I woke up Friday morning feeling happy. A whole weekend with my Viking, getting to meet his friends which I was nervous about, but also excited, and… a holiday. Even if I had just heard of it for the first time the day before, I am the holiday gal, I love everything about them. I’m the one in the Santa costume, hiding the Easter Eggs, inviting Trick or Treaters into my haunted house (and still scrubbing ‘cobwebs’ off my apartment windows weeks later), forcing the neighborhoods kids (back when I was one) to stage our own Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.
The original plan had been to meet everybody at the bus depot and take the bus together (the cabin (or “stuga”) was out on an archipelago island in the Baltic Sea, but many of the islands are connected by bridges so you can take a bus pretty far out to sea) but we slept in and when we woke up, the Viking said he’d text them to say we’d catch the next bus. Almost as soon as he sent the text, approximately a thousand replies buzzed in and of course I couldn’t read them (literally couldn’t, even if I would do that), I swear I could feel disapproval and tension radiating from his phone.
I imagined a weekend in the country to be pretty chilled out, that we would eat BBQ and picnic stuff, everyone would wander around barefoot and just hang, but when we finally arrived we found a pretty formal table set out in the yard, and the Viking’s friends literally sitting around it waiting for us to start eating. I should back up quickly and explain that the cabin was idyllic: a rustic little storybook cottage painted red, set in a small yard that seemed more like an English garden strewn with wildflowers. At the end of the yard there was a tiny sliver of beach, a jetty that looked handbuilt, and the Baltic Sea. The bus had dropped us off at the end of a lane that was barely paved, only the smallest car would make it up without being scratched by the trees lining it; it truly felt like the middle of nowhere.
When I’m nervous (especially socially nervous), I tend to turn into this hyper valley girl cheerleader, and have been known to leap around like a deranged person trying to get a party started, so I bounded up to everybody like an excited puppy and was all “I’m Regan! I’m so excited to meet you all!! Happy Midsummer!!! I’m so sorry we’re late!!!!” Yes, I was talking in exclamation marks.
I swear I caught the two girls exchanging the kind of “weeeiiirdooo” look that I lived with throughout most of high school, and my heart just fell into my toes.
Later that night, when the party still continued but I pretended I had a headache and went to bed, I started to think about this time – I think it was still middle school – when I arrived at homeroom one day, and one of the popular girls said hi to me. I knew she didn’t mean it, I knew it was some kind of trap. I lived with my Grandma, who is the most incredible, awesome person you would ever have met, but, well… she made most of my clothes. I think you get the picture, right? That night and a thousand times since, I have rewritten that day so that I said “why would I say hi to you? You are always horrible to me.” But of course in reality, I just stared at her like a deer in headlights and when she said “I just said hi to you”, I don’t know why, but I blurted “yeah, and I said hi back.” For weeks and weeks afterwards, kids would come up to me and be like “did you just say hi to me? Because I didn’t hear you, but I know you can say hi without anyone hearing and I don’t want to be rude and not say hi back”, and I knew that I had brought it on myself – why did I lie about such a stupid thing? – but it was too late to take it back, as though by claiming to have said hi back I had switched the train of 7th grade onto another track in which life was even worse for me, but now the train was careening downhill and it was too late to put us back onto the track where I was just kind of made fun of a little bit.
Anyway, as I bounded up to that formal midsummer table like an alien excited puppy and caught that look between the girls, I had this sense of my Stockholm life with the Viking’s friends switching onto track I can’t get it off.