May 31, 2010

The Girl with the Personal Pronoun

She sat on the worn sofa in her living room for one whole evening running through the situation in her mind.

She took three quick strides.

She frowned and bit her lower lip in thought.

She felt high, as if she had consumed some inappropriate and presumably illegal substance.

She was with an equally drunk and much older man.

She held up a DVD and slipped it into the player.

She could stand up straight there, just.

She shrugged.

She had a CD player on a shelf.

She was perfectly content as long as people left her in peace.

She sat on a park bench outside the church and read Leviticus.

She punched in the code and the lock clicked.

She looked at it, meditatively biting her lower lip.

She held on to him the whole time.

She lost sight of him for several seconds when they took several bends.

She went to her room, locked the door, and got undressed.

She had no wish to be shut out and would have gladly done the job for free.

She tried to understand.

She sighed with relief.

She had kept her eyes on the floor so they would not betray her exasperation.

She shook her head.

She went back to the kitchen and sat down on a chair, massaging her forehead until he joined her.

She did not betray with so much as a raised eyebrow that she was surprised, but she listened intently to every word that was said.

She waited patiently, answering all the questions he asked.

She lit another cigarette and pressed the remote.

She saw an unfocused image that showed clowns in the foreground of the Children’s Day parade.

She did not reply.

She did not doubt the accuracy of her reply.

She pushed him away.

She did not feel like getting up until Tuesday.

She nodded.

She had put together a questionnaire with ten questions, which she asked on the telephone.

She focused her gaze on the street lamp outside the window and sat still while her brain worked at top speed.

She felt satisfied with her day.

She stopped thinking and fell asleep almost at once.

She studied a newspaper photograph of him.

She minded her own business and did not interfere with what anyone around her did.

She had no idea how it had happened or how she was supposed to cope with it.

She went out to the car park through a side door.

She noted down the latest transfers.

She thought about the once-pregnant waitress whose head had been shoved underwater in her own bath.

She turned to him and saw that his face was the color of a tomato, his eyes were wide open, and his tongue was popping out of his mouth.

She sat down.

She stopped and let her eyes sweep over the car park.

She stiffened and at first she looked furious, but then she relaxed when she realized that he was laughing at the comedy of the situation.

She used a telephone in the lobby.

She could see who had gone past during the day.

She camouflaged the cameras with dark cloth.

She went over to his bed, took the book, and put it on the bedside table.

She was still silent.

She kept on paging through old documents.

She explained where she’d found them.

She booted up her PowerBook and uplinked to the Net through her mobile.

She understood how it worked.

She looked at him for the first time since she had sat at the table.

She felt him studying her closely.

She waited.

She went regularly to the window to see if there was any sign of him.

She tried to speak sensibly.

She was forced to make contact with him.

She considered – and rejected – various methods until she had narrowed it down to a few realistic scenarios from which to choose.

She laughed, an abrupt laugh that sounded almost like cough.

She decided that whatever else he might be, he did not seem like a malicious person.

She switched off the desk lamp and left the newsletters in piles all over the desk.

She was the one leading him to the bed, not the other way around.

She paused.

She realized that she was shouting and lowered her voice.

She looked around.

She would never be able to mend things.

She looked up at the church again.

She did so with some hesitation.

She had a dazzling view of Lake Zurich, which didn’t interest her in the least.

She paid her bills and could use her savings as she saw fit.

She raised her voice.

She arrived as the doors were closing.

She had been staring at the computer screen for almost eleven hours.

She tossed the cigarette end into the water.

She went to the church.

She frowned.

She tossed Elvis into a dumpster.

She took the papers and dropped them in a desk drawer.

She closed the book and looked at the photograph on the back.

She disliked having anyone touch her without her leave.

She could hardly breathe.

She had tried all the doors and windows on the ground floor.

She felt as if she had decided to start a new life.

She lifted a sports bag onto the kitchen table.

She wiped the door handle and the switch and turned off the light.

She drilled a whole right through the wall for the cable.

