Unwittingly, Henrik Came Out of Helene

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Lucinda Palme

Unwittingly, Henrik Came Out of Helene

Concerned, and conscientious Gothenburgers came out on to the streets, formed themselves into a long line, two-to-three behind two-to-three behind two-to-three behind…, and started to march from Gothenburg’s harbour through the River Göta Älv Bridge to make their way to Järntorget the Iron Square.

Leftover dock workers, teachers, nurses, socially-conscious employees in the private sector and those concerned for others over their future rights as employees ‘to have the right to strike’ against the employer marched in procession, and shouted slogans:

—“We stand together” exploded a voice through megaphone.

—“In our fight against taking away our right to strike” came the voice in unison.

—“We stand together”

—“In our fight against taking away our right to strike”

The marchers drew sparse attention from the passers-by, cyclists, commuters by trams and buses, and those journeying in the cars. They were marching to protest against the proposed legislation by the Stefan Löfven government that apparently diluted the right of the workers to strike against unfair and arbitrary practices could be initiated by the employers, both in private and public sectors. They were miffed with the government for siding with the employers rather than with the employees.

—“We stand together”

—“In our fight against taking away our right to strike”

—“We stand together”

—“In our fight against taking away our right to strike”

Mothers came with their kids. Fathers came with their babies. Some parents hauled their children in the prams, bicycles and tricycles. Few had their babies in slings. Very few pensioners who had concern for the future of Gothenburgers made their way in solidarity. And they marched, and protested against the government: Better to act now than to act after the bill became the law.

—“We stand together”

—“In our fight against taking away our right to strike”

—“We stand together”

—“In our fight against taking away our right to strike”

The line snaked its way to Järntorget after marching and sloganeering through the sunny May evening, and converged at the empty space around the fountain.

Järntorget the gatherer and dispenser of people turned crowded with their assembly, and they formed a circle. One after another after another started to speak, expressing concerns over their right to strike, and thanking them all for showing unity in the face of disunity in the Swedish society at a time when Sweden is selling itself to pseudo-socialists and capitalists.

With their back to the fountain adorned with statues, and facing the descending sun, one after another, spoke.

Emil Severinson the teenager and his chums drifted to the square and joined the crowd. Prone to make fun at others, he stood right behind the back of the speaker and made lewd signs and gestures to the audience of the speaker. He freely poked fun at the speaker as the speakers was out of his purview to notice. Many in the crowd ignored his presence but a man who will not tolerate public display of prankishness, especially at a serious gathering like this, swiftly inched to the speaker and warned Emil. Neither disciplined by his parents nor admonished at his school for his prankishness, at the hands of a stranger, Emil experienced discipline and admonition, in public. He sat on the parapet of the fountain realizing something serious was going on. He lifted his head to a speaker, and listened.

Helene Johansdotter spoke. Her concern for the workers was palpable in her voice, and her angst against the government was evident in the choice of her words. A round of applause enthused her to continue to speak with gusto. Emil was attracted to Helene; he liked her copper-coloured hair rustling gently to the tender wind, and was thrilled to see closely who was clad in her thigh-length dress rippling gently.

In the middle of Helene Johansdotter’s oration, from her voice came out another voice. The voice of Henrik Johansson her former self. She unrealized the he in her was tumbling out of her. The crowd listened, but Emil could not contain himself at the ‘he’ voice from her. He was tickled. The tickle grew to a laughter. Helene noticed Emil, and felt the long-buried voice of the male gender in her was manifesting in the crowd. She was amused at herself, at her former self. She winked at Emil to kindle his bewilderment, and laughter, and went ahead with her oration in the voice of Henrik Johansson.

—Lucinda Palme