I have established something of a routine over the past few days, and it involves a daily visit to my favorite coffee shop in all the world. One thing I have observed since moving here, is just how much of a coffee shop culture there is here – seriously, Stockholmers are obsessed with something called a “fika”, which means to go for a coffee with a friend. It can, according to the Viking, be either a noun or a verb: “let’s have a fika tomorrow,” “shall we fika tomorrow?” Maybe because it sounds a little like a certain F word in English, it gives me the giggles a little to hear my Viking talking about going for a fika with his male friends… I’m like, ‘honey, what you do in your time is your business…’ 😉
Anyway, it seems that a fika in the company of a good book is also acceptable; I was relieved to discover that I am far from the only solo fika-er in most of the coffee shops I frequent. I try to change the location up from time to time (a girl’s gotta have some excitement…) but the one I keep coming back to time and time again is on a little square near our apartment. The square itself is super cute, there is a little fountain in the center of the grass, and it’s usually filled with hipsters and toddlers dressed like hipsters (seriously, I never imagined the thought would cross my mind: “I would love that outfit… minus the diaper”)
My coffee shop overlooks the square. No matter how bright the sunshine outside, it is always shadowy and cozy, and kind of feels like a little old grandma’s living room in a fairy tale. There is random brick-a-brack and quirky mirrors on the walls, mismatched furniture and giant Alice in Wonderland cups and saucers. The Viking took me on a walk to the square my first night here, but I’ve never been into the coffee shop with him, and it’s come to feel like my sanctuary, my own little corner of Stockholm.
I was happily cuddled up in my usual corner reading, when I glanced up, and saw her. Hockey Girl. Damn. Why her? Why here? She was waiting in line for a coffee, and, as usual, seemed engrossed in her phone, so my first thought was to duck and pretend I hadn’t seen her.
But I couldn’t concentrate on my book.
I’m stuck with these people. The Viking is talking about our plans for this weekend, and guess who it involves? They are a tight, tight crew, and he is one of them and wants me to be too. Once I have some friends of my own, I’ll be able to beg off sometimes, but I can’t exactly be like, “you go ahead honey, I have plans… to watch TV on my own.” So for now, I’m stuck with them and I couldn’t rest if I missed an opportunity to break the ice a little.
So up I got, approached her with my biggest smile as though the last two times we met she hadn’t treated me like she scraped me off her shoe, and said, “hi, so great to see you! How are you?” And she basically acted like we had never met before and I was some freak weirdo trying to start a conversation with a stranger. She muttered, barely, “hi” then turned and ordered her coffee. And I was like, “I’m excited for this weekend! I hear we’re going to dinner?” She nodded, smiled really tightly and said she had to go, it was nice to see me.
Well that was a lie. It was clearly, evidently, excruciating to see me.
Except this time, for the first time, it occurred to me that the problem wasn’t me. I know I’ve been calling them jerks here, but really I’ve been thinking about whatever stupid thing I said or did the other times I met them, but this time, I’m sorry, but there is no way I was being anything but nice and friendly and if that terrifies her so much then she has some kind of social anxiety or something. It can’t be personal, she doesn’t know me enough to have anything to dislike about me (is it too much to ask for people to get to know me before hating me?!).