Ahlströms Konditori, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro 2023

In the serene ambiance of a quaint café in Sweden, where the scent of espresso blends with the sweetness of pastries, Tim and Sara were deeply engrossed in a conversation. Their dialogue, sprinkled with dark humor and introspective thoughts on living alone, was about to take an unexpected turn due to the interjection of a neighboring patron, a rare occurrence in a culture that values personal space.

Tim: “I’ve always been the lone traveler, tackling the world on my own terms. My friends keep urging me to ask for help more often. I laugh it off, saying I’ll call them if it’s really dire. That ‘if’ is more of a ‘when pigs fly’ kind of scenario, though.”

Sara: “Isn’t it odd how solitude becomes a part of us? But sometimes, don’t you wonder…”

Tim: “About finding someone to share life with? I often joke that I’m more likely to become a Chartered Accountant than find a partner. And I have an aversion to numbers that borders on phobia.”

Sara: “It’s definitely a quest, finding that connection. When I was in Greenland, my colleagues suggested I get a pet. Their solution to the loneliness of remote living, I guess.”

Tim: “A pet? I’m the kind of person who struggles to remember to water plants. A pet requiring actual care is way out of my league.”

Sara, with a soft laugh: “I get that. Braving the Greenland cold for a morning dog walk? No thank you. Give me a thrilling book and a hot drink any day.”

Their shared moment of laughter and understanding, however, was abruptly cut short by an unexpected remark from a stranger seated nearby.

Stranger: “You two – a globe-trotting maverick and an Arctic scholar – what a fascinating pair! Have you ever considered joining forces? Even the most independent souls could use a companion now and then.”

The sudden intrusion was startling in its boldness, particularly in a culture like Sweden’s, where personal space and non-interference are deeply ingrained values. Tim and Sara exchanged a glance, both taken aback by the stranger’s forthrightness.

Tim: “Uh, well, that’s an… interesting perspective. ‘The Accountant and the Arctic Explorer’ does have a certain ring to it, albeit a bit unexpected for a film title.”

Sara: “Or perhaps a novel, ‘A Tale of Ledgers and Icy Landscapes.’ Though it’s a bit unconventional…”

Stranger, grinning widely: “I’d definitely read that! Independence is great, but sometimes life throws you a curveball. Why not embrace it? Take a chance on each other!”

Tim and Sara, still surprised by the stranger’s boldness, shared an awkward smile. The encounter was a stark contrast to the typical, reserved interactions in Swedish culture, leaving them both a bit perplexed and unsure how to respond to such an unanticipated suggestion.