Backpackers

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Copenhagen or Bust

South East Asia, North America, July to October, Copenhagen, Denmark and Lund, Sweden, October 2003

Lars continued with his travels, passing through Laos and Vietnam and Cambodia, where he visited Angkor Wat, before returning to Thailand. From Bangkok he went south to Malaysia and then from Singapore to the west coast of America. He visited San Francisco and Los Angeles and the Grand Canyon.

While he was away, every day when he could, he emailed Sandra.

He missed Sandra. He’d gone travelling looking for an easy life, and instead he’d found. Well. What was it, exactly? Being this far away from her certainly wasn’t easy, and as he travelled, all he could think of was resolving it.

He kept in touch with Matt as well, although Matt was very quiet while he dealt with the aftermath of Chiang Mai and settling in at home. But after two months Matt emailed him. He’d moved on from Jude, which was a good thing. The email was upbeat. He said he’d been in touch with the Dutch guy from Rudys’. They’d decided to start an online company “distributing digital content.” Lars wrote back, jokingly reminding Matt that he was unemployed and had an MBA.

Matt replied the next day. “Glad you mentioned it mate. We need help with the business side of things. We’re programmers really. Work for free for 3 months, for an equal share of the company? Lemme know. M.” As simple as that.

Lars wrote back saying he’d think about it.

Sandra’s emails were different. Something about Sandra had felt right. They worked well together. And in their few days together she’d given him a funny feeling. One he’d had once before as a twenty year old at university with his first serious girlfriend. It was the feeling that things fit in place. That you would never need to make an effort even though you made all the effort in the world. It was the feeling that something inside might snap if you were away from the person for too long, and his travels through South East Asia and across America proved that. He cut them short and returned to Denmark after four and a half months. He couldn’t stand being away.

The day after arriving home, still carrying jet lag around, he took the train from København over the Öresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden, through Malmö and to Lund, where Sandra was now studying to become a teacher.

In her last email, just before he’d left the States, she said she had something to tell him. Lars, too, had something to tell Sandra, and wanted to say it to her in person. He’d thought about it and thought about it and thought about it and no matter what his thoughts were, his heart always said the same thing, “Sandra, I love you.”

It wasn’t the easy life he’d been hoping for, but it was the right life.

In Lund Sandra met him at the train station, wrapped in layers and a big coat against the Scandinavian winter. They embraced and kissed and the feelings were chemical and physical and real. If anything, the months of separation and endless emails had only made them stronger. They walked hand in hand to Sandra’s apartment block, five minutes south of the train station, near a large park.

Inside the apartment Lars took off his shoes and jacket and started to explore the small flat while Sandra took off her many layers.

“Go into the living room,” she called, “take a seat.”

Lars sat on the IKEA sofa and looked around. There was a Le Chat Noir poster on the wall and framed pictures of friends and family. Dried flowers hung from the window, and on the windowsill was an electric candelabra.

Sandra entered with a pensive look on her face, hugging herself around the waist as if she’d brought the cold in with her and should still be wrapped up. “Lars, there is something I should want to say to you.” They still spoke English with each other, with the mistakes of mistranslations that were natural to them.

“Me too,” he sat forward on his seat, then decided to stand. It was so clichéd, he thought, they both wanted to say the same thing at the same time. Sweet, too. He had made the right decision coming home. He smiled at her and said, “I hope this is what you want to hear, be-”

“Lars, let me-”

“-cause it’s what I want to say.”

They both paused.

Lars filled the silence. “I love you.” He held his breath and searched Sandra’s eyes. “I’m sorry I didn’t write it on email. I wanted to say it to you first.”

When she started crying, he went to her and held her elbows, “Was that not..?”

She shook her head.

“I, er..,” this wasn’t going the way he’d intended.

Sandra sniffed. “No. I mean, yes it was. That’s not -”

“Then what?”

“- what I wanted to say first.” She sniffed again.

“What?”

“I love you, too,” she said and a tear spilled and tumbled down her cheek.

Lars smiled and brought his arms up from her elbows to hug her. She took a step back.

Sandra looked down at her arms and unfolded them and pulled her top tight to her stomach and looked up at Lars.

“You’re going to be a father,” she said.

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