Later, when the sun is coming up, we walk down Jomfru Ane Gade, or The Street, as they say over here. We walk along the water, Andrea and I. My skin is cold under my dress; I must have sweated a lot during the night even though I didn’t dance. The muscles all the way up along my spine are taut. The back of my head hurts at the edge of the skull, where the neck muscles are attached.
Andrea’s dress is made of synthetic material; she must have sweated too when she was dancing with the black guy. Or perhaps afterward in particular, when both of them disappeared into the ladies’ restroom.
The sweet smell of her calms me. She has used the same perfume for many years: Acqua di Gio. The smell of it causes me to settle down.
“Who was that guy?” she asks.
“Just some guy,” I say.
“What was his name?” she asks.
I say that I can’t remember.
While we are walking over the bridge to Nørre Sundby, I keep seeing the guy’s dilated pupils, like black holes mixing with the sight of the gray city and the yellow morning sky over the water.
“You shouldn’t be afraid,” says Andrea.
“Well, I’m not,” I say.
“You only get the hiccups when you’re afraid.”
“It’s just because we’ve been drinking.”
“Your face is completely white,” she says.
I take my hair clip out and shake my head. Andrea examines me. Then I put the clip back in my hair and say that I can’t get the guy out of my head.
Not because I was interested in him, not like that, but everything he told me keeps going through my head.
“Particularly the part about the animals,” I say.
“Had they been tortured to death?” she asks.
“That’s what they had said on TV 2 News,” I say.
“Who does something like that?” she asks.
“The police are looking for perpetrators,” I say.
“No doubt he’s just told you a bunch of lies,” she says.
“Maybe the perpetrators attacked him,” I say.
“Or maybe he killed the animals,” she says.
My jacket is much too thin; my shoulders are shaking.
Andrea stops midway across the bridge and lays her hands on my shoulders; I realize that my teeth are chattering. She maintains eye contact so long that I finally look down. She puts her arms around me and hugs me against her chest, like a child.
Suddenly my body is so heavy that I feel an urge to lie down on the asphalt and cry myself empty of all the disturbing pictures the guy has filled my head with all night. Andrea strokes my hair with one hand, and I let my face sink into her long blonde curls, which smell of smoke and shampoo and hairspray.
“Don’t think about him any more,” she says.
“Maybe he’s following us now,” I say.
She takes hold of my head with both hands, lays her forehead against mine.
We stand like that, close to each other.
It occurs to me while we are standing there that I did not notice any wound or scar over the guy’s eyebrow. Perhaps this is because I was so occupied with his eyes, or perhaps there was really nothing there.
Andrea looks me in the eyes and smiles.
Then she takes my hand and pulls me on across the bridge while the sun rises over the roofs of the houses up ahead, birds hover over the rooftops, and people come out from the buildings and populate the streets.
“Your stomach is rumbling,” she says.
“I’m actually insanely hungry,” I say.
“We’ll just find a bakery,” she says.
Julia Butschkow is the author of a number of published works of fiction, including three novels; a volume of poems; a play; and a volume of short stories, Der er ingen bjerge i Danmark, in which “Jomfru Ane Gade” appears. She has received the Danish Arts Foundation’s three-year working grant (2005) and the Rosinante & Co honor grant (2007).
Peter Sean Woltemade is an American-born literary and commercial translator based in Copenhagen. He is a former Fulbright Graduate Fellow (Berlin) and holds a Ph.D. in medieval German literature from the University of California at Berkeley. His work has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail and The Missing Slate. His current projects include translation of short fiction by Thomas Boberg.
Published by agreement with Gyldendal Group Agency.