Buzz aldrin what happene.., p.47
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       Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?, p.47

           Johan Harstad

  “Good looking?”

  “Her kids?”



  I said nothing about the fact I’d seen her myself, only four days earlier, in town. I’d seen her children, beautiful children, I’d walked toward her and thought of saying hello. But changed my mind at the last moment, it had been such a long time, there was no longer any point, and I pulled my hat farther down over my forehead, stared into the ground, and when I looked up again, I realized she wouldn’t have recognized me anyway, I look very different than I did then. And the last I saw of her she crossed the road some way in front of me and disappeared into a shop with the children.

  April. Summer should be here any moment, this is just a test.

  I look at the time.



  Why not?

  Then I go out into the hallway, past the door into Jákup’s room. He’s twelve now and still has a few teddies on the bed, by the end of the year they’ll be hidden away, replaced with more grown-up things. His walls are already covered with pictures and drawings, magazine clippings, posters for bands and films I don’t recognize, apart from a big Perkleiva poster Jørn gave him and that makes his friends green with envy. I put my sneakers on and walk down the stairs, walk out of the front door and to our mailbox, the daily routine, a part of me always looks forward to getting the mail.

  I open the lid and look inside.

  And there’s a letter.

  Get hardly any letters these days.

  Just junk mail.

  A special offer on white goods this week.

  Last week it was two packs of mince for the price of one.

  Coupons for the latest instant soup.

  Vacuum cleaners. Electric drills. Summer clothes. Imported cars. Houses for sale.

  But today there’s mail.

  I fish out the letter, take it in with me, walk through our apartment building and into the shared garden courtyard at the back, the weather’s getting warmer, I’ve noticed it in the last few days, something has begun to happen, the air has grown softer, rounder at the edges. I’ve finally changed out of my winter shoes, put on my blue sneakers. I stand out in the garden, with its flowers carefully planted out and growing side by side in their beds, in their boxes, and I look at the envelope, Air Mail. Caribbean. A Grenada stamp, I open the envelope and pull the letter out, the very first I’ve received, hold a protective hand over it to stop the rain from making the writing smudge on the page as I read, and this, this very moment can be seen, seen from the moon, from outer space, wherever one might please, a planet can be seen rotating apparently effortlessly on its own axis, dragging clouds and rain with it as it revolves, and below them sea and land, swaths of land that at first glance appear uninhabited, but which are overpopulated in reality, and drawing closer, huge buildings can be seen, cities, then smaller things, vehicles, houses, before it becomes apparent that wars are taking place over vast areas of this planet, while in other places people are busy with their lives and daily tasks, people are quarreling, hugging each other, leaving each other, and then as one draws even closer to the surface, no more than a hundred meters away, an almost insignificant person will come into view who fears being seen, he stands stooped over the tulips with a letter in his hand, in the middle of the garden, his feet planted on the ground, and he is getting a suntan from reading, it has been raining here for several weeks, Sellafield radiation clouds have hung heavily over the town where he lives, but they’re finally breaking up, he reads through the pages intently before he puts the letter back in its envelope, folds it, tucks it in his back pocket and goes back in, up the stairs to his apartment, through the front door, and as he closes his door, he is forgotten already, and that’s all right, because he’s just like you, he also washes his clothes without phosphates or fabric softener, he also watches the Eurovision song contest and follows the voting through the night, and he also looks out for cheap flights in the autumn. He is one of the forty-five percent in this week’s market research who agree or do not agree on an issue you’d never have believed anybody would research. He votes. He submits his tax forms on time, the figures correctly entered. He sits in the 37th car you pass on the motorway on your way home from work.

  And now, all he wants is for you to leave him in peace.

  But pull away a few kilometers and wait, you will also see that each night this planet is covered with people lying on their backs in the grass and staring out into space, thinking there must be a system, this gigantic desolation cannot be meaningless, all these planets, galaxies, moons, stars, satellites, meteorites, and comets can’t have been placed here accidentally, can’t be rotating around each other just aimlessly, there must be a purpose, loneliness can’t be the only thing projected onto the skies, it’s impossible, unthinkable. So they point out the constellations for each other, wait for shooting stars, close their eyes before they pray and mumble wishes for things that never tumble from the sky, and they don’t say it, but they hope that there’s someone out there with competence steering the ship, someone in charge, looking after them as things gently and quietly go to hell or to heaven, at home or at work, in apartments or houses, that there’s an explanation as to why friends simply vanished or why the telephone stopped ringing after they told colleagues they were ill, and yet they know it isn’t true, there is nobody steering, it’s only an old habit that makes them clutch at the grass while the planet spins at hundreds of kilometers an hour, and perhaps they know that if God did ever consider looking for them, the earth was the last place he’d look, he’d have lost interest before he even came close. But in the meantime, as they wait for everything and nothing, they make do with what they have, make their packed lunches, get in their cars, including each Tuesday that comes their way, they drive around alone, at random, or visiting friends, family, while they continue to launch probes on never-ending trajectories, outward, looking for water on Mars or the moons of Jupiter in the hope it might prove something, give them a sure sign that there is someone out there in command, someone who can tell them that they are visible, that they do their best, that their lives are true and meaningful, that they are not alone.


  JOHAN HARSTAD, winner of the 2008 Brage Award (previously won by Per Petterson), is a Norwegian author, playwright, graphic designer, drummer, and international sensation, with books published in eleven countries. His first novel, Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?, was in 2009 made into a Norwegian TV series starring The Wire’s Chad Coleman. Harstad lives in Oslo.


  DEBORAH DAWKIN graduated from Drama Centre London in 1983 and worked in the theater for many years in Norway and the United Kingdom. She has worked as a full-time literary translator since 2004 and has had a long relationship with Johan Harstad’s work.


  SEVEN STORIES PRESS is an independent book publisher based in New York City, with distribution throughout the world. We publish works of the imagination by such writers as Nelson Algren, Russell Banks, Octavia E. Butler, Ani DiFranco, Assia Djebar, Ariel Dorfman, Coco Fusco, Barry Gifford, Hwang Sok-yong, Peter Plate, Lee Stringer, and Kurt Vonnegut, to name a few, together with political titles by voices of conscience, including the Boston Women’s Health Collective, Noam Chomsky, Angela Y. Davis, Human Rights Watch, Derrick Jensen, Ralph Nader, Loretta Napoleoni, Gary Null, Project Censored, Ted Rall, Barbara Seaman, Alice Walker, Gary Webb, and Howard Zinn, among many others. Seven Stories Press believes publishers have a special responsibility to defend free speech and human rights, and to celebrate the gifts of the human imagination, wherever we can. For additional information, visit



  Johan Harstad, Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?



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