The Global Young Leaders Conference
Just before I graduated high school, I was asked by the teacher in charge of my class if I wanted to go to this thing called the Global Young Leaders Conference. It was a conference bringing together outstanding high school students, from all over the world to discuss international relations and politics.
You could choose from three different locations, America, Europe, or Asia, basically, the three continents that matter if you allow yourself to be cynical, rude, and a bit racist. Having recently grown steadily more and more obsessed with American politics as the 2012 Republican primary was wrapping up and Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama was about to accept the nominations of their respective parties, I of course chose the conference taking place in Washington DC and New York City. It was a no-brainer.
I had to talk about it with my parents because it did cost a lot of money and my school would only fund a small part of it. But it looked like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and my parents are great even if I can’t see it, so they were in. At my high school graduation, I got a scholarship for 5000 Swedish crowns for the trip, which was less than a thousand dollars, but still not nothing.
My English teacher Caitlin, an American ex-pat, also gave me a guide to London as at this time I was sure I was going there for university in a few months’ time. We were quite close, Caitlin and I. I had liked my previous English teacher as well, I had asked to be in her group for the last level of English, but alas she didn’t teach that module. But I got Caitlin and was happy about that.
She had hugged me when I told her I most certainly had got into university in London. She said she liked the casual relationships she could have with students in Sweden. She told me that in the US, hugging a student would have been very inappropriate. I dunno what part of the US she was from but they all need to remove the very large stick that is evidently stuck very far up their asses.
Closer to the time of departure, I thought I had mixed up the flight date which had startled me a bit, I had thought for a second that I was going to miss the pick-up arrival slot and not get there at all. I didn’t think I was nervous, but my heart had fallen at that moment, which was strange if I was so fucking cool about everything.
I was sitting in front of my computer, intending to do the same last-minute checks I had already done a hundred times, but instead scrolling through my Tumblr dashboard, which for the moment was a bit too porn-filled for my liking. Tumblr wasn’t my main source for porn. I had Tumblr up quite often, so I didn’t want to have a dashboard filled with things that I didn’t want my parents, or anyone else for that matter, to see.
If I felt like jacking off, I didn’t go to Tumblr unless I was in the mood for a story instead of the more graphic alternatives of the webs quite extensive array of free porn sites. I just managed to scroll past some nastiness as my sister stepped into the room.
“Hey!” She said with an expectant smile.
“So, are you excited?!” she asked jumping up and down and clapping her hands together.
“Not really,” I said but not managing to hide the smile her childishness put on my face.
“Why not?” She countered, sounding disappointed, but not as ball-busting as usual.
“I’m not the kind of the person who gets very excited about things, you know I’m not.”
“Yeah I know, but this is big.”
“Yeah, yeah, it is, but it’s still kind of a ‘meh’.”
“Yeah, I am.”
“Anyway, you’re leaving so early tomorrow that this is probably the last time I’ll see you before you go. So, you know, bye.” She said, standing there waving with her hand cupped like a queen even though she was only three feet away from me.
I could tell she wanted something more, and so did I, so I stood up and hugged her. It was still a bit weird, hugging her, we had only started hanging out about a year and a half ago at this time.
“So, are you at least a bit nervous?” She asked when we broke apart.
“Nothing that I can feel.”
“Really, you’re not nervous?”
“Really.” With a scoff and a laugh, she left the room. I had no idea how I couldn’t have felt it earlier.
But obviously, I was nervous because when the alarm rang at 4:30 the next morning I had gotten about 90 minutes of sleep. I got up nonetheless, moving solely on something remotely relatable to adrenalin, something I usually didn’t vibe on. Dad was already in the kitchen.
“Hey there!” I gave my usual I’m-incapable-of-talking-right-now-grunt and proceeded to shovel down some yogurt and berries. This was the diet version of my breakfast, as my mom was pushing me to eat healthier, not having learned the quite obvious lesson that the best diet is not a diet, but a lifestyle change you can live with. Yogurt and berries were not things I could live with.
Getting up and getting everything in order took its time, so when I was eating breakfast, dad was looking pretty grumpy, but after countless mistakes, I had finally learned to ignore this. When mom buzzed around in the mornings it was different. It was like she felt more like a mom in the mornings. She didn’t make me breakfast without at the very least making me feel a bit guilty about it, and then she made me something obnoxiously healthy like oatmeal porridge with shredded apple. I mean if I’m eating oatmeal, at the very least I deserve some fucking jam.
