One Thousand Words on Svea

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Exactly one thousand word essay to describe a photo. 

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By Agnes Nebrelius, in honor of her best friend's birthday.


A picture I took of Svea, in her pajama pants and a The Smiths-tee, cutting her hair. She never seems to settle down. Not that she should, she is only seventeen, but her soul is never satisfied. From cutting her hair to piercing her nose, she is constantly looking for change, whether it be external or internal.


Her biggest fears are:

  1. Deep water
  2. Leading a boring life

She is frightened by the idea of settling down in some suburban house here in Sweden. Afraid to stand still. She is an adventurer who wants to see the world—and although the world is not aware, I believe it wants to see her too.

I met Svea on my first day of school. Only six-years-old and she was already blessed with those striking, thick brows. She had long hair and two cats. I was confident she and the rest of her family were witches. I would like to say we were instant friends, that her presence did not frighten me, but that would be a lie. I was too scared to enter the home of a witch (I was never an adventurer like her), so it took some time before we got to know each other. When we finally did, we created a band called Dragon Fire and wrote songs about magic friendship. I took her to my grandparents cabin and we ran through the backyard looking for elfs and trolls. We decided that we had fairies as ancestors, and we created stories about these relatives. We did everything together, always playing games through our grand imaginations.

A year ago, together with a few mutual friends, we played charades. I held a card to my forehead as Svea tried to gesture the thing written on it. She barely moved her hand before I understood what she was signaling. “That’s obviously a bowl, so I must be a goldfish." We have the type of friendship where a simple look is all it takes. I truly believe we are interconnected on a spiritual level. Others doubt this, that Svea and I would somehow be intertwined by the universe, but I know it’s true. We have grown up together, creating a sisterly bond. We used to have a club (with a personal theme song) called “The Mind Readers," because we were convinced that we could read each other’s minds.

Since day one, we have continuously attended the same schools. Sometimes we lose contact for a week, and when we finally speak to each other, it turns out we’ve been painting the same motif or watching the same TV show. The other day I was reading Just Kids by Patti Smith, and I sent her a text wondering if she’d read it. Turns out she was at a Patti Smith concert when she received the message. If that’s not superstitious, I don’t know what is. She had never told me she was going to see Patti, I was even unaware that Patti Smith was playing live in Sweden, but as I read that book I thought of Svea.

I think throughout our entire friendship, we’ve seeked confirmation in the other. We look up to each other. She told me once that she feels at peace when I approve of something she has done, and I personally take her opinion into consideration like no one else's. She always tells me the truth, and even when she doesn’t I can read the truth on her face. I view myself as intuitive and self-aware, but she notices the things in me that I look past.

We don’t have similar goals for the future, we barely have the same goals right now, but I hope that our friendship will last forever—although our ways may part.

When I think about us I remember our conversations. I remember hours worth of  phone calls, late night walks, bedtime talks. When writing this, I texted Svea in hopes that she would recall some exciting memory of ours for me to write about, but she, just like I, mentioned our talks. Like that one time when we sat in my uncomfortable bed and had deep conversations until 4 AM on a school night. I think we both got scolded by our parents for staying up so late. We talk, and we talk, and we talk. Laying in her bed, that somehow always seems to be unmade. Or in a field of grass, with ants climbing our legs like mountains.

The best thing about Svea is her vast mind. Growing up, she always had the strongest imagination between the two of us. A great companion in the school yard. Now, when we’ve gone from playing games to talking, her mind still baffles me. When we watch a movie, she makes observations that no one else would. The impressions all seem to reach further down in her mind than mine.

The worst thing about Svea is that she takes herself for granted—doesn’t realize her qualities. She is an artist, but she is unaware. When we were younger, we crafted and created together. Made magazines, paper dolls, and music videos. I never grew out of that habit, to constantly create. She, on the other hand, has other things filling up her space. When she comes back to painting or sculpting though, her talent still remains. I hope she notices her brilliance, at least in some modest way.

I have taken endless photographs of Svea. Against the sky, in a field of flowers, at concerts; with a rainbow of colors all competing to shine the brightest on her face. At her house, where this picture is taken, the light is always shitty and yellow. She hates it, but for this picture, I enjoyed the vibe it projected. I guess it describes the two of us together.

No fuss, just us.

One sitting on top of the toilet seat, the other on the cold bathroom tile. Drinking chocolate oat-milk, doing face masks, cutting our hair. Talking.

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