København Trilogy

I

"Morten, who was not so good to English,
     wore oversized glasses that made his face
look crooked, as if he had been punched,
     on a train, by some thug from Århus. We
corresponded only very briefly, when we 
     were both in primary school, but yesterday
I felt his presence in the capital, København,
     like a scab slowly peeling itself off my face. 
The things he liked to do, his hobbies and 
     favourite sports, elude me, though football
must be in there somewhere. I am left with
     a simple image: a boy carrying a backpack
and wearing a black beanie, travelling alone
     on a train in the so-called happiest country 
in the world, watching as fields of grey metal
     glide by in complete silence. Maybe I should 
blame Peter Høeg for putting the image there.
     I mean, who else? I want to write him a letter,
ask him if Morten drew a slash through his Os,
     the way that I used to cross my Ts, dot my Is." 

II

"We'll imagine that for Morten, at his age anyway,
     the idea of a girlfriend was preposterous. School
being the great equaliser, we'll creepily approve of 
     the idea that he was bashed, daily. His parents,
having also been victims of working class hate,
     were powerless to stop it, despite their letters 
to the schools department, the weekly protests. 
     You can guess why Morten's on the train, then:
he's running away to København, or else further, 
     across the Øresund Bridge to Malmö. We'll allow
him to get that far, perhaps further still, before 
     the Polisen corner him in Lund, their windbreakers
catching him in a patriarchal embrace, knocking 
     his glasses from his face, spilling the contents 
of his backpack all over the icy platform for anyone 
     to see. No papers, barcode - no true identity
to speak of. It's a fair way from Århus to Lund
     but his father drives virtually non-stop through
a horizontal blizzard, pausing once to pay a toll 
     on the Øresund Bridge, and a second time to cry."

III

"I only ran away that one time, fleeing violence 
     the way refugees flee internment camps, or else
momentary ceasefires. They amount to the same
     thing: entering that gap in space between days,
running fast like my old football coach taught me,
     head down, fists like pistons. I thought my black
tracksuit would camouflage me against the night,
     the mean streets of Vesterbro. As it turned out,
in København I couldn't even leave the station,
     surrounded by Tivoli's dregs and angel's wings.
I rode black on a train bound for Malmö instead,
     got as far as Lund before the future caught up 
with me. I waited for my father in a juvenile cell
     crowded with boys who jeered, then broke my 
glasses. I managed to get one solid punch in 
     before being king-hit from behind but it was 
worth it. Then on the long drive back to Jutland 
     for some reason I recalled that Australian boy 
who pretended to be my penpal for a month or 
     two, back in primary school. Hvad var hans navn?"
     

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