It was Plåtis who initiated me into the blessed / cursed world of alcohol, when we were still teenagers - in all good faith, it must be said. We were aiming to have fun that Saturday in the nearby town of Simrishamn in the south of Sweden, a radiantly beautiful summer day in the 50’s.
Plåtis worked and made money. I was still studying then and could not contribute much. But it was all right. That was the way it was done in the village of Kivik at that time - those who worked paid for those who studied. Plåtis, who worked at KiviksPlåt (a sheet metal workshop that his father owned), paid for our entertainment for the whole day and evening, including a quarter of a liter of Renat – a kind of potatoe- based brandy.
We had taken the bus from Kivik early in the afternoon, so that we could be out in good time to see whether there was anything interesting in Simrishamn, before we visited the little amusement park that had arrived there with shooting range, wheel of fortune and dance floor.
"We’ll go and sit behind the harbor pier and squeeze this one," said Plåtis, pointing to the bulge in his jacket where he had put the brandy.
We went to the far end of a pier and crouched down behind a couple of boulders. Plåtis produced the expensive, transparent product. He unscrewed the cap and handed me the bottle. I put it gently to my mouth and took a small sip. The brandy was strong and hot on the palate. But it did not taste bad, so I took another small sip and then a bigger one.
When we had finished the bottle, we pushed it down between the stones and went into the city.
Suddenly, I felt as if I was outside my body and walked half a meter above Simrishamn's cobbled sidewalks. "If this is how it feels to drink, then it is no surprise that people drink a lot," I thought. Plåtis walked a few meters behind me. We smiled at most of the Simrishamners we passed. Simrishamn was today the world's nicest and friendliest town.
I was so perfectly drunk that I walked without an unsteady gait, half a meter above the ground, that is, and could exchange one word or the other with people I knew, without slurring.
It started getting late in the afternoon and we pulled up towards the train station, where the amusement park and dance floor beckoned to us.
There was no luck at the Wheel of Fortune, but on the shooting range, I managed to put two of six shots in the ninth and one in the tenth, and was rewarded with a bag of pralines. Plåtis mowed down lots of tin cans with some cloth balls and won a big teddy bear that he gave to a little girl.
"You'll probably get the last dance from her," I suggested.
We munched on the pralines as we went to the dance floor, where the orchestra was just warming up.
However, the perfect intoxication began to subside and I began to feel normal again. I have later tried to recreate the condition, but never succeeded. The ethereal out-of-body feeling has never occurred to me with the help of alcohol since the first drink; at best, I could only float just a few centimeters above the head.
We danced diligently with a couple of nice girls from Skogsdala that we knew. We were good friends, but nothing more intimate than that. The last dance of the evening was approaching, but the girl who got the teddy bear had gone home long ago, so there was no last dance for Plåtis.
Both of us suddenly froze, the same thought striking us simultaneously and we hurried off towards the bus station. The yellow-red sign with the white timetable sneered at us. The last bus to Kivik had left - a long time ago.
We turned our pockets inside out and arrived at the desolate discovery that our combined resources would not take us even halfway to Kivik by taxi.
"What do you say about walking to Kivik?” Plåtis wondered and drew a little on the question.
I didn’t see any other way out either. At best we could get a lift, but there was little traffic at that time of day. The weather was thankfully ideal for a "walk" of 13 miles, with a balmy westerly wind and starry skies.
So we started walking and walked interminably, it appeared. I had not imagined that Simrishamn would be so big. It felt as if we had gone halfway to Kivik, when we had just arrived in Tobisvik in the northern part of the city.
As we walked, we fell into a comfortable rhythm and quietly paced forward mile after mile, while talking about both superficial and profound things. It was almost full moon and we could see the road and landscape clearly. Only the cicadas were missing, but for which it would have been just like Mallorca.
We tried to hitchhike with some cars heading north. But most seemed crowded. Maybe it was the others who had also been dancing or celebrating something.
The 13 mile-walk had its price and at Rörum, the right heel started to protest and the shoe rub started.
"Take some leaves and put them down in the heels", Plåtis suggested.
It actually helped, though I had never figured it out myself. Plåtis did not get a shoe rub, though he had moved much more than I did during the day.
We finally arrived in Kivik - after a little over four hours of long walk, when the sun had risen a bit over distant Lithuania in the east.
The moral is of course: “Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.”
Copyright (C) 2020, 2021 Björn Johnsson