, now that we are finally alone."

I turn to my back and lie looking up at the ceiling, but I Iift his hand to my stomach and hold it there. Even though we've touched when I've helped him with things, it is the first time we touch just to feel close like this. His long fingers, his wrist and his arm are very thin, showing every bone and knuckle, and his skin is soft but a little cold. As usual his nails are a little too long.
Maybe I’ll ask to cut them when we get back.
We rest in silence, our breaths and heart rates slowing down to a comfortable snooze.

He clears his throat and says that he needs to move his arm. I lay his arm down carefully and turn around to face him again, and I see that his cheeks and eyes are wet and that his eyes are all red. He coughs a little again and says with a hoarse slow voice:
"-I’m sorry. -And I didn't mean to ruin our day".
"-I know. It’s OK, you haven’t ruined it.“ I say embarrassed. -Relieved that I could finally tell someone, but embarrassed and uncomfortable about how badly I did it.
“-I will tell you about it another time. -But no, I never kissed him, and I definitely did not have sex with him."
"-You didn't kiss him?"
I smile at him to assure him that we are all right and I sit up to get off the bed.
"-Let me just move you, I know the bed is too soft.”
"-Yes, thank you, not too comfortable here."
I lift him further up the bed and move more pillows under his back and neck so that his upper body is raised and he doesn't have to lie flat.
"-I don't want you to..."  I start and then run off to the bathroom to get a cloth.
"-I don't want you to have to have salty tears drying on your cheeks."
He mildly protests but I gently wipe the corner of his eyes and his cheeks.
He asks for some more coke and I suggest that if we ask someone to pick him up, we would have another 30 minutes or so before he has to be back.
After the pickup has been arranged I lie down next to him again and we are both smiling nervously.
"-I've never been in a girls bed before" he says.
"-Yeah you've said that" I giggle.
I move closer to him and he repeats "-Closer" and grins until he is satisfied and my arm is wrapped tightly around him.
I let go and run my hand slowly over his short stubby hair.
"-It’s so much softer than I thought". I touch his cheek and then finally; I get to run my fingers down his beautiful neck, down to his shirt. I follow the edge of the shirt with my finger to his chest where I let my hand rest.
"-My bones and my elbows can be sharp. My ribcage. I wish I didn't have to have the back support on right now." he says as a matter of fact.
"-Come up here" he says and gives me a big crooked smile.
"-I want to apologize again." he says.
"-Apologize, for what?
"-I don't know how to kiss, and then there’s my tongue, -and I don't brush my own teeth!"
"-You are crazy.“ I laugh.
"-Do you think we are too old to kiss for the first time?”
“-What? No. I’m sure even old people have to have their first kiss at some point
-Did you mean if it’s too late for us to kiss?”
-”Maybe you could hold my head?" he suggests.
I do as he asks and move his head forward slightly, and we let our lips meet.
His lips are warm and soft, and our first kisses are very shy and with our lips closed. Then we both open our lips, allowing them to become moist, and kiss again, until he needs to catch his breath.

“-The time” he says stressed.
While I get up and fetch his shoes, he starts breathing fast with his mouth open, tongue rolling in and out.
“-I’m ok, I’m ok” he repeats with a smile on his face as I start putting his shoes on.
“-You’ll be sitting up soon” I say.
We wait outside for about 5 minutes before his uncle comes with the van, and I walk with Ajje up the ramp in the back while they are talking rapidly back and forward in kurdish. Then we sit in silence for the short ride to the nursing home, listening to Ajjes concentrated breaths and his tongue smacking.
His uncle lifts him out of his chair and onto his bed once we are in, then he pulls off Ajjes shirt and removes the back brace and lie him back down gently.
I feel a sting in my heart and I feel the familiar trickle run down my spine when I see his bony shoulders, his bare chest and the protruding rib cage.
His uncle offers to give me a ride back home, so I can’t really protest that I want to stay longer. We say a quick bye with a promise to see eachother tomorrow.

When we get to the van he says:
“-He shouldn't leave the hospital.”
“-Yes he should” I reply as careful as I can without sounding arrogant:
“-He wants to go home. To his parents.”

Part 6

Back to Table of contents

Sunday, March 19, 2000

Fractions part 6

Note: To follow the story it is recommended that you first read the previous parts, or from part 2 and forward, where several of the characters mentioned are introduced.
Back to Table of contents

-The night following his visit to my moms house where his breathing and his attempts to cough became more and more difficult, Ajje was put on the ventilator for the first time.

