Dublin in the Rain
Harvill cover_80
Harvill Press: The Norwegian Feeling for Real
A short story by Frode Grytten

Translated from the Norwegian by Peter Cripps

'Dublin in the Rain' by Frode Grytten © by Peter Cripps 2005, from Leopard VI: The Norwegian Feeling for Real, published by Harvill Press.

The call comes in just as I'm about to go to bed. I've cleaned the house and turned out the lights in the living room. Only the TV is still on, bathing the room in blue light. I pick up the phone after the first ring. I don't want to wake the family.


No reply. Just some static and a soft sound.

Hello, I repeat. Who is this?

Still no reply. Using the remote I turn the TV down. I think I can hear breathing from a mouth close to the receiver at the other end. Maybe it's my imagination. Maybe it's just some noise on the line.

I'm hanging up now, I say and remain standing.

I wait and listen. There's an ad showing. A bee landing on a flower. A car driving through the desert. A model with blonde hair walking down a catwalk. It happens in slow motion, with fast cuts. It's strange to watch the ads without sound. I've seen them a thousand times and know exactly what's said. It's as if I can hear the words even without the sound.

I'm hanging up, I say.

Just as I am about to hang up, I hear a familiar voice.

It's me, the voice says.

God, you scared me, I say. Where are you?

Dublin, he says.

God, how you scared me, I say.

Can you talk? he asks.

I say yes. My husband is asleep. He is on the morning shift and has gone to bed early. I've been watching a movie and flicking through the paper.

How are you? he asks.

He has a dark, low voice. A voice from somewhere far away.

I don't know, I say. The usual. You?

I don't know. The usual.

We laugh.

How was the journey?

Fine. Just fine.

Silence. All I hear is the whistling, and I'm thinking about the phone signals coming all the way from Dublin.

Where are you staying?

A place called Finbar's Hotel.

Nice place?

A dump. You wouldn't believe it.

You got a view from your room?


Tell me what you see from your window.

Oh ... just dirty, old Dublin. There is the river. The docks. Kingsbridge Station. A couple under an umbrella. It's raining. It's always raining in Dublin.

I love hotels, I say. They are so full of life.

Well, here's a hotel you wouldn't love.

I picture him in the hotel room in Dublin. Standing by the window. Drops of rain running down. An unknown town out there. With different smells and different sounds. I wish I was there. Walking hand in hand with him, out of the room, down to the lobby, out into the town. Dublin in the rain.

I miss you, I say.

He doesn't answer. A new series has begun on the TV. A swarm of police cars are chasing a silver Ford with broken windows.

He does not answer.

Say something! I beg. Say something ...

I don't know what to say, he replies.

More silence. From the children's room I hear coughing. Up above the neighbour shuffles across the floor. Out in the street a motor revs.

You know? he finally says. The morning I left, my hands smelled of you.

I sit down on the chair beside the phone, shifting the receiver from my left to my right hand. I can hear my own, uneasy breath. He tells me how it was to sit beside all those business travellers.

I sat there with the smell of you on my hands. Your hair, your perfume, your skin ...

He holds back. I want to say something, anything. I don't know what.

Are you there? he says.

Yes, I say.

All the way to Finbar's Hotel I could smell you.

I swallow and take a breath.

Then I went into town, out in the rain, and bit by bit, you disappeared.

And now? I ask.

Now I can only smell the rain, the smog, the fish 'n' chips.

I miss you, I say. I want you to come back.

I'm not coming back, he says. I can't.

How come?

It's too late.

What's too late?


I stare at the TV. As if in a trance I change channels. A man kisses a woman. With their arms around each other they disappear down a rainy street.

Good night, then, he says from Dublin.

Good night, I say.

Neither of us hangs up. We sit there, listening to each other's silence.

Don't hang up, I say.

The line goes dead.

I sit there, noticing my heart's beating. On the floor above, someone turns on a tap. I can hear the sound of water even down here. I get up to go to bed.

The phone rings again. I pick up the receiver.

Hello, I say.


Are you there, my love? I ask.

No reply. Just the same, ethereal whistle as before.

Don't hang up this time, I say. Please, don't hang up.

I just wanted ... he says. I ...

He holds back.

Go over to the window, he says.


Go over to the window, he repeats. Is the phone cord long enough for you to stand in the window and talk?

Why? I ask.

Just do as I say. Does it reach?

I'll see, I say.

It reaches. I stand in the window with the phone in one hand and the receiver in the other. I can see my own face in the window, blue from the light of the television.

Turn on a light, he says.

Where are you? I ask.

Turn on a light, he says. I want to see you.

Where are you, love?

Do as I say. Turn on the light. I want to see you.

I turn on the floor lamp.

Where are you? I ask.

Now I can see you.

Where are you?

Down in the car park.

That's not true, I say. You're kidding.

I'm not kidding, he says. I'm sitting in a car outside your house. Now I can see you.

You're lying. You're not here. You're at Finbar's Hotel, Dublin.

I got back yesterday. I had to see you. I was going crazy at Finbar's.

Silence again. Then he says:

Listen, I've been following you all day.

You haven't. That's not true. You're not here.

Wave to me! he says.

I stare into the darkness. All I can see is Odda covered in black. Some yellow light from the street. My reflection in the window.

You're not here! I say.

I'm here.

Prove it.

You've been down at the mall today. And at the dentist.

Oh, God ... I say. Oh God oh God oh God ...

Wave to me! he says.

I lift a hand and wave.

I can see you waving, he says.

I wave at him out there in the darkness.

You know, those arms ... he says. Do you remember the restaurant where I met you?

I say I do. Of course I remember.

I remember how the autumn sun was shining, he says. I remember your blouse, the grey one, with short sleeves. You know, I fell in love with your arms, your arms there on the white tablecloth, your arms, the tiny hairs on your arms.

I lean my head against the window, feeling the cool glass against my warm forehead. I could stand there like that until I fell out of the window. Right until I fell out, out, out.

Show me your arms, love!

I don't know what to do, so I put the phone down on the window sill. I hold my arms up against the silent night window. I don't know how long I stand like that.

Finally, I lower my arms and pick up the phone again.

Where are you? I ask. I can't see you.

There's no reply. I turn off the light and the TV. The living room turns completely dark. Still I'm not able to see him.

Get out of the car, I say. Get out of the car, so I can see you, my love.

No answer. I'm afraid he will hang up again. I can hear the children coughing, my pulse throbbing in my ears. I almost lose my balance, and the receiver slips out of my hands. It remains hanging from the window sill, swinging back and forth in the darkness. As if from somewhere far away, I can hear his voice.

Come out and find me, he says. Come and find me.

With thanks to Peter Cripps and Harvill Press.

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