The Spit’s Effects

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The Spit’s Effects

Rasmus Hallenius is a meticulous man, particularly timewise: he always plans how to utilize his time down to seconds.

He alighted from the suburban train. On foot, from Central Station to his workplace by Stenpiren it takes about eight minutes to a quarter of an hour depending upon one’s stamina in limbs and external factors.  The pedestrian pathway is safe and secure though one has to cross three intersections. The cyclists and bus drivers, motorists and tram drivers conduct themselves with utmost human consideration. If there is a threat to a pedestrian it has to be from a fellow pedestrian.

The thrill of reading the thriller persuaded Rasmus to re-start to read the book, he was reading. From his leather case, which he strung across his shoulder, he took out the book ‘The Battle of Infidels in Malmö’ and started to read, and walk.

A beggar noticed the man standing out in the crowd: Rasmus Hallenius was dressed up to the nines. She sprinted in his direction. When Rasmus was about to cross over towards Gustav Adolf Torg the public square, she caught up with him. She pleaded to him in Swedish, “Hello hello, please please.” He was impervious: engrossed in the thrilling tale of ‘the chase of infidels by puritans’. She was adamant for his attention. She almost shoved the disposable coffee cup in the direction of his face. The coins in the cup rose and fell creating a sound that Rasmus never heard before. Reluctantly, a slice of his vision from the corner of his left eye captured the sight of the beggar.

The beggar pleaded Rasmus, again, “Hello hello, please, please.” Her pleas not only distracted him from the book also aroused a feeling. With a stiffened posture, he continued to walk straight ahead: walking-reading. For the third time, she pleaded again, “Hello hello, please, please.”

If Rasmus would not have been wearing the sunglasses, she could have had felt his displeasure, or disappointment, or anger but the glasses shielded his eruption of feelings in his eyes. He turned his head in her direction, and repositioned it again, and increased the pace of his walk. Sensing he will not respond to her, she glided towards Stenpiren where customers will be alighting from boats and buses and trams at this peak hour. She walked ahead of him, and he continued reading-walking in her direction.

Begging is alien in Gothenburg. In the twentieth century, the city has eradicated poverty with the collective will of the people: no one should beg; each one should have something of everything: to eat, to shelter, to clothe, to educate.

The sight of beggars annoyed Rasmus, but he inferred the city is paying the price for letting people come from ‘foreign’ countries.

By the time, Rasmus reached Stenpiren and about to cross the road at Stenpiren to reach a building that housed the governing body of a local authority, he encountered the beggar girl, again. They were face-to-face in the middle of zebra-crossing. The girl almost obstructed him from walking, looked into his goggled-eyes, and she spat a think lump of saliva but to the ground, and she walked off as merrily as she encountered him. Rasmus felt the drizzle of saliva flying off from her mouth, the breeze too played its trick. He covered his mouth with one hand while the other still held the book. The four-lettered word almost came out of his mouth and the name appended to the collective identity of the girl. He curled his lips to contain his anger, and crossed over the road, and inched towards his office. The spit’s effect started to spring in his mind. What he heard from people, in sober and inebriates states, about begging and beggars ringed to be true, and truthful.

The young Rasmus too spat at a teacher whom he once saw on the street for giving him a dressing down for misconduct in the high school.

The adult Rasmus also heard from a bosom buddy that the closest thing you can do to a person in a civilized city is ‘to look into the eyes, spit’, and no one can do anything.

Affected by an unexpected incident, standing on the pavement and at a safe distance from dangers, Rasmus desired to see the girl: he slowly turned his head. The spitter was at the boat-side entrance of Stenpiren, chatting to someone, merrily. Something else ringed in him: ‘hello hello, please please’.

—Lucinda Palme