Before I went, I had to call the GYLC office for some administrative questions. I introduced myself but the first thing they asked me was whose parent I was. I said I was my own parent as a joke but I don’t think they managed to grasp the possibility of a student making the calls themselves because, at the end of the call, the woman said “well, we look forward to seeing your son Mr. Blomqvist, he must be a very bright young man.”
No, he’s an idiot, I responded in my head.
I rarely get excited about things. Whenever something positive happens to me, I just seem to not give a shit. When I was about to go to New York and Washington DC for the first time, my sister seemed to be more excited than I was. And when I got there, you pretty much realize that, yeah it looks exactly like in the pictures. What do you expect when you go to Times Square, you expect to see a lot of billboards and creepy people in costumes.
And guess what? That’s exactly what it is, there really are lots of billboards and creepy people in costumes. I took a picture with a man dressed up as Edward Scissorhands without really wanting to and paid him two dollars for it. I didn’t know you had to pay. I couldn’t imagine that’s how some people make a living. I thought they all did it for fun or something. In the picture no one but me has ever seen, he looks at me like he thinks I’m scum, a fucking idiot.
I still don’t really understand tipping culture, it makes no sense to me at all. Just tell me what the price is, don’t ask me to make it up! So, Times Square didn’t disappoint. It was just like it was supposed to be. Which makes it so fucking boring. It was the same thing with London. I went to have a look at Buckingham Palace.
It looked strangely like a place where a queen would live, and did you know it, they’re fucking is a queen living there, holy crap! I also walked past the Houses of Parliament and it was uncanny how it looked exactly like that building I’ve seen a thousand times before. It was becoming increasingly obvious that my brain was not predisposed to amazement.
Dad left me at the airport as the sun was rising. We hugged. It wasn’t a big deal, I was only going to be gone for two weeks. Not that our goodbyes were any different when I would leave the country without knowing when we would see each other again. Always the same awkward, one-armed hug. I flew to London, switched planes at Heathrow, and landed in Washington before noon local time. I found the GYLC people pretty quickly and started talking to some Danish people.
We spoke in English because while I can understand a bit of Danish, it is a garbage language. It sounds like they have taken Swedish and Norwegian, shoved it in a blender, tried to drink it but they’re continually about to hurl. They don’t speak the language, they vomit it. The man in charge of getting us to the hotel where the conference was being held was cheerful for no reason, the quintessential stereotype of an overly social American.
It was hot too, we Scandinavians felt like we had suddenly become Satan’s dingleberries, fighting for dear life to hang onto his steaming butt hairs. I found a fellow Swede on the bus, and we amazed the crowd by speaking another language, they all seemed to have forgotten that they were bilingual too. He turned out to be from basically the same place as me, just another, fancier, suburb north of Stockholm, which was interesting because of its sheer unlikeliness.
Maybe Sweden is an even smaller country than I think it is. Although to get selected for something like this, I would assume that it’s mandatory that you’re from a somewhat wealthy Stockholm suburb. It’s not like we’re immune to discrimination and favoritism. When we got to the hotel, we were sorted into different countries.
No matter how much I would have liked there to have been a sorting ceremony with a hat that told you in what UN country you truly belong, alas, I think it was just alphabetical order, with a pool of students from each country being represented in each UN simulation country. I ended up in France, most likely for my love of baguettes and thinking I’m better than everybody else. The Swede I had spoken to on the bus was sorted into another country and that was essentially the last time I saw him.
Luckily for me, there was another Swede who had been sorted into France. I was a bit surprised when he first saw my name tag and the little line that said “Domsdal Gymnasium, Sweden” and started speaking Swedish to me with an accent from southern Sweden. You see, his name tag said he was from the Netherlands. His father was apparently some big shot at IKEA working all over the place, for the moment in the Netherlands. The name of the son of the IKEA-boss that I had just encountered was André Andersson, a very Swedish name so I never really thought he was Dutch.