I knew that he had been trying out different masks, and we had talked about it briefly but he had never needed to use the ventilator before. It’s our first big scare, but it turns out to be a significant improvement.
-While Ajje seems calm about it, it takes me several days to relax and calm down. But when I understand that it’s not my fault, -and that his parents are not going to stop me from seeing him like Patriks parents did; I’m able to put some of my fears aside.  
His doctor; Anders, has a few conditions for us if we want to spend time together, but we are prepared to agree to anything:
-If we leave the nursing home, we need to have his parents or one of his grownup relatives with us.
-If we go out to the park, we need to tell the nurses so that they can come and check on us every hour or so.
-I can’t leave him alone when we are outside, and finally, I have to make sure that he eats, because his low weight is a real issue.

-On Nanos initiative and with his help, I have a long conversation with Ajje’s parents. I tell them about myself, about my parents and siblings, and even about our friend Patriks time in hospital and that we lost him, -and they explain something to me that changes everything:
I am not responsible. They are responsible for Ajje. I’m just a teen, a kid really. It’s been so long since I’ve had the support of grownups, and it’s so unexpected.
I felt responsible for Patrik because he only had me, Nano, Jon and Rick; and for Rick, when he fell apart and turned to me. But I’m not. I’m just me, and I don’t need to feel responsible for Ajje -not alone. He has so many family members and friends who cares about him.
They confess to finding it a little strange at first, that a Swedish, christian girl would want to be friends with their son; but they are happy that he has company when they are not there to visit him, especially now when he is not in school.

One week later, I lie down next to him in the grass in a sunny corner of the park. He is lying on the edge of a blanket and I have rolled up some towels and placed them under his neck, and another towel is placed between his knees. This way, he can lie under the sun and slowly run his fingers through the grass.
-We've learned the hard way that him resting on the blanket with his head in my lap is a bad idea because his neck and upper back was hurting afterwards. So, we are trying something different. 
The sun is warm but there is still a breeze and I’ve pulled a thin blanket up to his waist.
We have already made plans for the rest of the summer:
-On wednesday, we are going to the open air concert in Edsviken, and then we are going to celebrate midsummer with both of our families at my stepfathers parent’s summer house.
In july, we will help Nano move, in theory.
-And cake, we are going to eat lots and lots of cream and cake so that he can gain some much needed weight.

I’m trying to read yet another fantasy book; the chronicles of Thomas Covenant, but I notice that Ajje is watching me over the book cover.
“-I thought you liked my stories better”, he says bored.
I take his hand and I play with my fingers over his palm, then I run them on top of his hand and wrist. I stop before the bend of his arm, where he still has a big purple bruise from drawing blood for a test following the ventilator usage a few days earlier.
I could lie there and look into those big golden eyes forever, but right now he has that focused, demanding look, and I lean forward for a kiss.
I put down the book, move closer, say his name out loud and smile:
“-Ajar Ahmed Jewan, what kind of story do you have in mind?”
Even though I can’t pronounce it correctly, -It sounds more like Ayhaar, -I still love saying his actual name and not always call him by his swedish nickname.
“-One about Mom and dad.” he responds, and I know that he finally wants to tell me about how and why they came to Sweden. I’ve heard parts of it before, but not the full story.
"-My grandpa was a builder, and he traveled all around Kurdistan -it was still safe to travel then; -but they settled down close to Amed -you call it Diyarbakir now; when mom’s two brothers were seven and eight years old. Her eldest brother died before she was born. He might have had DMD, but there is no way to find out for sure.
Her other brother died only four years ago. He was just old. He had five sons, and they all live here in Sweden. -I think that you have met three of them, the others live in Norrköping.”
“-You need to understand that the kurdish people were never welcome in Turkey.
-But when mom was ten years old, there was a coup, and the military took over. She was no longer allowed to go to school, and from then on, they were not allowed to call themselves kurds or speak their own language. My grandpa taught her how to read and write in both turkish and kurdish in secret, but he made sure that they only spoke kurdish in their home.
They had to move all the time to where there was work and where they would not be harassed.”
“-Dad was also a famous and respected builder, and he had worked on several locations with grandpa. Grandpa knew that if dad married mom, their family's reputation and situation would improve, and she would be taken care of. Dad had to pretend that he did not support the kurds and he was allowed to work even when other kurds weren't, but it was difficult for them when the economy turned bad."
I smile to myself because I know that they also married out of love, even if there is a big age difference between them: Ajjes father is 62 but his mother is only 45. He also has the biggest hands I've ever seen, perfect for a builder. His hands might be rough but his handshake is gentle.

