"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before."
I flew out of Newark as usual. 5:20pm flight. I sat next to a lady that smelled of stale cigarette smoke, who complained most of the way about potentially missing her connection to Greece. I ate dinner, watched a few movies, sat in the silent vacuum of a sleeping plane and planned out my life, ate breakfast, and landed in Arlanda at 8am. Olle, the chairman of our club, drove my roommate and me three hours to Borlange. We chatted. I got caught up on the litany of things I’d missed in the last year and a half.
Olle dropped us off at our apartment and I passed out on top of my bedspread and woke up with sweat between my shoulder blades and all around my sleep mask because it is hot in Sweden. Hotter than I’ve ever been in Sweden.
After our nap, Olle came back to drop off our bikes. He pulled them down from the back of his car and handed me, mine. I’m not sure if he knew it was mine. But it was. The black bike had always been my bike. Just like my roommate Sarah’s had been Orange and my roommate Meghan’s had been stolen.
My bike had been through some stuff, it seemed. The ringer had been ripped from the bell, the lock was a bit wobbly, and it had a new kickstand. But it was definitely my bike.
We used to ride those bikes all over town like an elementary school gang. So when we hopped on our bikes the next morning (after getting through our first training and becoming one with our beds for the night) and took off into town, it took me back immediately.
As we biked up onto and off of sidewalks, around traffic circles, taking all the same shortcuts, it was the first time I realized that there are ghosts in Borlange. Not scary ghosts or mean ghosts or even sad ghosts. More apparitions. People existing in another time but in the same place, like a double exposure on a photograph.
As we made our way downtown, I saw my roommates and I being pulled over at 4am on our way to the airport. The police officer without introduction or small talk, sticking a small plastic tube in my roommate Sarah’s face and saying “blow.” I saw us as we drove away bent forward in a fit of laughter.
As we continued past the bus stop, I saw myself pounding my bike pedals, flying in the opposite direction in the pitch black, hoodie pulled tight around my face so just my watering eyes and nose were visible, sleeves pulled down to my fingers tips, touching the handle bars with as little skin as possible.
We pulled in through town and I saw myself in the Thai Restaurant blowing the candles out on my 27th birthday cake. And then I saw us seated on the edge of the fountain for a picture, smiling, even though things weren’t really ok. We biked past Pitchers and I saw us sending shots to the Swedish girls as Sweden beat the US in the Olympics. Past O’Leary’s, where they were turning away the 16 year olds on our team the night we won the league.
As we biked back, I saw my teammate Robyn tanning on her porch and my mom stuck at the tippy top of a very high-tec seesaw. We passed the outdoor cage full of bunnies and ducks splashing around in a bathtub and I saw a group of us standing there on a particularly tough day, knowing that when the fluffiest bunny with the big ears finally peaked his head out of this little house, we wouldn’t be able to help but smile.
Today we walked through IKEA and I saw myself agonizing over the rug, and comforter, and fairy lights that I decorated my room with. I saw Meghan buying bright teal cabinets, insisting that we needed some color. I wonder where all that stuff is now.
In the locker room I saw our former coach Jonas pulling his shirt down like a small child as he looked at the ceiling searching for the right word in English. I went to take scissors from the med kit and saw my teammate Bea picking it up to take it down to the field.
I’ve never had this sensation before. The images are so real. And they come to me in the oddest moments. They aren’t unwelcome. But they seem completely diverged from what is happening now. Like they are from a different era and should be playing in black and white even though some were just a year and a half ago.
Things are different. And it’s good. I do feel like I can appreciate this team for what it is, completely independent from what I was a part of before. We have new coaches, new players, and from the first practice I could tell that we play a different style. The foundation of the team is not the same. There is a small part of me that mourns for what we built, knowing it isn’t here anymore, but a large part of me is happy to start fresh on something that feels so new and different and exciting. Because even if so much is the same, the story is new and it rolls forward as if it had never happened before.