We discussed accents, how we ended up here and quickly took a liking to each other. Other people sorted into France included Finley, the Canadian ballet dancer who I would come to bore with hockey stories because I’m severely socially inept and does not know how to carry on a normal conversation I’m not interested in, such as a conversation about, oh I dunno, ballet? There was Dax, the only American in the group, and seemingly the only American at the conference as all other Americans invited to take part would have taken the chance to go abroad to either Asia or Europe. Dax was about as American as you could get. Loafers, chino shorts, polo shirt, and braces (apparently all Americans get braces if they can afford it, even if they don’t need it, to get the straightest teeth possible, what a vain crowd eh? The only reason I got em’ is because my jaw would fuck me up at around 30 if I didn’t get them when I was about 11).
Dax would eat cheese on crackers without getting obese but he still looked like a deformed potato. And he didn’t seem like the kind of guy a school would nominate to go to represent them at a huge, international conference for international high school scholars. If he was the smartest kid in his high school back home in Alabama or whatever hellhole he crawled out of, then I must conclude that it must be a strongly followed tradition in the American South for expectant mothers to drink, smoke, and practice kickboxing during their pregnancies.
He was probably the most quoted person there for his saying: “I’m not an American, I’m a Dax.” There was a girl from Ghana who didn’t talk much, there was a girl from Tanzania who talked too much, the attractive Asian girl who thought she was intelligent but wasn’t, but could hide behind the fact that she was attractive since when she spoke, all the guys had an excuse to stare at her but not actually listen to what she had to say.
Once you had finished suppressing the boner in your suit pants (oh yeah, we had to wear suits in the crushing heat the entire time), you realized that what she had to say was devoid of all reason and logic. But her skirt was short and her cleavage deep, so it wasn’t like anyone wanted her to go away. And of course, there were a couple of hot underage Australian girls who liked to take up more space than they could handle and wear tight dresses and then sit down on the floor making it impossible not to stare at their crotch.
Come on, I was 18 years old and at the peak of my sexual frustration and all the girls were wearing short, tight dresses, I mean what the fuck was I supposed to do? Look them in the eye the entire time? Fuck. Off. Also, I was 18 and by underage, I mean they were 17, so don’t look at me like I’m some pedophile. Then of course there was the Danish girl. She was tall, blonde (at least at the time), had great assets, her smile made her look a bit dim, but that was it. She was the hottest of them all, but she went over the line with all her makeup and she became fake and Barbie doll looking, but she was at that level of perfection.
I of course have always enjoyed looking at perfect, but have remained cautious and suspicious in terms of approaching it. I mean her eyebrows were painted on, I doubt she realized that the societal stereotype “girls aren’t supposed to have facial hair” referred to hair on her chin, not hair above her eyes. She looked like someone who had taken the Brazilian wax to a new level. She too would be one of those girls from which it would be difficult to tear away your gaze, making the thirteen days hard both in terms of trying not to seem like a creep and in a very literal sense.
The week in DC went by relatively quickly, we went to the state department to talk to Eliza Steinberg about Jews (yes her name really was that Jewish), more specifically how anti-Semitism is still being taught in schools in a lot of places. It stunned me. We went to a lecture with Dr. Scott King from American University who talked about multi-culturalism and how when his family gets together it’s like the United Nations. Lols. Professors’ are rarely funny.
We visited the Czech embassy, every monument under the sky, and held model-UN sessions in the Hilton Hotel’s grand hall. There were team-building exercises, during which I got a headache, so I told our team leader, Private Feeble with a past in the air force, that I just needed to go to my room and take a painkiller. He said sure, but don’t tell anyone else.
Apparently, the policy was that they had to accompany us to the sick room and for us to have a lie down in the presence of a staff member. And any pills I would take I assume would have to be checked a thousand times. This was my first face-to-face encounter with the extreme, uniquely American, fear of being sued.
I guess there was a slight possibility that I would go to my room and overdose on methamphetamine and then the conference would be responsible for my death, except they wouldn’t, I would be. But of course, they couldn’t take that risk. The tall Danish girl played basketball as I did, and during our days in DC and New York, she seemed to take a liking to me. The team exercise had been dubbed “The GYLC Olympics,” which was about as cheesy and dumb as it sounds. One of the “events” was basketball if you can call throwing a physical therapy ball into a plastic box on the floor, basketball. You can’t.
As Molly the Dane and I had played basketball, the pressure was on. Molly even pretended to cry into my shirt, either as a joke or to flirt, something which at the time I didn’t dare to believe. Pretending to cry into my shirt was a weird way of doing things, but hey she was hot so it worked. Sidenote, the real deal is of course that if you’re ugly, that’s just disgusting. I know I’m not one to talk, but shut up. Society is disgusting and you know it. I could never write this story without being awful, the entire thing would just fall flat on its face. I’d have to lie so, so much. I’m an ass, I admit it.
