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10 Helsinginkatu: Chapter 24 10 Helsinginkatu: Chapter 24
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-04-23 09:08:15
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24. Cognac with a taste of coffee

I’m not in that school that believes that a strong handshake shows the man but somehow Juha’s handshake was not what I expected. His hand was sweaty giving you the sense of slimy and disgusting, I actually had to wipe my hand on my trousers after he let my hand free and the touch was soft but not soft in a way a woman’s hand often is. Instinctly my eyes went to the red ring and it was there and it was again something I didn’t expect.

Right, if you remember Risto had said that the red ring had something to do with children things but when you get a middle age man posing an obviously plastic ring is just strange, because that’s exactly what it was and it was just too obvious, the red ring was a plastic ring with a plastic red rock in the middle. I tried to stop looking at the ring and look at his face but he was not looking at me like he was avoiding my eyes. Leena was making the introductions next to him holding his other hand, “Juha is the love of my life!” and from the shine in her eyes I could see that that was true, she was seriously in love!

“Let’s sit down,” she said showing me the comfortable chair I was sitting before and pulling Juha to the leather sofa on the other side of the coffee table, “Coffee everybody?” she asked and in a nervous move she stood up and headed outside of the room, obviously to the kitchen where I could hear a coffee machine making bubbling noises.

"Have you live in Helsinki long?" I asked just to say something. “I am from Helsinki!” Juha said looking at me as I should know that. Well I think here I need to say some things. I’m coming from a country where people are really proud for their roots and when you say ‘I’m from Athens’ people look at you with a certain pity. Of course Athenians feel that they are the centre of the world but the same time they know that not having roots in the country side they are missing something very important. But people who coming from Helsinki are something else, they really believe that they are coming from the centre of the world and they force this to you in any chance.

One time when I first came to the country I found my self in a party where the host told me that if you are from or live anywhere out of the Helsinki tram line you need passport! And he was not joking! And of course they feel proud and cool with the Helsinki slug. Here I have to admit a personal anecdote which made me look very pathetic. When I first came to Finland I saw just too often in signs the name Stadin which I must admit sounded a bit Arabic and it made it worst because I saw it too often in kebab places. Stereotypes I try to avoid all my life and having been too often a victim myself were taking their revenge so in the end I had to ask who the hell was this Stadin billionaire who owned nearly everything I could see around Helsinki and especially most of the take away places especially pizzerias and kebab places! I’m not sure but I think I asked Marc who seriously explained that in Helsinki slang, Stadin is Helsinki! I could see that he was trying hard to keep a straight face!

Juha didn’t say anything else and I was numb with his reaction to ask anything else, I was definitely not welcome from his side but then again this was not his house and obviously Leena wanted somehow to get to know with the neighbours even if that meant having a coffee with a foreigner. And thinking that Leena returned to the room with a tray that had the coffee pot, the cup for me and the heart decorated mugs obviously for her and Juha, the bonus was in the shape of a bottle of cognac! As I said before I refused the bonus in my coffee and I watched them adding generous portions in their mugs, actually I wasn’t sure if what they were drinking was coffee with cognac or cognac with coffee taste.

“Did Juha tell you that he is an author?” Leena said sitting next to Juha and crossing her legs under her in a way only small people know how to do. “You know he has a huge bookcase with a lot of books!” she added looking at Juha. A novel? I asked just to make a conversation; I had to gibe the man the credit of doubt! “My life’s manifest!” Juha said sipping his cognac with coffee taste and I could see his eyes getting a blood colour just like his blood ring. “He’s explaining through his experiences his ideas about art!” Leena said. Oh! Was the only thing I could say. “Do you write?” Well I do sometimes, mainly children’s books and I have wrote a couple of essays about my work but is long time I published anything and definitely not in Finland. “Of course!” he said in an insulting way! God I’m really getting tired of these people.

When I first came to Finland I had an interview with a major company and we came to the part I was talking about my awards and I’m really proud of them especially one of them that is like an Oscar award for my job. Every time I mention it becomes the centre of the conversation that follows since I am one of the first ones who took it with people in the committee who are really recognized and respected internationally and everybody admits that the first one who took the award had all the glamour an award like that can give. The man looked at me for a minute waiting for me to continue and see that I was expecting a reaction he said …but have you got any Finnish awards? Oh man, I was shocked from the reaction and didn’t know what to say for long, I didn’t know how to react and I think when I finished the interview I was glad with the possibility to never see the man again. He hadn’t insulted me but him self with the reaction to something like that and Juha was treating me exactly the same way!

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