"-They had a son. They named him Karwan."
I sharpen my senses and squeeze Ajje’s hand for a second: -Who? He doesn't have a brother called Karwan?
“-Shortly after that, they had another son, and they named him Ahmed after our dad.
Mom and grandma saw that Ahmed developed a lot faster than Karwan, and mom tried to find a doctor that would see them. They had money, but they still had to travel to a different city to find a doctor. But he couldn’t give our parents any medicines for Karwan. Then I was born and mom understood that I had the same problems as Karwan."

“-Dad had four brothers, two of them got involved in politics, and the harassments against us increased. Mom could not go outside for long periods, it wasn't safe. -Some people were saying that dad did not support the kurds, and others were angry because grandpa had been traveling to and from Iraq and other places. My cousins started talking about moving to Sweden like one of their friends, and they said that there were jobs here too. "
"-Dad was very determined. He wanted the kurdish people to be free but not with violence,
but there were a lot of people who did not agree with him. Mom was always sad and very quiet and Karwan got sicker and sicker. He couldn’t walk anymore and she had to carry him, and we couldn't leave the apartment that we lived in. It was not the best neighborhood, but we could go out on the yard sometimes with other kids, or we could go to the mosque. Mom told me once that they took us all the way to the grand mosque, that people tried to help us, and that some days, even the turkish policemen would leave us alone because they knew that Karwan was sick. But she never knew what would happen and she was always scared. -She doesn’t like to talk about it. We had most of the things we needed; food, clothes and even toys but we had nothing because we were not free. And we had no medicine. All Karwan could do was lie on our sofa until he couldn’t talk, eat, or breathe."
"-Dad sent me and Ahmed to a lady who lived in the room above us for a few days, but we knew that Karwan had died and that he would not be at home with us any more.”

I hear how his speech slows down between his breaths, he rolls his tongue once or twice and now he raises his eyebrow as a sign that he needs to get up; so I get up, wipe my tears away and hastily lift him back into his wheelchair. Instead of turning around to go inside, he sits there motionless, and I wrap my arms around him.
"-I'm so so sorry, -I don’t know what to say. I can not picture your family being forced to live that way and always being scared. I’m sorry that your family and your brother had to go through this. I'm so glad that you are here now.”

After a while he says:
“-Carolina, there are so many things that I want to tell you. I want you to know everything, but sometimes it is difficult to talk.”
I know that he often has to simplify what he wants to say or use his gestures, that unnecessary words require energy that he doesn’t always have. I know that becoming upset  makes his breathing more difficult too. We go inside, and one of the nursing aides comes to help him lie down in his bed before he continues the story.

“-What was Karwan like?” I ask.
“-I don’t remember a lot about him. He was always there with us, but he didn’t play with us, and he didn’t talk much.
-Ahmed was a good big brother to me, he helped mom a lot, and so did our neighbours. When I stopped walking, I was scared that I would become just as sick as Karwan.
-Mom tried to convince dad that we had to leave, because I had to see a doctor and get help. But it was very difficult and it was not until Aram was born and they understood that he was sick too that we could leave. By then, it was like a war between the turkish and the PKK and it was impossible for us to stay."
"-Because the war in Iraq was starting, a lot of kurds fled to Turkey, but they had no rights and it was becoming very dangerous. There were more and more attacks by the turkish military. When we left, I had not been walking for two and a half years, but I didn't even have a wheelchair. If mom or dad helped me get up from the floor and held me I could still sort of stand but I couldn't walk."

“-But why did Ahmed not come with you?"
"-He had started his own family; he was already married.
We stayed close to a month in Lebanon and then we could finally fly to Sweden. We were only allowed to cross because they could see that me and Aram were sick."

