The Swedish Girl

I watched a Danish series on Netflix a while back – The Rain – and noticed that the lead actress, Alba August, vaguely reminds me of someone from my past.

Alba August
(Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)

The Swedish Girl moved in to my neighborhood the summer between junior and senior year. She was 15½, and thus needed rides to and from school until she could get her license. Since she was cool and lived just down the street, I offered.

And that’s what our relationship was: I picked her up (some mornings) and brought her home (most afternoons). For several weeks. That’s about it.

Now I’m not gonna lie and say I didn’t have any feelings for this girl. But here’s the thing: for one, she was younger, 15½ and still firmly in school while I was about to graduate. We lived in the same neighborhood, so there was the possibility of post-break-up awkwardness . And, to be honest, I was sick of the Duluth High School drama by that point: why date someone at your school and deal with the 90210 bullshit when you can avoid it entirely by dating someone from a different school?

Having said that, I loved every second I spent with The Swedish Girl. I took her to school and brought her home, and we made each other laugh and listened to cool tunes along the way. Sometimes she’d draw me pictures as a thank you for toting her. It was probably the sweetest, most innocent relationship I’ve ever had: a cute Swedish Girl was drawing pictures for me and it was fucking adorable.

But then I did something – insulted a friend of a friend of The Swedish Girl. I think? I never really knew, which is kinda what pissed me off so much when she dumped me as a friend: I never knew why it had to end.

My last interaction with The Swedish Girl came a year or two later.

It was a Saturday, and my friend Jamie and I had gone to Little Five Points for lunch and to check out the action. Heading back to Gwinnett, we got on the Downtown Connector northbound at Boulevard. I got over a couple lanes, then had to brake for traffic. I looked over at the car to my right, only to see The Swedish Girl. She pulled down her sunglasses and raised her eyebrows a couple times as a faux flirt. I, amazed by the coincidence,  just smiled at her like a moron. The Swedish Girl then gestured at the traffic ahead and mouthed the words “Wanna race?”

Still stuck in idiot mode, I nodded.

So The Swedish Girl just floored it. She had one of those nicer Accords – the “sporty one” is, I believe the correct Man Term for it. Within seconds, she was off like a rocket, weaving through traffic. It took my Jetta a bit to catch up, but when I finally did, it was neck and neck.

Up the Connector.

Past North Druid Hills Road.

Past Clairmont Road.

Past Shallowford Road.

Doing 90+ mph through it all, dodging cars like they were asteroids in a video game.

The Swedish Girl and I would sometimes look at each other as we passed the other, sometimes smiling, sometimes smirking. It was, very likely, the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in a car. And I’m not proud of it now – I coulda killed someone. But hey, at the time, it was just Saturday fun.

Fun, that is, until I finally came to my senses sometime after 285 but before Jimmy Carter Boulevard. There was a bottleneck in traffic, and The Swedish Girl and I had to pass a car. She broke right, while I broke left around the car. But I chose incorrectly: traffic in that lane had slowed considerably, with no way to switch lanes. I was boxed in and could only watch while The Swedish Girl sliced through traffic ahead. She was soon gone from my sight completely.

Which was fine, actually. I remember turning to Jamie, my heart pounding a hundred miles an hour, and saying something like “Oh my God! What did we just do? Man, if the cops had caught us I woulda been screwed. What the hell was I thinking?”

So that’s that. I saw The Swedish Girl turning into, or out of, my neighborhood from time to time, but that was all. If The Swedish Girl ever stumbles across these words, I genuinely hope you’ve had a wonderful life. Because, for a couple months in 1988 you were the coolest.