On the last day in Washington, we went to the Holocaust museum. We were walking incredibly slowly and I was bored, I mean I’ve been to Auschwitz, that’s way cooler. Yes, “cooler” is the right word for… unlimited death. Molly was saying how she couldn’t understand how humans could be so evil, while I was staring at her tits. It was incredibly frustrating.
I wouldn’t call myself a psychopath but compared to others I feel like there’s something to it if only a little. People seem to enjoy the company of other people so effortlessly. I wish I did too. When Molly said she couldn’t understand how anyone could be so evil, I of course had to be melodramatic and said I completely understood, and she gave me a weird look. I get that. I wasn’t saying I condone it, I was saying it didn’t shock me.
I don’t get how anyone can’t understand how the Nazis could be so evil. The evilest ones definitely enjoyed watching other people suffer. We all do to some extent. Why do you think kids bully each other? Because they like to see others suffer. Kids aren’t Nazis, but all Nazis, including little Adolf, have been kids once.
To cheer up those who are bullied, the grownups always say that the bullies are bullying because they feel bad about themselves, so they want to push others down since they can’t push themselves up. It’s all basic survival instincts. So, don’t say the Nazis were inhuman. They were extremely human. Of course, not in a good sense. They showed the worst qualities of humankind. Qualities we all have. We can all hate, we can all hurt others for our own benefit or enjoyment. It’s not even close to inhuman, but it is hella fucked up.
I had bonded with Finley during the first few days, but as we left the Czech embassy, I bored him with another Canadian hockey story and on the bus, he chose to sit next to André, as I and the voice in the back of my head had our hourly battle as to whether or not I should kill myself. We both agreed I should have done it a long time ago.
André managed to be an intelligent nerd, class president, teacher’s pet, obsessed with musical theatre, but still somehow, cool. All the contortions he must’ve gone through to pull that off must’ve earned him a spot in Cirque du Soleil, had they only known he was out there. I leaned over and asked: “What are you talking about?”
Finley leaned in and said: “We’re discussing how to promote world peace.” I nodded but didn’t say anything.
Who does that? Good God, are they nerds or what!?
Don’t you consider yourself a nerd?
Sure, but this is on a whole other level, I mean, these guys are 17 and 16 and they’re discussing how to promote world peace? That’s just silly and downright stupid.
Just because you think that promoting world peace is a waste of time, money, energy, lives, a waste of everything, just because you see the world as a giant craphole and life as something you have to get over with, doesn’t mean that everybody else sees it that way. The truth is that you’re alone about seeing things this way. You don’t really fit in here either. The rest of these people talk like they’re addressing royalty ALL THE TIME. Who the hell does that? No one, it’s just weird.
“The delegation of South Africa is willing to blah, blah, blah…” Who told you to talk like that? Nobody. Yet, everybody does it.
We traveled to New York by bus. I would come to see much more of this during my future road trips across the American east, but the number of broken places never seized to surprise me. The amount of rundown, but not abandoned, houses that people actually lived in, the slowly crumbling bridges straining under the weight of our bus filled to the brim with brainpower, and the hundreds of oversized pickup trucks surrounding us.
We stopped in Philadelphia for lunch. We walked past Independence Hall, the house where this place became the United States, on our way to the most American-looking place I’ve ever seen. A food court in Philly. Plastic tables in the middle, food stalls on both sides, American flags hanging from the high walls. Noodles here, pizza by the slice there. Diabetes to the left, heart disease to the right.
We got our food and were out of there pretty quickly, the bus was leaving. On our way back, Molly asked me what I look for in a girl. The right thing to say here would’ve been “You,” and then just fucked her right then and there in front of Independence Hall. Benjamin Franklin would’ve been proud of me, the fucking playa.
But no, what I actually said was “I think it would be cool to date someone a bit older than me.” We were the same age. I really was too scared of what would happen if a girl turned out to be interested in me. I had no idea how to handle it. Even if I wanted to take it further, which I did, I didn’t know how. So instead I decided to carry on shooting myself in the groin.