“-What happened when you came to Sweden? I mean where did you live, did you have to go to one of those camps?” I ask.
"-A lady at the migration office on Arlanda Airport sent me and Aram to the hospital right away. There was a doctor who spoke turkish, and he did some test and said that we had Duchenne, and that we could borrow a manual wheelchair from his office until we could see the neurologist. I remember it very well, and we were very grateful for this wheelchair, but because of my bad back, I could not even sit in the wheelchair properly.
-The first doctor did not understand how sick I was, but for the next six months we lived at the hospital.
Mom was shocked because she had hoped that if we only came to Sweden, there would be a cure. I missed my home and my friends badly but mom and dad tried to explain why we had to be here, but I knew that I was not getting better like everyone had told me that I would.
It was horrible, because almost no one spoke turkish or kurdish. Aram had surgery for his feet, but they told mom and dad that it wouldn’t help me, and I was angry about that. Then there was a lady from the church who came to the hospital to teach us Swedish.
As soon as we were told that we could stay and live here, we were sent to a real school for immigrants.”
“-We rented a small apartment but dad could not find a job so it was very difficult. Mom was happy to be with some of her relatives here but she was very lonely, and we could only sit and watch the news on TV when the war broke out.  But after only a few years, almost our entire family was here in Stockholm, except for one of dads brothers, and Ahmed.
They gave me an electric wheelchair that I could use and then eventually I could start school."

"-So you were about ten years old when you first had a wheelchair?, and when you first started school?" I recall.
"-A wheelchair that I could use myself, yes. Before that, mom had to push me in a manual chair, or carry me." he says as if there is nothing remarkable about that.
“-I was first placed in class with kids that were a few years younger than me. I knew the letters because my parents had taught me, so I learned to write fast. I could still hold a pen.
Then I went to a school with only disabled students, and we had carers helping us in class.
I liked school a lot until the first time I got sick.”
He asks for another break, and then he makes me promise not to ask his parents about his brother or about how they came to sweden.
“-My dad forgets things. I don’t want him to be reminded of Karwan because it might confuse him.” He hesitates but continues:
“-He forgets to give us medicine, and he forgets things that mom tells him, like appointments that we have with with doctors or our lawyer.
-There is no other option than my brother living with us. We need him here. Without him, we have nothing, we are not a family without him.
-If he can’t stay, nobody will help mom. She can’t take care of dad, Aram and me."
I step up from my chair and lean forward and hug him again, and to my shoulder he says:
"-I want to go home Carolina. But what if I’m not sick enough?, then maybe the Migration Board will not listen to our appeal. So I can’t get better, and I can’t go back home, not until they have considered the appeal.”
Right then one of the nurses interrupts us from the door, asking if everything is ok.

I think about what his parents said to me about responsibility, but it’s difficult when his bad health is the one thing that might keep his family together.


Just like I dreaded the six month mark of Patriks death, I wasn’t sure if I could handle going back to Edsviken.  But when Jon confirmed that he was going to arrange the festival together with one of the local non violence organisations, I had to say yes when he asked for help.
I wake up tense and excited on the day of the festival, not sure what to expect. I take the bus down to the nursing home where Nano is waiting, and Ajje is awake but not up or dressed.
“-Hey“ he whispers.
“-I will be there around four.” he says.
“-I know. I’ll see you later. Don’t stress.”.
Jon picks us up, and it feels right that it will be just the three of us before all the craziness starts.
I still take a deep breath as the car rolls up in front of Patrik’s old house. -His parents have moved to Brussels and the house is sold, but still empty. Looking up at the house I feel like someone has punched me in the stomach.
If Nano hadn’t asked for help with getting his wheelchair out I would probably have ran off and vomited.
“-I still don’t understand how she could do that to him”. I say dizzy on shaky spaghetti legs.

I’m tempted to go around the back to look up at Patriks window, but the guys stop me. Jon is already on his way and I hold on to Nanos wheelchair as we go down the slope to the stage area. The stage is already completed and there are a few barracks, one for electricity, one for the catering and so on. Nano starts calling people in and checking attendance, and Jon walks with me and points out where he wants the food trucks to be and where he wants the crew to park. Then we wait, and by eleven the place is busy with people running all over. There are a  bunch of people from the organisation that are receiving the sponsor money, the cleaning crew, and even the police. -I remember Rick, how excited he was, and the energy and excitement of all these people around me is contagious. After all the food trucks have arrived and have been set up, we pull out the benches from the back of a trailer and rise the huge tent backstage. When the bands arrive for their soundchecks, I’m glad that I’m too busy to think about everything that went on last year.
We gather for a late lunch, and Nano and I take a breather sitting on the short side of one of the long benches, looking out over all the people.

