Ada and Even met at the cafeteria where the company’s almost two hundred employees drank coffee and ate lunch everyday between twelve and one.
They sat at the same table as they had always done, but it was April and Even had just washed his car and there was a movie on that everybody talked about. Ada had just washed her hair, it was as bright as the lighten chestnuts just outside the cafeteria window, and she had an almost brand new sweater.
After having seen three movies and after having driven altogether nearly fifteen miles to find a quiet place to kiss, she sat, one May evening, in the front seat of his white Saab. She tore her stockings in the gearshift, Even got a cut in his right temple after hitting the door handle.
They rented two furnished rooms and left the plastic sheets on the tables and embroidered the chair covers and greeted their friends goodbye after midnight.
Ada threw up in the morning and found dark circles around her eyes. One May morning she gave birth to a son and she got five stitches without any anaesthetic and cried every time Even came to her with roses and cake.
They moved to a place with oil heating and a bathroom that had crockery and they furnished the colourless rooms with furniture that resembled that which Ada had seen in weeklies and in catalogues and the prices were acceptable.
Half a year later they had a daughter, it was too soon and Ada said she didn’t want to end up pregnant again. On Sundays, they would dress the kids up and go for a walk. Ada thought it was strange and pleasant to think that she gave birth to two children, that could walk and laugh and talk. She felt something she considered to be happiness.
The little girl had tonsillitis and got a doll house. Even’s mom died, they received flowers from most of their friends.
Ada went to the supermarket and bought paper diapers on sale and a lot more than they needed. In the evenings, they would read children comic books for the kids and they would blank out the figurines just like they learned from the children’s programme on television. They had a wine balloon that bubbled in the kitchen.
From time to time, she felt a sting in her throat and felt that she was suffocating, she went to the doctor who said she didn’t have anything, but gave her a formula for something to take the edge off.
Ada knitted matching sweaters for the kids, who received oil every morning and had all the necessary vaccines. She got them new pyjamas every time they had guests. The children said hello, and then they got nuts and salt sticks in order to keep quiet in their rooms. She cooked fish cabaret or canned ham served with deep-frozen vegetables and they all drank a lot. They found dancing music on the radio, Even kissed Helga behind the kitchen door but was so drunk that he had to hold himself against the door’s frame. Ada danced for a long time with Hans, she felt her stomach full of flapping birds. Just as he had kissed her a few times and placed his fine warm hands on her breasts, Helga came. She phoned for a taxi and didn’t ask for their company again for more than six months.
Ada put together a carpet, they hanged it up on the wall in the hallway. Everybody said it was beautiful and asked if she had drawn the pattern herself, even though they knew it had come in the mail order along with the yarn and the manual.
She discovered she had small wrinkles around the eyes. Her face had become a little smaller and she got very tired in the evenings. They bought a fully automatic washing machine. Even said she should dye her hair.
Even bought a new suit and non-iron shirts and a pillow and a blanket that he placed in the car. He often had conferences during the evening, she usually slept by the time he got home.
The children started school.
She had the feeling she lived in a dream. She looked out the window and saw it was spring or summer or maybe autumn. She was only sure of winter, then flowed the small hall and the bathroom with wet boots and socks and pants that nobody had thought to clean.
One day, she met Hans in town. They had a glass of sherry together. She didn’t say anything about it at home, she spent the evening looking at herself in the mirror for a longer time. The next day she dyed her hair.
In the evening they sat at the TV and didn’t have much to talk about. Ada got one of the books from her lecture group and went to lie in bed. She rubbed herself with a rather expensive cream and asked herself what she was really doing.
One night she went to the cinema. Next to her sat a man. She didn’t see his face. When she felt his hand on her thigh she stood still and let him do it. She quickly got out before the movie was over and ran towards the subway station, without having the courage to look back. She felt a fear she had not had since she was a child and used to be scared by the other children.
Hans came to visit with a woman they had never seen before. Her name was Inga, Even saw she looked fine. Hans said that he and Helga got separated. Even brought whiskey from the bar and they drank until they found something to talk about.
The next day she had a headache and left the children to take care of themselves. When she got up in the afternoon and threw away the empty milk cartons and wiped the jam of the kitchen chairs and washed the whiskey scented glasses, she felt something coiling inside her, as if it had broken in silence.
My God, she said, I just got old.
In the afternoon, Even looked over the ads in the paper and suggested that they should take a cheap trip to the Canary Islands.