In New York, we didn’t stay at a nice hotel, but at St John’s College, a Catholic university in Queens. Crosses were hanging above every door and statues of Mary Magdalene littered the campus. I was, to say the least, a little creeped out. This place came with a cafeteria and classrooms for us to have our “Leadership Meetings” in.
The leadership meetings were where we devised strategies for the next simulation and did other leadershippy exercises and whatnot. In one of these meetings, I talked about how Greece was “fuckin’ up the European economy” and how they had faked the state of their finances to get into the European Union.
Private Feeble said that was a good point but maybe use cleaner language during the simulation. I said maybe someone else should say it then. During those couple of weeks, I heard a few “Watch your mouth’s” from Private Feeble. I didn’t mind it because he seemed to like me, and the reason he told me off was more because he was supposed to, rather than because he felt like he needed to.
At the end of the day, as we were standing in line to get back into our creepy catholic dorms, André and Molly had a conversation leading to André saying to Molly: “You’re not cool enough unless Oscar says so, you’re not cool enough. Oscar is the cool judge. The judge of cool.” Even though it was just a joke dripping with sarcasm, I got a weird feeling when André said that. I had never been “cool enough.”
Well, only for a couple of days in the ninth grade when I had gotten in a few good jokes and I was atop the social pedestal for an hour or two when Jakob actually wanted to sit next to “Porn-Orre” (Yes, Orre is a nickname for Oscar). Jakob had flashed me so many times in the changing rooms by this point that the milliseconds of which I had by sheer inevitability been staring at Jakob’s rather lovely penis had earned me the nickname “Porn-Orre.”
I was in a terrible mental state, but I didn’t mind it that much. It had been much worse in the past. This was teasing, but inclusionary, something I had never previously experienced. It was as if I was finally included in something that someone might call “us.” A guy from our parallel class Paris, who liked to mess with me, locked me out of the changing room one day after PE and I just gave up and went home.
I really didn’t want to be in school, I was slightly suicidal, so I just left. But anyway, Jakob wanted to sit next to me at a lecture about food or something in the Domsdal theater (situated in the same building as my future high school), and consequently, I was the one dictating where all the boys in the class were going to sit. That had also been weird. There were some highs sprinkled in amongst the lows.
It was almost dreamlike as I remembered what was right now back then, namely standing in line to get back into the dorms of St John’s Catholic College in Queens, after a day of activities and long bus rides in New York City. I was happy to be physically far away from my former life. But I didn’t think I was, or could ever be, “cool enough.”
I have never been very good at being social, I have never really enjoyed being with a random group of people that much. Oftentimes, I have searched for loneliness to deal with having to spend time with a group of people. And while I was surprised by what André said, it warmed me up and the ball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach became a little bit smaller.
André was shorter than me (in a good way), better looking, more well-spoken (I overuse “fuck” to an extent that is, in the end, detrimental), and in better shape despite the fact that his only workout seemed to be singing and dancing in musicals and having to force his southern Swedish accent to actually form understandable sounds.
His jaw muscles must have been exhausted constantly. That night was barbecue night. It was the fourth of July, Independence Day. Or as an American would say it, if you would allow me to paraphrase: FOURTH OF JULY INDEPENDENCE DAY MOTHERFUCKING COMMIES GET OUT OF MA COUNTRY THIS IS THE LAND OF THE FUCKING FREE YOU GODDAMN SOCIALISTS.
Later in the evening, I watched the fireworks over a cloudy Manhattan. It was pretty cool. And lonely. After my shower and unfortunate walk down the corridor in just my t-shirt and boxers, (I was jeered at and asked by one of the leaders to go back into my room if they were so scared of us seeing each other like that, why did they have us live in dorms!?
They of course separated girls and boys and there might have been girls in the corridor and wouldn’t that have been the end of the world, eh?) I decided to wear a denim shirt and baggy jeans (I had zero fashion sense back then) which was an awful mistake since I not much later got dragged into a basketball game as I was walking to the field where the barbecue was. Molly, being the only girl on the court and an experienced B-ball player, wanted to show off and ended up tripping over and her knee started bleeding, I immediately started licking it up – no of course I didn’t, who would do such a thing??? *Clears throat and whistles*
I of course also wanted to show off, but it was difficult since there were about two million people on the court and the people who were the worst at basketball were also the people who seemed to think that if they didn’t hog the ball against everyone’s better judgment, they would die a painful death. Even so, I managed to show off a little bit, and as a result of which, I was drenched in sweat as we left.