“-You know, they are all here for Patrik.” he says.
“-Patrik and you”. I remind him. And the music, I want to add but it doesn't seem appropriate.
“-Yeah. I was asked if I wanted to go on stage and say something about the assault. They said it would make an impact.”.
“-What did you say? You didn’t say yes, did you?” I ask in doubt.
“-I told them I needed to think about it, but when I explained that my legs weren't amputated as a result of the assault, they lost interest”.
I look down at his scarred hands and say:
“-What exactly did they think they did to you?”
He snickers in agreement and I continue:
“-I guess it would be a nice thing if someone said something about Patrik and Rick. I don’t know,.. the festival would never have happened without them. How many years did their family help arrange it?
“-Four years I think”.
“-It was their father's money.” I remind us and then I smile a little:
“-We have been going here every year: -I wonder if I ever saw Patrik here or if he saw me.
I wonder what it would be like if we had met sooner.”
Nano picks up his beer and we raise our glasses.
“-What are we toasting for now?” I ask.
“-It’s exactly one year since Patrik brought you here and introduced you to us. A very shy girl, but Rickard was so sure that you would be good for Patrik.”
“-It really has been a year.” I smile in agreement.
“-So here’s a toast to our friendship, and for a better, happier, healthier year.” he says.

When Ajje’s van pulls up, it’s packed with people. He has brought two of his cousins and the two nurses who were asked to volunteer at the festival. Jon shows the nurses around and I’m grateful that Nano takes off with the two girls so that we can finally be alone.
“-How was your day so far?” he asks as he is trying to catch my hand in his.
“-I’m exhausted. There is too much people here.” I say.
“-Kissing me would make you feel better.” he says as a matter of fact and smiles.
“-Yes. But…”  I don’t know how to put it. “-Not here.”
I turn around and he follows me, and we face the big empty house.
“-Is this where Patrik lived?” he asks, unsure of what he is looking at.
“-No. This is where he died."
He knows that he doesn’t have to say anything, and I don’t need to explain.

In silence we follow the road down to where he can best cross the grass to reach the backstage area, just in time to see four men lift Nano up on the stage.
“-What is he doing?” Ajje asks.
“-No idea - he said he wasn’t going to go on stage. I want to show you around. We can take the walkway around the water, or are there any bands that you want to meet?
“-I will just follow you." He replies.

So we walk slowly along the water and I show him the different views of the lake and we even spot some of the rare birds. I’ve walked here so many times that I know every rock and every tree. Most of the flowers has already bloomed, but the park is still beautiful.
-When we take a break at one of the bird feeding areas, we suddenly hear a loud hiss and a huge white swan starts chasing Ajje’s wheelchair, probably to protect it's chicks, and we both laugh out loud and I have to run to keep up with him as he drives off. When I have to stop to catch my breath, I wrap my arms around him and we hug for a long time.
It feels good to be alone with Ajje for once without his family or nurses around, but when I'm walking next to him like this we can't even hold hands, and I long to be close to him.

We walk back through the park, the first band has already started playing and we are late, but it doesn't matter. We go backstage and I get us some food and drinks, but there's not a lot of the food there that he can eat and he asks me to get a shake from the van instead. So true to my promise not to leave him alone when we are out, I leave him there with Tess.
When I walk back from the van I see Christine walking towards me. I guessed that the girls would be here, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to run into any of them.
She is so beautiful, she is wearing makeup and a pretty white summer dress and she looks well, but it makes me feel like a real slob since I haven't even changed out of my work clothes.
She says “Hi”, and I reply “Hi” just as awkwardly.
She approaches me and after a short silence we talk for a bit, about the weather and the concert -all neutral things.
“-So look,.. can I…” she doesn’t finish the sentence.
“-You want to meet the bands?” I ask, trying not to sound cold.
“ -What, no?” she says and I know that I've jumped to conclusions.
“-Can I meet him?” she says.
I’m surprised, and my defensive mood fades.
“-You really,.. -You want to meet Ajje?”
“-I saw you walking back from the water. Is he..? How is he? -He is really thin isn't he? How old is he? Where does he live?"
Even though the first time I tried to tell the girls about Ajje was a total disaster (when they in a chorus tried to explain to me why I couldn’t date a “poor disabled refugee”), my resistance fades when it's just Christine and me.
-I want to snap at her, I want to remain angry, I want to tell her that she would have known the answers to these questions, had she only listened to me before:
-But I can't. I know that I would be wrong. She is my best friend, and god have I missed her.
She still has that concerned look on her face. The "Carolina what have you gotten yourself into?"-look.
She knows that he has Duchenne, I'm also standing there with a blanket and his protein shake in my hand and I can see her doing the math: -Counting what stage he must be in and coming to the same conclusion that I struggled with that day when Ajje asked me if I would still be his friend.
-That Ajje would leave me, not if, but when, and that my world would fall apart all over again  like with Patrik. And that I choose him, knowingly.
I know that we are mirroring each other where we stand nervously playing with our hairs.
I snap out of it when realise that she is expecting a reply:
"-Are you here alone or is Jimmy with you?" I ask.
"- Jimmy is here, and the girls too."
"-Have you eaten? Why don't you go and get him and I'll meet you at the backstage entrance."

