On one of the last trips that Nina planned to Russia, she had wanted her husband Vidar to come along, but he didn’t want to. He claimed the trips were boring and a waste of time. And besides, someone needed to stay home and take care of Stian. So, she goes to Russia without him and returns having fallen utterly in love with Christian, a much younger man. She begins having an affair with him once she is home. She goes on regular Saturday Night dates with this new lover. Out in the open, in front of her husband, she gets ready for these outings.
She takes long and leisurely bubble baths in fragrant lavender salts that permeate the whole apartment. She puts on her finest lingerie and silk hose. She picks out flowing feminine dresses with plunging necklines. She adorns herself with her finest jewels, some that were presents from Vidar.
He hears her in the bedroom as she prepares for these weekly trysts. From his perch on the vinyl kitchen chair, it sounds like she is dancing and flitting from one task to the other with delight, humming and excited, like a school girl getting ready for the spring dance. Was she like this when we were dating? Where did that fervor evaporate to? And all this time, he sits ramrod on the metal chair with the sticky red vinyl covers, in his short bathrobe that hides a tired and sweat stained undershirt and thread bear pajama bottoms. He sips his vodka at the kitchen table out of a juice glass, his cigarette dangles precariously at the edge of the amber colored crystal ash tray, and he stares out at the lane behind their house through water sprayed windows dripping from the latest afternoon shower; an almost daily occurrence in this Hanseatic City on the west coast of Norway. How did his torrid love affair with Nina evolve into this dreary solitude? When did the spark flicker and die out? They had been crazy for each other and tore through each other with great passion.
This new episode was not meant to be a chapter in his life. But he was just like Papa, leaving things unspoken. What seemed to her to be his indifference was just his inability to express his earnest love for her. He wanted her to love him without the required words. He wanted it to be unconditional, wasn’t it supposed to have been an unconditional love?
She jars him out of his reverie with a soft whisper over her shoulder “Don’t wait up”. She makes a final pass through the kitchen. She slips into the back room where Stian is sleeping, to give him a final goodnight kiss before heading out. She comes back out into the hallway and reaches behind her back into the room to switch off the light. She leans into the door frame for a moment, she hesitates as she gazes at the sweetest thing that life had brought to her on this planet. A twinge of raw nerves shoot through her… a moments hesitation and a sharp pang of guilt as she considers her next move. She loves this little angel and she doesn’t want to ruin anything about him. And Vidar is such a big part of him. But she needs more than what Vidar can offer. Tonight, she is wearing that red silk number with black flowing brush strokes that look like hazy fields of orchids caressing her curves. This was her special occasion dress, the one Vidar always use to ask her to wear. And as she walks back towards the kitchen and looks down at her husband, their eyes meet and hold this moment, and she sees the glazed film across his vision and she knows what he is thinking. And again, she feels a twist in her bosom and her gut because she knows his thoughts, his torture at seeing her in this dress with those candy apple lips and her raven hair swept up in that chignon. All of this not for his benefit, and she knows that he knows the strategic two bobby pins are fastened where they always are at this point of the night, ready when pulled just right that it will release her flowing hair at the precise right moment when things begin to get steamy. He averts his eyes and they slowly move to the floor and his gaze lands at her feet, and then another pain flows through him when he sees that she is wearing those shoes. The ones he bought for her in Vienna with the delicate ankle cuff that wraps around twice. He had picked these black leather heels for her on his last orchestral trip with the Bergen Philharmonic, before he had lost his place as first chair. Before all meaning had seemed to drain from his life, his passion and his dreams had been flushed away with the latest cutbacks. His eyes gaze at those shoes, a memory of what was and could have been. These precious shoes had been his peace offering for having been gone so long without her this time. Little did he know then that this trip had been his last and would be the backdrop of his downfall in the music world. His stare lingers on those shoes then fades and the moment is gone.
