Driving Mr Isaksson

I’m sitting at a coffee shop in downtown Stockholm, and some three meters from me, right in front of me, there’s Patrik Isaksson, a Swedish pop star. Whenever I see him on TV, or hear any of the songs on his first album, I think of the winter of 1999 when I often drove down to my apartment late, late at night, listening to his songs, singing along, practicing my Swedish, and finding hidden messages in his songs.

Born to run.

Not the kind of hidden messages that you’d only find if you played the songs backwards, but simply lines that made me smile and that felt like secret messages from the universe. Lines that fit my situation perfectly. Like the song, “Inget kan gå fel”.

“It feels like heaven has opened up its gates / because now I know / nothing can go wrong, if we have faith in each other.”

And driving down the silent E4 south, I could squeeze three of my favorite songs – or the same one three, four times – into those 18 minutes it took me to get from Mormor’s house to my apartment on the south side of town.

Because Mormor’s house means Grandma’s house and that’s where Wife lived. After dinner, after a movie, after long walks and talks, I would get in my car and drive home. For months it was always Patrik’s music that was blasting from the speakers of my BMW.

And when Patrik was singing about how everything would be alright, and how he felt strong and wonderful with his girl, I knew exactly what he was singing about. He was singing about me and Wife.

I would play Patrik’s album when we went for drives together, and while Wife wasn’t as big a fan as I was, she liked to sing the harmonies, and to me, that made her the most talented person in the world.

The winter turned to spring, the days got longer and longer. My Swedish got better and nothing did go wrong. A few months later, my car ride got a lot shorter when Wife moved to the south side of town, and then, a few months after that, we moved in together.

The Beemer’s long gone, and I don’t drive around in the middle of the night much these days. I have bought most, if not all, of Patrik’s albums over the years. Some are good, but none as good as the first one.

The first one was so good, though, that I had to do my nod again. You know, that universal gesture of acknowledgement of another person that is still discreet and not intrusive – and subtle enough for me to turn it into an attempt to get the hair off my face if the situation gets to be too embarrassing.

Patrik didn’t see my nod, but I fixed my hair anyway. Then I texted Wife.

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