I've already told Ajje that the girls might be at festival, so he is not too surprised when I tell him that Christine and Jimmy will join us. I’m glad that Jimmy and Ajje seem to find each other right
away because Jimmy is usually really quiet. It turns out that he is in the same school that Ajje just graduated from. We introduce them to everyone, of course they have met Nano and Jon before, but eventually it’s just us sitting together at our table and that’s ok. We chat the evening away listening to the music, the atmosphere is great and like Christine says, this way we can avoid all those drunk teens in the crowd.
Jimmy has to leave first, and I can tell that Ajje is becoming too tired. He stirs and asks for the time and I know that he is getting ready to leave but that he doesn’t want our evening to end.
Suddenly Jon comes over and motions us towards the exit of the fenced backstage area and says:
"-You all have to see this, come with me in front of the stage."
I'm not that interested in the last band, but we do as he asks since people are leaving anyway.
When we come around, and I hear the first notes of Lightning crashes, I freeze in my step and Jon who is right behind me squeezes my shoulders.
Nano is on stage, singing with the bands musicians and with Tess, Linn and Ajje’s cousins accompanying him.
“-Yeah” Jon fills in.
I look over at Ajje:
“-You knew!”.
“-It was his idea.” Jon reveals.
“I didn’t know he could sing. I had no idea.”
Before the song is over I’m in tears, it’s Patriks favorite song from last year and it doesn’t help that his next song is Lilla fågel blå, and I have to sit down in the grass next to Ajje.
Then the girls sing Tears in heaven alone while the rest of the band members enter the stage. When Nano together with band starts singing Frank by Kent, most of the crowd sings with them.
I’m filled with this devastating sadness because Patrik is not here to experience it, but most of all I’m so grateful for Ajje, Nano, Jon, Christine and everyone.
When Nano comes down I hug him until he becomes too embarrassed, and then I take Ajje aside to thank him.
“-It was not easy to keep it from you.” he smiles tiredly but his eyes are shining and the way he looks at me fills me with such warmth.
“-And they had to practice when you weren’t there.”.
“-Oh... Oh!.” I blush when I think about how much time I spend with Ajje in Nanos and his room. We’ve both agree that it’s nice to be alone without nurses and family but maybe Nano deserves some more time to himself as well.
Ajje’s ride and the girls are waiting, and me and Christine share a taxi home, but I’m too overwhelmed and tired to maintain any conversation.

It’s only a few days until midsummer and it looks like all our planning will go to waste.
On the Tuesday after the festival, the police arrive at our door with my little brother and our step brother. They have been caught trying to steal or shoplift items at the local mall, and mom and stepdad are very upset.
Ajje has spent a few days at home with his family but has slept each night at the nursing home and he is very excited over this but he is also very tired. He says that he doesn’t feel sick, just tired, but he ends up spending eight days in bed. I celebrate midsummer at home with mom and stepdad at our house but the rest of the weekend I spend as much time as I can with him.

On the 7th of July Nano finally moves into his new apartment in the city and just two weeks later his brother comes to visit him from Turkey.
I can tell that Ajje is upset over Nano leaving because now he will be alone at the nursing home. But when he has a chance to meet someone who has just came from Diyarbakir, he is all enthused and excited he asks him a million and one questions. He seems so revitalized and happy.
That evening when he again talks about how badly he wants to go home, it’s the first time that I’m not sure if he means that he wants to go to his parents apartment in southern Stockholm, or if he in fact wants to go back to Turkey.

Part 7

Back to Table of contents