GUSTAF IS AN EXILE Estonian. He was born in Sweden and went to sea as a teenager. He worked a line from New Orleans to Calcutta, but also more local work, transporting lumber from Finland to West Germany. He worked all up and down the coast, and in his own words, had two girlfriends waiting for him in every harbor. Some would turn up by coincidence when he arrived, with others he maintained a fleeting correspondence of letters or postcards. These literary courtships might last six months or so. In this way he learned to understand the flow of the water of life. He still remembers one of these port honeys though, a local youth by the name of … the name of? He puts his palm to his forehead and the words thus escape his lips like a long-forgotten prayer. B I R G I T T A L I N D S T R Ö M. That was her name. “Birgitta Lindström! She was the most beautiful being I have seen. And all we did was hold hands and kiss. We walked through the twilight of summer in Vaasa holding hands, and reclining beneath the trees in the parks. It never became dark there, never fully dark.” Gustaf pauses and I am amazed that after nearly 60 years, he still remembers her name. You would think she would be long erased, but she still managed to flutter out of his memory and land on the ground, like an old photograph. I imagine she had curly hair and was quite voluptuous and gentle. But that is just my Birgitta Lindström. Maybe she was tall and lean and a firecracker. His Birgitta. Then we wonder. We wonder together what has become of Birgitta. I imagine she must be a grandmother now, if she is still alive. I hope that she is alive with a large brood of grandchildren gathered about her apron and that her Vaasa kitchen smells of fire, timber, pine and gingerbread. Then I realize that I will never forget my own Miss Lindström. You think she would fade from mind, but no, she is still there in the morning hours. You can feel the weight of her beside you. Then, with the first gray light of a December day, she’s vanished to the past. Those kinds of memories never leave. They linger.