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Cul-de-sac, Vaxjo! - 01 Cul-de-sac, Vaxjo! - 01
by Thanos Kalamidas
2022-09-15 07:17:39
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Cul-de-sac, Växjö!
Chapter 01 - My new Växjö neighbourhood

Dark clouds in the east were shaping a rainy morning and the chilling breeze was a reminder that it was too early to celebrate spring. The man looked at me sideways as if he hadn’t really seen me and kept walking towards the parking lot. I sat on my newly bought balcony chairs, took a zip from my morning coffee and pretended to keep reading my book.

The combination, balcony – coffee – book and I, was becoming my latest pattern and since I moved to the second floor of a house in a cul-de-sac nest of identical two-floor houses in north Växjö. A neighbourhood of not so young Volvos, retirees and single mothers after living for nearly eight years in a neighbourhood of Porsches, Teslas, rude teenagers and snob middle age virgins in Stockholm was refreshing. Life in that Stockholm neighbourhood was no fun and that’s why I didn’t feel tears rolling down my face the day we said goodbye.

The place itself is something around ninety square meters, more or less the same like the one in Stockholm, smaller kitchen but bigger dining/sitting room area, with wide windows all around. Nothing fancy, just really convenient for us with a room that quickly turned into an office/study and a balcony with glass all around that could be comfortable -with a little help of course, even during the snowy Swedish winters. Two chairs, a small table and a two-sitter blue sofa completed the decoration of the balcony while bookcases for three and a half walls – minor door and a wide window – completed my office’s layout turning all into a batcave with a balcony view.

On a good day, not like today, the place came with a balcony view to the big parking lot and a side view to the surrounding neighbourhoods, including the newly remade house of the ‘weekenders’. My office looks straight through an identical room in the second floor of the house cross the community road obviously used as a tv-room and the man who had just walked under my balcony is the resident of that house; thus, this was not the first time he saw me or I watched him. We had often exchange looks though never spoke.

The man has a pattern, a bit stranger that mine with the books and the coffee but still a pattern. A pattern that he practiced daily religiously, most of the time in the evenings after dinnertime, sometimes early in the morning -like that morning, and rarely early in the night. It took me less than a week to recognize that the man suffered from the same habit that had accompanied me for more than thirty years, smoking.

Six years ago and before the doctor ask me to start counting to ten for the anaesthetic to work, he told me that if I continue smoking in a few months I will be back on the table not for a bypass but for an autopsy. A week later, I quit smoking. There was something very persuasive in his tone.

My neighbour was definitely around my age, perhaps a bit older, but definitely carrying a few medical issues like me and in retirement just like me. Including our fashionable love for straight denims and t-shirts I could say that we had a lot in common but luck had it that we never crossed each other face to face till then, not even for a plain good morning despite the fact that I had already lived in this cul-de-sac for the last five months. All until that morning.

I knew exactly how his pattern works. Unlock the car door, pretend that you start the engine, turn on the radio to some classic music station, keeping the driver’s door half-open and light a cigarette. I was sure he was hiding his cigarettes somewhere in the car. Carefully making sure that small, almost invisible clouds of smoke escaped the open door, he would have a quick one lasting max three minutes and then after waiting for the air to clear inside the car, he would turn off the radio and the engine, lock the car, check twice that it is locked and slowly return home. Between the small invisible smoking clouds and the soft piano music escaping from the classic music radio station, I appeared with my rubbish bag ready for recycling.

“Good morning,” I said sure that he heard and understood no matter how much English he might spoke. “Hej,” he answered eyes half closed and lost in tobacco bliss. ‘Oh man’, I thought, ‘he’s a heavy case of nicotine retrieve’. He wasn’t; he obviously was taken by the music but just like always, my mind went for the worst.

“Förlåt,” he said -‘sorry’ in Swedish, a word I didn’t understand that moment but thankfully, he continued in English. “I was lost in the music.” I nodded understandably and smiled. “Do you like classic music?” He asked. “Well, I’m more into jazz, Bill Evans and such, but classic is also fine with me.” I didn’t lie and we stood there silent, him inside the car eyes half-closed listening to a piano concert and me standing on the outside holding a rubbish bag for recycling. In other words, men over sixties bonding on its best!

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