She had no faith in herself.

She did not have much to offer.

She reminded herself that she was the one who knew everything.

She didn’t want them to be eyeing her the wrong way, too.

She followed the path along the water where they usually took their evening walks.

She lay listening to him moving about in the kitchen, clearing the table and washing the dishes.

She had turned towards the village when she stopped and went back, all the way out to the point.

She was still in a terrible mood.

She gave him an arch smile and wrote an account number on the notepad on the desk in front of her.

She stiffened.

She smiled and took out another cigarette.

She had made an appointment, and there were no other customers in the shop.

She seemed to be skimming, spending no more than ten or fifteen seconds on each page.

She did not answer her telephone and she did not turn on her computer.

She sat down opposite him.

She lit two cigarettes and gave him one.

She did not know why she had lied, but she was sure it was a wise decision.

She realized with terrifying clarity that she was out of her depth.

She aroused very little sympathy among the teachers.

She held up a huge anal plug.

She dragged out a total of six black rubbish bags and twenty paper bags full of newspapers.

She looked him in the eyes.

She nodded.

She did not want to be disturbed.

She put the binders in a nylon bag.

She got a message saying that the subscriber could not be reached.

She chewed some of his toothpaste to get rid of the taste.

She awoke just after 5:00 in the morning.

She had no sense for interior design.

She looked like any other woman out for a weekend stroll.

She put the bike on its stand and loosened the strap that held her overnight duffel bag in place.

She put the key on the table between.

She neither wept nor changed her expression.

She bought all her computer accessories there, so they gave her a reasonable discount.

She pointed.

She went on stubbornly sitting there until he gave in.

She turned and got the first-aid kit from the cupboard; it contained two packets of elastic bandages, a mosquito stick, and a little roll of surgical tape.

She bought some aspirin at the front desk and ordered a wake-up call for 8:00 a.m.

She leaned forward and smiled sweetly.

She had a text message.

She felt a lot better when she came back in the bedroom.

She quickly sorted the material into different stacks.

She sat up in surprise.

She found the first connection in 1957.

She tallied up her expenses.

She had drunk four, no, five Cokes during the night, and now she got out a sixth and went to sit on the sofa.

She wandered up and down the corridor like a lost soul, fixing her eyes on every doctor who came near.

She had discovered a shortcut.

She put the empty Samsonite suitcase in an unlocked locker.

She heard him come in the front door and turned towards him.

She spent the time thinking.

She tottered to the bedroom and fell back to sleep.

She nodded.

She turned the pages mechanically.

She lit a cigarette.

She had quoted from a text that was only on his computer.

She had used red and blue ink.

She rode on, braking and thinking, for another 150 yards before she stopped and turned around.

She had never done it before.

She had not given him any Christmas present, but she knew what she was going to buy.

She handed him the soap and went back to the kitchen without a word.

She took a quick look around.

She had no real interest in the game, but after she learned the rules, she never lost a match.

She did not like that.

She nodded.

She zipped the pocket back up.

She was in a state of mental paralysis.

She had restored it, one nut at a time, and she had souped it up just a bit over the legal limit.

She had been doing it, in one form or another, for as long as she could remember.

She leaned towards him expectantly.

She put a third camera in a birdhouse above the door.

She sat down next to him without a word.

She did not like anyone touching her stuff.

She talked to a secretary and asked her to pass on a cryptic message.

She tried not to disturb him during the day.

She stood up, left the hospital, and did not return.

She cashed in fifty of the bonds and deposited the money in the accounts.

She did not remember falling asleep, but she woke up at 9:00 a.m. with a crick in her neck and her head leaning against the wall behind the sofa.

She shrugged.

She was no part of it.

She did not cry.

She shook her head.

She did not like awkward conversations.

She went to her work corner in the living room and looked at the notes she had pinned up on the wall and the papers she had stacked on the desk.

She said nothing.

She got up.

She put down the receiver.

She woke him that evening and gave him her opinion of the article.

