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.”
“-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.”
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