Sight of Ida’s Loins in Sauna

Lucinda Palme

Sight of Ida’s Loins in Sauna

Ida climbed up the wobbling iron staircase of the sauna with her toddler son whose legs dangled on either side of her hips, and she deftly held him with her left hand while the right hand was left loose and if needed to give a grip to her and the baby, in case. She entered the sauna, and immediately felt the blast of wet heat in the cabin. Standing at the door, she just closed her eyes. She perspired. The drops of perspiration mingled with drops of water on her body which she collected in the swimming pool.

There were people all over the cabin: as silent as stones.

The sauna has rows of wooden benches on two sides and on one side stood two long rectangular stands with rocks. Occasionally, a seasoned sauna user poured water on the rocks to get more heat and steam out of them. And the other side of sauna is adorned with a window.

The window in the sauna offers a view of Gothenburg unlike anywhere in the city. It stood on abandoned pillars in the Göta River in Frihamnen the Harbour of Gothenburg.

Ida let her body feel the simmering heat and swelling wetness, and her toddler felt warmer in her arms.

A minute later, she opened her eyes. She saw a man of her age looking at her loins. His look was neither lustful nor desiring but his look communicated something about human hairs.

Human beings also forget, now and then, deliberately or accidentally, to manage their hairs since they have distinguished themselves from their cousins and kin in the animal kingdom.

Cutting or shaving or trimming or waxing hairs on the body, or purposefully growing body hairs.

Marcus Petersson’s look at her loins made her to smile. His look caught the attention of her loins. Pubic hair streamed out of her bikini, wildly, recklessly. If he would have been in any other country, he would have been guarded but because he has re-returned to his home country, he felt at ease to see, to look: the look of appreciation, the look of admiration.

Ida responded to his look with a look of smile: I forgot to shave off.

Alex Solyon saw his wife seeing the man and smiling. There was a glow in her smile that he had not seen in her for ages. And the smile on Marcus’ face was a sunshine. The natural light entering into the cabin from the window made him more visible, and he was the only one occupying the entire wooden bench placed before the window.

Marcus shifted his look, and started to see the other side of the river rippling before him. The Masthugget Church serenaded on the hill like it did a century ago. No other structure is able to compete with it in its conspicuousness: still a reminder to a bygone era of social equality and romantic nationalism. Watching the river, and the city, Marcus felt at home for coming back to his hometown.

For Alex Solyon, Marcus appeared like a gigolo with his long hair falling on his nape and down to his shoulders, and his chest was as bare as a woman’s. Alex assumed Marcus was lusting for his wife. The smile on his wife’s face and Marcus’ face etched on his mind, and he could not digest that elementary outpouring of an emotion between them. The mentality of possession overpowered him: Ida is my wife. He almost jumped from the top row of the bench and glided towards Marcus and stood in front of him while his wife and child stood at an inch way who were still at the entrance of sauna.

Ida wondered what Alex was up to. And he was standing next to a stranger who was looking out of the window.

Marcus was fleetingly impervious to the presence of Alex for he was perspiring and pondering. But the sweat of Alex hit Marcus, and Marcus turned his attention from the view of the city towards Alex.

Alex looked at Marcus with all the anger in the world was in him, in his eyes, and coming out. His fists tightened. And behind Alex, Ida stood, and she was trying to stretch her arm to touch her husband.

Marcus stood up. He presented himself calmly and wonderingly: what?

Alex felt Marcus was ready for confrontation. Ida said, “Alex, let us go.”  He turned away from Marcus, and walked out of sauna, feeling relieved for saving himself from being punched on his face by a stranger, or otherwise. Yet, the anger against the stranger was unrelieved with whom his wife exchanged an elementary emotion.

—Lucinda Palme