She stopped at the first little house on the left.

She was really out in the sticks.

She actually looked guilty.

She did not reply.

She was doing 40 miles per hour as she took the curve of the entrance ramp.

She had a stubborn look in her eyes.

She stopped him just as they reached the house.

She leaned against the bathroom door and struggled to collect her thoughts.

She smiled.

She stood there for the next twenty minutes before she made up her mind.

She turned her head and looked at him.

She had a standing invitation to visit him whenever she liked, a privilege that she seldom took advantage of.

She looked at her watch: 11:40.

She lit a cigarette.

She had booked a private sleeping berth.

She ran through her checklist to be sure that she had forgotten no detail.

She was sitting there, dipping her feet in the water and smoking.

She turned on her heel and went home to her newly spotless apartment.

She felt a pang of concern and guilt.

She crossed the threshold, out of the apartment, and turned to face him.

She lay awake listening to him breathe.

She looked . . . different.

She put on some coffee and fixed herself a liver pâté and cucumber sandwich.

She studied herself in the mirror.

She would fold her arms and refuse to participate in any psychological tests.

She spent two days washing laundry, scrubbing, and cleaning up her apartment.

She shrugged.

She sipped her coffee.

She had booted up her own PowerBook.

She saw no traffic and accelerated to full speed and flew forward.

She braked and turned off the motor to listen.

She was ready for battle.

She gave him a thoughtful look.

She had learned to analyze the consequences

She gave him a resigned look and then nodded curtly.

She started reciting several series of sixteen-digit numbers without once referring to any papers.

She had never in her life felt such a longing.

She took a deep breath and went back to the kitchen.

She was more shaken than she would have thought possible.

She saw a total stranger.

She should have said something to him.

She put in an appearance at the front desk before she went up to her room and took off the clothes she had bought.

She had no chance to take care of her final transactions before the banks closed for the day.

She crossed the street and waited a few feet from the street door.

She was not afraid that she had missed anything, but she was not sure that she had understood how every one of the intricate connections fitted together.

She woke up late that night to find herself alone.

She saw the headlights of a truck approaching.

She made use of all the archives and public documents she could lay her hands on.

She wrapped a sheet around her and walked unsteadily to the hall to open the door.

She turned off the TV and sat in the chair for a good ten minutes without looking at him.

She put the paper down without making any comment.

She moved with the lightning speed of a tarantula and seemed totally focused on her prey.

She looked at him for a long moment.

She nodded again.

She felt almost awkwardly protective whenever she thought of him.

She realized that she was cold, so she reached for a blanket, which she wrapped around herself.

She gave the captain of industry barely a glance and a quick nod before she went back to her computer.

She got out of bed and stood by the window, restlessly peering into the dark.

She left his office with a feeling of disgust.

She picked up a crumpled pack of cigarettes from the windowsill and dug one out.

She had also learned that every time she tried to make someone aware of something in her life, the situation just got worse.

She never did anything without first weighing the consequences.

She felt empty.

She pulled out two much-handled and faded Polaroid pictures.

She ate her nighttime snacks on the sofa in the living room while she worked on the information she had gathered.

She wasn’t used to that, but it had been unexpectedly painless.

She gave a generous tip to a boy who carried up her suitcase.

She stayed home for two days.

She was told to be at his office at 7:30 that evening.

She paid quickly and got back on her bike.

She had let the sales girl make the selection.

She could not see his car.

She bought another blond wig, this one in a page-boy style.

She had booked it for one night.

She was at a loss to know what to do.

She felt faintly sick.

She always seemed to settle on the most obscure and contradictory details.

She stood up and headed for the door.

She played the whole disc for him.

She held up another finger.

She began in 1949 and worked her way forward.

She typed: “Have you got time?”

She was soon rolling across the bridge at a low speed.

She suddenly felt excruciatingly bored.


Translated from the Swedish by Edmond Caldwell.

Mr. Caldwell is currently at work translating the astonishing sequel,

The Girl with the Direct Article.