“You have some good moves,” Molly said. Another invitation to a party in her pants that I would eagerly accept if she only indicated that she would be down with doing it in a bathroom or something, I thought. But I couldn’t just respond “Do you wanna go fuck in a bathroom?” So instead I just said, “Thanks, you too.” A social wizard, I was.
In the line for the hot dogs, which I then struggled to watch Molly eat without having to punch myself in the groin, Dax decided to join us. Molly towered over him.
“You’re a big girl,” Dax the idiot decided to say.
“Don’t say that,” Molly said, offended.
“She’s tall, not big, when you say big it sounds like you mean fat,” I told the American who by the way he ate only should’ve had about four teeth left.
“Exactly, Oscar knows how to talk to a girl,” Molly said. HNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGG. OH, COME ON ARE YOU SERIOUS?????? WHAT THE FUCK AM I SUPPOSED TO DO TO GET TO CREAM IN HER FUCKING PIE??!!!! IT’S LIKE SHE’S GUIDING THE AIRPLANE THAT IS MY DICK INTO THE LANDING STRIP THAT IS HER INNER SANCTUM BUT I’M PERMANENTLY CIRCLING THE FUCKING AIRPORT BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF PRIVATE BEDROOMS AND THE CONSTANT PRESENCE OF SOME GYLC OFFICER AND DAX MOTHERFUCKING RHODES. COME. THE. FUCK. ON.
This was essentially what was running through my head. See, I told you I was a social wizard. We never had a moment alone, even less a moment alone when we could fuck. Which I assume was the point of the flirting. Not that we would hang out and talk, that just seemed ludicrous.
“Wanna go outside and play basketball tonight?” Molly asked me when it was all over and we were on our way back. Holy shit, she’s basically asking me to make out in the rain, I thought.
It’s not raining, it’s 100 degrees, you would be so sweaty, said the voice.
SHUT UP, DON’T RUIN THIS FOR ME.
We weren’t supposed to be out after a certain hour. I hated breaking rules. The rules may have been stupid, but after all, they were in charge of a bunch of people’s kids.
“Aren’t we supposed to sleep or something?” I said to Molly. At this point, my dick was on its knees begging me to stop screwing him over, so it could screw her.
The last night of the conference was spent on a party boat cruising along the Hudson River. The night was spent dancing, the white people jumping up and down on one floor, which is basically just the same as fish on land struggling to get back in the water, and people of multiple ethnicities grinding and doing more than jumping up and down, on the floor below where the music permitted such lude activities.
If that isn’t an apt metaphor for society at large I don’t know what is. I preferred to stay on the rooftop, watching the skyline and trying hard not to stare too much at Molly’s short dress. It was more or less impossible. The only dancing up here was directed by the song itself. “Take a step forward, move it back now ya’ll,” you know that kind of bullshit. People took pictures.
There was a girl who had asked me several times for pictures on this trip because she thought it was fun because she was short and I was tall. It happened quite often that girls would ask me for pictures so they could look small next to me, even when they wore heels. At least I think that was the point. This one girl asked me for a picture four times over the course of the trip. She and her friend, with a concerning “drunk” personality, were always around but I tried to avoid them.
Molly took a picture with me where she put her arm around me and I put mine around her, but then she did the same with a bunch of other dudes so I didn’t see it as anything special. At the start of the boat ride, around dinner, four of the girls from our group that I had actually been hanging out with wanted a picture with me.
My hair was long and disheveled, I had taken off my dress shoes and put on my red converse with rainbow-colored, glow-in-the-dark, laces. I had untucked my shirt, loosened my tie, and unbuttoned the top few buttons on my shirt. They all looked rather pristine in their dresses and heels. They didn’t ask any of the other guys for a picture like that, but it didn’t make me feel like someone who was popular with the ladies. It made me feel like an elephant caught up in a sorority safari trip. But it made me look like a pimp.
There was another guy who was trying to get into Molly’s pants more aggressively than I was since I was subconsciously going out of my way not to fuck her, making me very frustrated with myself. The other guy was an Australian rugby player called Joey who shaved his legs so he would be slippery on the field.
