I decided to give up my freedom two weeks ago, letting a friend move into my student flat here in Växjö. We spent much of the day moving all three pieces of furniture he owned. Hey, sometimes a guy needs to take his time with things. What’s the harm of missing a lecture or two? By noon both of us already had second thoughts.
Maybe Abbey thought that living with an American would mean we’d be shooting Nerf hoops before throwing a massive toga party, watching football every night, spending most of our money on nachos and popcorn, and debating the finer points of hip hop history.
So far, it’s been a lot of conversations like this:
HIM: Ben, what are you doing now?
ME: Planning my next column.
HIM: With your eyes closed?
HIM: Lying on your bed?
HIM: How long does it take to write a column?
ME: About two hours.
HIM: And you only do one a week?
HIM: What do you do with the rest of your time?
ME: Worry about those two hours.
HIM: Do you get paid?
ME: I wish.
After about an hour of that, he was going out of his mind, so I told him he could wade through my unopened emails.
HIM: Why do some of these people say they think you’re wrong?
ME: I guess they’re teaching computer skills nowadays at the mental health center.
HIM: What does this mean, “If I ever see you, run?”
ME: Uh, that’s from my jogging partner.
After a while, he called all his friends, emailed all his friends, and text-messaged all his friends – all in a language I didn’t understand a word of. It definitely wasn’t Swedish.
HIM: What are you doing now?
ME: Planning my next column.
HIM: Is it going to be about coffee?
HIM: Then why are you drinking?
ME: It helps me think.
HIM: Has it helped so far?
Nothing was coming to me, so I went for a run around the lake. I asked him to answer my phone while I was gone. When I came back, he was beaming.
HIM: Hey, a girl called.
HIM: Yeah, she said she’s busy tonight but still thinks you’re a good friend.
ME: $&@#! I mean, O.K.
He’s a lot better at math than me, so I asked if he’d like a crack at balancing my checkbook.
HIM: “Taxi to church, 150 SEK.” But you said it would take an army to drag you to church.
ME: O.K., it was the pool hall. But people were praying.
After alphabetizing my books, rearranging my refrigerated ketchup packets and trying on all my hats, he sighed and said, “What are you doing tonight?”
ME: Well, Leonardo DiCaprio is probably going to be doing the same thing I am, lying around and maybe deciding to pee sometime. And Tiger Woods will turn to his friends and say, “O.K., you stay in the parking lot, and I’ll meet you in a few hours.” And whatever Lindsay Lohan is doing, it probably involves cocaine and/or martinis.
Finally, my friend Martin came by and asked how everything was going. We both groaned.
ABBEY: I don’t think Ben is having a very good time.
ABBEY: He said he has something called writer’s block.
I leaped up and started typing furiously.
ABBEY: Did you get an idea?
ME: No, but I’m writing anyway.