An American vampire in Stockholm

a true story of friendship

I go to Stockholm because I am an animated corpse, but Emily revitalizes me, and I return to Los Angeles without her. This is best. It does not benefit Emily who is moving to Melbourne — with her boyfriend. File this under “First World Problems” because Emily helps break my American habits of Add to Cart and Add Friend — the standard that I must acquire or fulfillment isn’t being processed correctly.

But fulfillment isn’t being processed correctly, because love isn’t either in this era. I learn this after my airplane reaches escape velocity. Beforehand, however, the corporation I obey has me work overtime nearly every day until my vacation. I am dying from the American dream that citizens are enrolled in. The country makes automobiles, parking spaces, and smart phone apps for parking spaces. I can choose from 14 varieties of Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice. I pack lunch and dinner when I go to work. Eyes are beaten until I resemble a raccoon. One eyelid convulses for weeks. I am offered the chance to work overtime on my transatlantic flight. I decline politely.

Because I once wrote for Juxtapoz Art & Culture Magazine, I naturally investigate many art galleries in Stockholm. Irena from Nau Gallery invites me to an exhibition at Revenue Beauty Parlor, and there, I gulp cucumber cocktails as though they’re bridging the synapses in my head. I become a social pinball. A woman arrives with a pixie cut of midnight. Her eyes are the same hour of darkness, and I cannot imagine who she is, and my business card says, “fiction, mostly.” This is Emily. She and her friends invite me to get drinks, and though I cannot read Emily, I go with them.

In the underground lair of the Bagpiper’s Inn, I read Emily just fine. She is a sprightly woman who magnetizes those around her. It’s incandescent in this English pub and I cannot tell where the light begins and ends when it touches her face; that smile blurs the distinction. “You look like Winona Ryder,” I say. Emily changes seats and sits closer to me.

I lift my necklace out of my shirt, show her the raven pendant, and tell her I got it out of interest in Scandinavian mythology: two ravens, Huginn and Munnin, flew around the world and reported their findings to Odin. “We totally believe in all that stuff,” she deadpans, her English undented since her father is American.

Two men hand us a flyer. “Is it a play?” I ask Emily. She closes the distance between us and whispers, “I think it’s religious. Just smile and nod.” We look up and smile and nod at the possible cultists. Emily says I should hang out with her next week. I am elated and bewildered, and I imagine I am going to wake up any minute now in my car, during my lunch break.

But I sleep in an apartment on Sveavägen and I wake up there, too. And 48 hours later, I meet Emily for beer in Södermalm. I am not romancing her however, because she has a boyfriend; I know this from connecting with her on Facebook. We drink and chat like the night wrote our names on it. She announces she will move to Australia next month with her boyfriend and figure out her life. I agree with her plan. She also says I should meet her father since we habitually remember our dreams and narrate them for others. I think it is a polite proposal — me and her father — nothing more. I later learn I am wrong.

She hints she is a vampire, because of her snowy skin and her residence in Blackeberg where Let the Right One In takes place.

But I am the vampire here. I am drawing from her youth and I am realizing in Los Angeles, I disabled my impulses, my nerve endings, my nerve beginnings. She restores the soul I have given away. I downsize my loyalty to the American dream.

I escort her home on a 20-minute train ride to Blackeberg. When we arrive at the station, we learn there is no train back to Stockholm. Emily says I will stay with her tonight. We shuffle through sleepy streets. Ice is slippery and she holds onto me and I don’t let anything hurt her — not the frozen Earth, not the sharp breath of night — my arms are Alpha and Omega. I do not take Emily that night. I take the sofa in the living room, because I refuse to violate Emily’s relationship. I did something similar in my Roaring 20s and I’ve been repairing my karma ever since.

The next day, I wash my clothes and wash myself but the feeling won’t dissolve: she is the teacher who appeared when I the student was ready. My spirit had a dial tone, and I had to wander Stockholm so someone could find me and tell me who I am.

And this is because we all need an Emily. And I need her as a luminary but not as a possession, because to have is the crime of all relationships. To have is ownership and ownership is illusory as the world has learned with the Eurozone crisis. To have is not fulfillment. It is not love.

And so I return to Los Angeles, believing Australia is what Emily needs. I heard it in her voice then, and I can still hear her voice months later. Two days expire after I am back in the U.S. Then I receive a Facebook message from Emily’s father: “She is a special soul and she says the same about you.” He proposes we meet since he lives an hour away. Until that moment, I was still wandering down Sveavägen, and it was still snowing in my heart. I hadn’t concluded if Emily let the right one in that night in Blackeberg.

But now, I am home.

These events took place in 2012 and the story first appeared online as a CNN iReport.


my blood is made of

fiction, mostly

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My articles have appeared in Juxtapoz Art & Culture Magazine, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, and SOMA magazine. Once upon a time, Zoetrope: All-Story gave my fiction an honorable mention. I am armed with a BA in English from UC Berkeley and an MFA in Writing for Screen and Television from USC. I am seeking literary representation for my urban fantasy novel.