Oxygen and Aromasia
by Claës Lundin
translated by Bertil Falk
Table of Contents
Chapter 21, part 1; part 2
Chapter 22, part 2
appear in this issue.
Chapter 22: The Sapphire Cave
part 1 of 2
”I’ll go to Gothenburg tomorrow,” Aromasia said to Aunt Vera.
”For a few hours?” asked Aromasia’s old friend.
”No, I’ll stay there,” Aromasia replied with an expression of resolution, but not without a touch of sadness.
“You don’t seem to me to be too happy about your decision. Why do it, then?”
“I cannot be too happy to leave you, my motherly friend, and so...”
“So you miss your relationship with Oxygen. Oh, I understand you. You still love him. Isn’t it so?”
“Yes, I do, but I can never be united with him. He’s jealous and unreasonable, has great demands and puts himself above all else. He once accused me of holding old-fashioned opinions, but he seems himself to be thinking along the same lines as they did in the past, namely that woman exists only for the sake of man.
“Nevertheless, I love him and wish I could make him happy. He’ll never find happiness if we’re united, and neither would I. Therefore we must follow separate paths. He’ll probably stay in Stockholm. I’ll settle down in Gothenburg.”
“Well, a few hours distance is not exactly an unbridgeable gulf. You may change your mind, and then the distance between you two will not be great.”
“Aunt Vera, I won’t ever change my mind.”
“You still think that privation is the fate of women?” Aunt Vera asked with a smile.
“No, it’s just because I don’t believe that; I oppose Oxygen’s selfishness,” Aromasia declared.
“Then you’ve made yourself free from the influence that the old literature seems to have exerted on you for some time now?”
“Completely! I hesitated for a while. I almost thought that I should deny my own independence in order to satisfy Oxygen. But I’ve now totally conquered that hesitation. My conviction of my dignity as a woman is as strong as my love.”
“You’re saved, my beloved Aromasia!” Aunt Vera exclaimed. “You’ve once more pulled yourself loose from the false outlook on life that was on the verge of overpowering you. I like you, and I congratulate you on your firmness.
“At the same time that I regret that you must do without your love. However, that privation is not of the old kind of giving in to the demands of the man or, rather, to his caprices. You preserve your human dignity, and in realizing that you’ll find it easier to console yourself for your unhappy love affair. Oxygen is certainly not worthy to be united with. Forget him!”
“No, I can’t forget him and I don’t know if I want to forget him. I would like to keep his friendship. He’s in many respects an eminent man.”
“Oh, Aromasia, you don’t know the world, even though you’re more than twenty years old. Your experience of the world should have been consolidated many years ago. Things like that are not as slow nowadays as they were in the sluggish past. But notwithstanding all your financial knowledge, you’re yet too much of an artist...”
“Aunt Vera! My art is not enough for me any more. I must have much wider sphere for my actions.”
“Granted, but I say that you’re too much of an artist. You may believe that friendship can replace love. Such friendship doesn’t exist. Men are too selfish and self-centered. If Oxygen is not permitted to marry you, which he more than ever has shown that he wants, then don’t trust that he’ll be satisfied with your friendship. He’ll become your enemy.”
“I don’t want to believe that. At least for the time being, I won’t think of anything like that. Now I need all my energy to devote myself to political life.”
“That’s fine, my beloved Aromasia!” Vera exclaimed and caressed the young girl. “Politics should take up your time. There you have much to accomplish, and you will accomplish it.”
“I am going to Gothenburg. There’ll be a new election after Oxygen’s resignation. This time I’ll be worthy the confidence I’ve been shown. I’ll appear at all election meetings — visit all voters, I almost said. I’ll do anything in my power to win.”
“I hope that they don’t do what they did during the last election when they thought you were dead.”
“It depends on myself that I be seen alive. I feel strong in my effort to achieve something in the legislature.”
The eyes of the young girl shone like a pair of girl’s eyes five hundred years ago, when their owner was asked to her first waltz.
“My best wishes go with you, that you know,” Aunt Vera said, “and I’ll quite often got to Gothenburg for a few hours to hear you talk in parliament. I hope that you won’t forget your ododion.”
“Oh no! But I fear that the public will soon forget it. Brain-organs are flooding the world.”
“I think that we should do a little trip into the archipelago before you go to Gothenburg. The weather is nice and I haven’t been one single meter above the rooftops for some days. Would you?”
“Gladly! I need some diversion and I’ll enjoy your company as much as possible, dear Aunt Vera.”
“I’ve asked several of our acquaintances. They’ve promised to meet me above the big amusement factory at old Mosebacke. We’ll be a group of eight or ten persons and we’ll have a happy day.”
“Oh, how nice!”
The smile returned to Aromasia’s lovely lips. She once more looked as untroubled as she had looked when she believed in Oxygen’s unselfish love and in the sweet-scented future of the ododion-art. She was once again the light-hearted girl and the whole world was a game.
Had she really conquered her love for Oxygen? Had she been liberated from all alarming thoughts?