She gathers her jacket and purse and walks to the back door, hesitates for a split second wondering why he can’t just say it, just say it. Open your mouth. Please just say something. Hold me back from where I am about to go, tell me it matters. But he doesn’t and the ticking cuckoo clock that they bought together in Switzerland on one of the earlier musical tours comes to life with a loud and brackish squawk, it erupts seven times marking the evening and then the little man and the little lady dressed in their matching Swiss Mountain costumes come out and do their dance as they slide around their track and the whole disruption of this awkward moment is all so jarring that she simply must flee from this insane surreal world of misshapen reality. She must run somewhere, anywhere… just to get out of here. So she quickly walks to the back door and slips out through the back alley without another word, leaving Vidar to his tortured thoughts.
Her feet and now watery limbs make the downhill and winding cobblestoned journey to the local pub a perilous affair as she fights to not lose her balance. Her lower eye lids well up. She hates herself for this reaction because this was the very thing she had promised herself that she wouldn’t do this time. This pattern had now become routine each Saturday night, like clockwork. She had once loved Vidar so very much, and she had a feeling he still loved her… but these last four years had been a solitary life, the most isolated and sad and lonely life she had ever had and not lost on her that this loneliness came with being married. She thought of all the couples spread out throughout the city and indeed, the world. How many were living lives of love and passion and complete bliss? And how many were complete strangers merely sharing quarters baffled by what had happened after the “I dos”? She thought about Christian, the man she was running to now. Was this love or merely a distraction? Was this just a temporary fix to help nurse her wounded ego and bring her back to life? And what of her communist interests? Were those real, or just excitement in an otherwise very dull existence? Something to make her feel alive again and have a purpose? Truth be told, she wasn’t sure what she believed in anymore. She slows her pace, wipes her cheeks with the back of her hand and tries to get a grip before arriving at Skipperstuen on Torget.
Christian will already have been there for at least an hour and he will have a fresh draft of Øl waiting for her. He was basically kind to her, this Christian. But he wasn’t patient when it came to her raw feelings about Vidar. He considered Vidar to be a washed up and worthless old man, even though he had not yet turned 40. As far as he was concerned, Vidar had no gumption, no vitality and he couldn’t understand why she just didn’t leave the fool. Chrisitan felt he was far better equipped in every way to meet her needs both intellectually and physically. He didn’t have any self doubts where that was concerned and he felt that Nina’s hesitation to leave Vidar was a sort of weakness on her part. But Christian was willing to be patient with her. He had wanted her since the first time he had laid eyes on her, and he was willing to forgive her short comings…at least for awhile. But he wouldn’t wait too long, he was in too high demand to wait too long. He knew what he could get and how the women longed for him, so if she didn’t snap out of this dreariness soon, he would be gone and on to fresh options. He looked up and saw her duck into the pub and shake her head from the rain drops she had collected on her way through the typically rainy streets of Bergen. She was breathtaking, so he knew that he would wait awhile and he hoped she would come to her senses soon. He would be willing to deal with her six year old, he wasn’t such a bad kid. At least he didn’t whine and moan like some of his nephews and nieces. Nina was an amazing mother, this he saw and he wished he had grown up with as much love as he witnessed her showering on little Stian. Her gentle and soft spoken reassurances and the absence of regular yelling and other agitations were certainly a factor in why Stian was so well behaved and gentle himself. And he also knew that Stian’s temperament came from Nina, he was indeed a blessed little boy. So yes, he could easily deal with Stian in his life… in fact, he might even like having the little guy around a bit more. Who knows what would develop. For now, he waved her over and tapped the bar stool seat fervently, beckoning her to hurry up and join him.
Tonight, he would be filled to the brim with all that he needed… that was all that mattered for now, so he put Vidar and Stian out of his mind and smiled to her widely, encouraging her to shake out of what he knew was the after affects of the emotional exit she had just made from her broken home. And it helped her, and she smiled back at him and she reached for him hungrily and buried herself into his strong shoulder. This was what she longed for, this was what Vidar could not offer and she knew that this is where she belonged now, with Christian. Her guilt dissolved and she embraced her lover and gave him the reassurance he needed that tonight would be for them and that there would not be any ghosts sharing the night with them. Tonight, it would be just them.