Joey was in way better shape than I was, but he was also Asian so maybe Molly was trying to avoid that small ass dick. (Excuse the racist stereotype but I am honestly trying to figure out how she was thinking, he was clearly more attractive than me). There was also a 6-foot-8, 300-pound South African fellow who posted creepy comments on Facebook like “I remember when you wore that dress at GYLC hehe,” whenever she would post a photo wearing the same short, sparkling dress years after the conference was over. Yeah, you remember it because you jerk off to pictures from that time 8 times a day, that’s why you remember.
It is of course possible that she went off and took pictures with other fellas to make me jealous and to push me to make a move. I’ve heard that people do that, but I’ve never understood it. If you show interest in another person, how am I supposed to take that as “Hey, come get me!” That makes no sense whatsoever! It just makes me think you’re not into me, which will make me start looking elsewhere, duh!
Girls were gushing over André though. They were wetter than the ship’s hull for some of that intellectual action. Granted, he was a cutie. He paid them no attention, which was a shame because he definitely could have got laid in a bathroom had he wanted to. He seemed uncomfortable with the attention like he never encountered it before.
This was a conference for high school nerds, so it wasn’t surprising that the female nerds would go after the most intelligent and well-spoken guy who was named president of the biggest UN simulation of the entire conference. Because if anyone can get some action, it’s that pussyslayer Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General at the time.
With all participants in attendance, hundreds of high school students, André was the one with the mic, running the proceedings. He did very well, and it was obvious that some of the girls noticed. They must’ve liked that they could look him in the eye without breaking their necks because of his lack of height, the ones paying attention to me must’ve just been after what they thought could’ve been a massive penis because of the whole big feet equals big dick rule. It’s kind of true. I’m at the very least above average, especially according to an American standard.
I made it as far as French foreign secretary for one of the smaller simulations, leaving me not satisfied, but also not disappointed with my achievements once it was all over. Some people on the boat paired off towards the end of the night, boys and girls, yeah, I know, what a bunch of heteronormative bastards, eh? I don’t know if I saw anyone kissing, but what I did know was that this was not a great place to fall in love. In the morning we would all split up and most likely never see each other again. As I write this it’s been five years.
I made some great friends during that trip. I haven’t seen a single one of them since I left New York that summer. The boat pulled back into shore and we got back on the bus that would take us back to Queens. On the bus, people started to sing the theme from the Lion King, “I can’t wait to be king” or whatever. Being dumbfounded, I asked: “Have you really seen the Lion King so many times that you know the lyrics by heart?” Everybody screamed yes as if it was obvious as if it was weird if you hadn’t.
My upbringing in popular culture consisted mostly of awkward Swedish comedies from the 80s and 90s about grown men struggling to be adults. As it turns out, Disney is quite popular with people my age. The next day, we had one last big meeting with the whole conference. Two people after one another used the quote “Don’t be sad because it’s over, be happy because it happened.” If the person before you say it, can’t you cut it out of your prepared remarks??? Or do you have no idea how to improvise?
The second woman did look pretty pissed when the first one said it like she had screwed her over or something. At least coordinate your shitty quotes first, God. We all hugged, I think some cried, I did not. I had started the conference wearing my long hair in a man-bun (this was 2012, before the craze, yes I did it BEFORE IT WAS COOL), but it gave me a headache so eventually, I just left it all hanging out, and sprayed some hairspray on it so it would look properly filthy.
There’s photographic evidence of me hugging Dax with a fry in my mouth, I have no idea where that fry came from. I got on the bus headed for JFK and once I got there, I had to wait for what seemed like an eternity but it was actually just between six and eight hours, which I think should be defined as an eternity if you spend it at an airport.
When booking the flight, we knew the time the bus would be at the airport. Finding the cheapest fares and a flight leaving at a safe time after the designated drop off time, accounting for delays, meant that I was sat at JFK International Airport for an entire day, feeling like absolute garbage as I was getting a cold and my sinuses were filled to the brim with phlegm.
The flight was merciless. The headache unbearable. Once I got to Heathrow, I had to run across the airport to make my flight to Stockholm, aaaaaand, of course, I got stuck in security where an annoying old lady told me I couldn’t bring some hair wax that I had in my carry-on with me. It had gone through at JFK and since when are the Americans lax when it comes to airport security if I may ask?? She took it from me, fine who gives a shit just take it, but then of course she had to search all my belongings for more murderous hair wax in the most senile, sloth-like, time-consuming way possible.
