My mother was in her late 30s when she had me. My dad was older. I don’t know much about their relationship before me, but I think it was rocky. Neither of them expected children at that age. But then I came, and two and a half years later my sister.

I woke up earlier than usual this morning to get to the university by 10. I had a meeting with Eva Andersson in the Scandinavian languages department to talk about getting course credit for the Beginners Swedish class I’d wandered into two weeks earlier.

The charger for my mp3 player is 4000 miles away, an afterthought in the mad dash of late night packing for a 6 month trip I’d been planning for at least that long. So now I sit awkwardly on the green line. Across from me is a pudgy, sloppily dressed Arab barking into a cellphone and to my right an expressionless, ancient Swedish woman. I stare out the window into the brick walls and reflections, trying not to make direct eye contact.

Stuck with myself this way until Universitet station, we stop at Gamla Stan and a flock of children in puffy jackets, hats, and backpacks board the train single file, a neat line between the crowded seats.  A lone, tired old man is herding them in from the platform.

The bell sounds, and the doors close, and as the train jerks forward, I look on in the reflection as the queue is thrown back, each chink in the chain grasping to the pack of the one in front for balance. For a moment it looks as if they’ll topple like dominos, but somehow they come steady together.

And now they’re bubbly and talkative and carefree, a school of bright exotic fish in the sea of dull, grey commuters.

“tvåhundra i månad!”

A little girl and her friends are energetically discussing the iPhone ad above my head. Soon all of them are reading everything in sight. As they struggle to spell out the more difficult words, I listen and hope maybe I’ll learn something new.

We stop again, this time at T-centralen. A handful of people get off, and the kids rush to fill their seats. The boy across from me has a big grin; he’s the first to find one. Soon his upright friend squeezes in beside him, but the boy doesn’t mind. They’re happy.

The bell sounds and we’re off again.

The old man is speaking sternly to a cute little blonde girl on the other side of the aisle. She’s visibly upset, and curiosity turns my head away from the window. I don’t understand the words, but the dripping juice bottle in her hand and the soggy papers being passed to classmates don’t need spelling out.

I meet the old man’s eyes and send him a conciliatory smile, but it isn’t returned. He’s fed up.

Östermalmstorg… The train slows and the doors open.

The old man counts heads and hurries the kids out onto the platform.

I don’t want to wait until I’m 40.

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