“What luck!” I said when my father told me he would be sent to Stockholm, Sweden as chargé d’affaires by our home country, Brazil—and I would be going with him.
There was a chance he could become ambassador within a short time as there were no other suitable candidates. He had traveled throughout the Scandinavian countries for the commercial company he founded and, recently, sold. Father said because it was the language of business and technology, almost everyone spoke English in Stockholm. He, of course, spoke it for business purposes and insisted we children learn it as well.
I am the oldest and had just finished high school. The good luck included the other children staying behind with Mother to complete their studies, since the length of Father’s assignment was still uncertain. And, I was eligible to study in any of Sweden’s universities, but not right away. We would arrive in late June, and the schools started in late August.
Swedish girls! Blonde, fair, ripe Swedish girls. The month of waiting was agony, my imagination building scenarios of meeting girls and having love affairs. I joked to myself that I was about to charge into some affaires, but not like what Father would be doing.
Within a few weeks of my arriving there was a special event for families of foreign diplomats at a Stockholm museum. It had many permanent exhibits of art and culture, and the special exhibit was of the Swedish painter Anders Zorn. But I was there to meet girls.
There were sixty of us, half parents and half children. I arrived alone and was quickly herded into the group by a Swedish guide. We were to make a tour of the entire place, take a coffee break in mid-afternoon, and finish the tour at the special exhibit.
I scanned the faces. There were around ten girls or young women who seemed, at first glance, worthy of my further attention. I started sweating, wondering how I could begin a conversation with any of them. My English isn’t perfect, and perhaps theirs wasn’t either. I worried there could be misunderstandings.
The guide was blonde and good looking, but seemed too old for me, or I would be too young for her—I didn’t care about age. I was looking for experience. The tour became boring, and I was never able to get in the right position at the right time to begin a conversation with any of the girls. I just couldn’t get into the right rhythm and state of mind. I thought the day was going to be a total disappointment so, just before the coffee break, I decided to skip the coffee and take a quick look at the special exhibit before I left.
I showed my pass to the man guarding the entrance to the Zorn exhibit before turning hard right into the viewing rooms.
My brain exploded.
I was looking at a beautiful, blonde, naked, unashamed girl of about sixteen. Of course it was a painting , but that was not my immediate impression. I felt like she was inviting me join her on the shore the water behind her. She looked perfect, just as I had imagined Swedish girls to be.
There was a bench in front of the picture. Knees trembling, I sat on it to gaze at her like a peeping tom. I looked around the area and saw more pictures of naked girls, sometimes two together, or an older and younger woman bathing together—all comfortable in their nakedness.
It was shocking, but the few people who passed by or who were looking at the other pictures seemed not to be at all disturbed or be making any remarks or, most importantly, not noticing my rapture.
“I see that you like Zorn, or at least his girls. He sure likes them, doesn’t he?”
She said all this as she sat, or rather bounced down to sit next to me. I stifled a scream into a hoarse squawk from the unexpected suddenness of her presence and her words. I couldn’t answer—my mouth had gone dry.
“I’m Ylva. That means wolf in Swedish. A female wolf. What’s your name?”
I unstuck my tongue from my teeth and mumbled “Carlos,” only I had to say it twice to pronounce it correctly.
“I thought you looked like some kind of Carlos. You know, Spanish or Italian or something like that. Is your pappa an ambassador? Mine is, but he’s an ambassador from Sweden to another country, so he and mamma are not here right now. So, I’ve got the whole house to myself.”
Then she looked straight at me, right in my eyes, with a sort of a question on her face. She wasn’t quite blond, but she was young and fair and pretty. Her clothes were frilly and colorful. I had noticed her briefly during the tour but didn’t think her to be Swedish.
“Uh, yeah, my father is chargé d’affaires here for my country—Brazil.
“Well, that’s great! How long have you been here? Have you been all around Stockholm?
“I’ve been here two weeks. I haven’t seen much yet.”
“That’s wonderful, bra. Bra means good in Swedish not brassiere. I can show you all around. It’s so boring being alone at home and my friends have nothing new to say.”
I went hot all over from her frank and open way of speaking, but I started to gain my strength as I saw that I might be able to fulfill one of my fantasies.
The affair lasted one month. She got bored quickly, and I was glad. I had my first experience, but she made me a crazy with her moods, quickly changing from one to another. I yearned for some peace and quiet.
After she stopped inviting me to her place, I began to explore Stockholm at my leisure, open to whatever adventure might come my way before I began studying at the university.
One day my feet took me to the museum where I’d met Ylva, and I found myself looking at Zorn’s girl again. She still looked beautiful to me, but somehow less desirable, now that I had been intimate with a flesh and blood girl. Besides, I had begun to realize that the perfection I could see in Zorn’s paintings would be difficult to find in a real girl. But then, Zorn had to have models, didn’t he?
Maybe I could get some girls like Zorn’s models to pose for me if I took art classes at the university. Like father has often said—nothing ventured, nothing gained.