She even had what only could have been a hair wax detector with which she slowly caressed my camera. Because we all have hair wax in our cameras, right? I was walking on the spot, stressed out of my mind, trying to make her go faster. Whenever she spoke, I wouldn’t listen, I would just say “Ok, ok.” She finally ends the torture (I swear being super stressed must be worse than waterboarding, maybe), I get my bag and I run and barely make it onto the flight, in fact, I’m the last one on and they seem to be waiting for me. But once I’m on, I’m on.
I put my massive hood over my head and try to sleep. I can’t because my head is exploding. I mean I barely sleep in my own bed so why would I be able to sleep on a plane? I arrive back home, I hug my mom, and my sister who chose to come along for some reason, we get into the car and that was it. I was speaking Swedish again. It was weird. I liked speaking English all the time. I liked America. I knew I’d be back. I had locked ears for a few days. It felt like shit. It was over. I was home. God fucking dammit, why did I have to go back home?
I may have loved it, but don’t get me wrong, there are always things that will bug me about this wonderful place. History shows made by Americans that are about European history always lose credibility for me because do they even give a shit? It’s like they don’t have enough history so they’re trying to steal a bit of ours.
American history is even labeled as “American” history because it’s not historic enough to be just history. It’s also because they don’t have any history before the 1600s because nothing happened there. It was just a bunch of Native Americans living their lives, then the Brits went over there and ended their lives, making a bit of history happen, because in order to make actual history happen you apparently need white people and lots and lots of death. All the Americans care about is how they fucked the Nazis. But if you think about it, New York wasn’t bombed half to death so I really think the Brits should get a bit more credit.
When Americans go to Europe, they always say that they went to Europe like we’re one country. Where did you go!? It’s a continent, fucking specify! There are 740 million Europeans and we’re not all the same people, we’re very different. Americans pass it off as one place. Finland and Italy are very different places. In Italy, you can buy yourself a university degree and in Finland, you go to jail for smiling. But they’re both in Europe.
You wouldn’t pass off Minnesota as the exact same fucking thing as New York City, now would you? New York has 8 and a half million people from almost as many countries and Minnesota has three horses and a guy with a beard. There are 50 countries in Europe, the same number as American states, only with twice the people. So when you’re going to Europe, don’t say you’re going to Europe because you’re only on the third stage of specification. The Milky Way, Earth, Europe, are you really that fucking lazy?
“So where are you going on vacation?”
“Somewhere on this planet.”
When Americans talk about Europeans, I don’t feel included because I’m Swedish. Sweden is a part of Europe but when others talk about “Europeans” I just assume they mean hairy Greeks or Italians making catcalling great again by shouting “CIAO BELLA!” at every passerby who somehow doesn’t understand it’s the Florence equivalent of a shirtless man from Staten Island screaming “NICE ASS!!” while removing a dead rat from his belly button.
We managed to squeeze in a visit to the Empire State Building while we were in New York. After I had got back home, there was something about it I needed to write down. It was this:
I went to a conference for smart high school kids from all over the world in Washington and New York. Apart from all the UN simulation thingies, we did quite a bit of touristy stuff. For instance, we went to the top of the Empire State Building. When we were on our way down, we had to stand in line for the elevators. And of course, the line went through the gift shop. But what really bothered me was the fact that the people who bought a figurine of the statue of liberty or a tiara made of green foam for 45 dollars could skip the line. They got their own elevator. You’re trapping people like cows for slaughter and the only way to get out of that fucking line is to buy something that you’re gonna regret later. And the picture that’s taken of you before, whether you like it or not, is taken in front of a green-screened New York, not the actual New York, even though it’s just outside the window.
It was nice to come home though. Everything is cleaner, the bathrooms are actually bathROOMS and not just a fucking stall where strangers can watch you take a shit. It usually feels good to come home, but it also feels like going backward, and like life is slipping away from you, like time is standing still.
I was back at the dinner table again, unhappy, anxious, and frustrated, just like before. The pressure to always be creating something grew stronger and stronger. I always felt like I wasn’t productive enough, that I procrastinated too much. I didn’t understand how Clara could talk so happily about what was going on at her job at dinner.
How can someone so enthusiastically describe something so ordinary? And when she depicted so brilliantly the goings-on at the local supermarket and the characters that move in and out, how does she resist the temptation to write a sitcom about it?