Pravasan Pillay, a South African writer living in Sweden, is having a shitty day. The Con gave him 800 words to describe it to us.
Here’s how you start off a bad day in Stockholm. My one-and-half-year-old son, who has a cold and a persistent cough, doesn’t sleep at all for the second consecutive night – which of course means that my wife and I don’t sleep. This is coming shortly off a charming bout of stomach flu, projectile vomiting, and more sleepless nights the previous week.
So I “wake up” and get going with my son’s morning routine: feeding him his oats, milliseconds thereafter scrapping the oats off the kitchen floor, brushing his teeth, and finally the Sisyphean task of changing him into the three hundred layers of winter clothing my wife insist he wear.
It’s somewhere around this point that I notice something unusual happening with my right foot. It hurt like hell whenever I applied the slightest downward pressure on it. I could barely stand on it. To the best of my knowledge I had done nothing at all to cause this problem.
Then I remember that I’m 36. My injury was clearly a simple case of the olds. The medical definition of the olds states that once you approach your 40s your body will start aching in weird ass places for no fucking reason.
Anyway, here I am haggard and exhausted from two nights of terrible sleep, and now I have to push a pram to daycare while negotiating icy, slippery pavements on one foot. Eventually, after a tortuously slow walk, I manage to drop my son off, head back home and get stuck in with some work and writing.
Later that day I get ready to go out on an errand. It had been snowing heavily the entire morning so I decide to apply my winter armour, woolen hat, scarf, gloves. Naturally, the awful luck I had been having the entire day continued: One of my gloves was missing. I had stuck them in my coat pockets that morning but had forgotten to wear them.
I had obviously dropped it somewhere out there en-route to daycare. It was probably covered with heaps of snow by this point. Fuck, now I would have to spend a couple hundred on a new pair of good winter gloves.
Then I suddenly remembered the special relationship Swedes have with missing gloves. Walk on any street here in Stockholm during winter and you’ll see piles of lone gloves sitting atop of post boxes, window sills, basically any available surface that is eye level. They’re left there for their estranged owners to hopefully find if they walk by that way again.
The Swedish people are basically like Baywatch when it comes to knitwear. They see a glove or a scarf laying forlornly on a pavement, ready to be trampled and submerged in the snowy depths and they’re overcome with a crazy compulsion to rescue and reunite it with its owner.
So I begin to retrace my steps back to the daycare, keeping an eye on all window sills, etc. for any sign of my glove. But as I near my destination I’m no closer to my glove or to warm hands.
I curse myself under my breath. What an idiot I must look like. Walking the streets of Södermalm, barely awake, limping on one foot, and peeping into window sills like a pervert. “Come on, man, you’re a South African. Stop this shit and pull yourself together,” I think to myself.
South Africans are probably the most cynical people in the world. If I told my friends back in my hometown of Durban that I was searching the streets for a lost glove on the off chance that a stranger had found it for me, they would laugh at me and then quite possibly – and quite deservedly – punch me in the face.
But then I round the second to last corner before the daycare. Sitting on a window sill, a stark black shadow against the white snow: My lost glove. Some person out there, in the middle of a snow storm had noticed my glove, stopped whatever it was they were doing, picked it up and rescued it for me.
Whoever you are, my Swedish David Hasselhoff, or my Swedish Pamela Anderson, I want to say: Thank you. I lack the words to properly express my gratitude for not only saving my glove but for saving my day. I turn instead to the eloquent Swedish poets, Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle, possibly better known to the world as Roxette:
I’m gonna get dressed for success,
hitting a spot for the big time, baby.
Get dressed for success
shaping it up for your love.
And with the above wise lines from these august bards, I declare a truce with this bad day.
Main Photograph: Södermalm by Pravasan Pillay