Me and my Alyona in school, 1967.
At least I don't have to think about it. Alyona and I have been friends since we were two. Of course we were then the kind of friends that parents take to visit each other saying: “Now run and play”. We would also be sent to run and play under our nannies' care. The nannies gossiped, we played. Gulliver's travels was out favourite make-believe. We went to school together, and because we had known each other before school and because we lived in the same house we become officially best friends. We had secrets, we had imaginary countries and our private language. At some point my mother decided that Alyona was bad influence for me and forbade me to play with her. But children at that time had more freedom than now. We all played in the backyards and streets and squares, nobody could control us. Then she came into grace with my mother again, and we were allowed to go home to each other and play. Yet oftentimes she made me jealous because she played with someone else and wouldn't let me join.
In summer, Alyona went to summer camps, and I was sent to the country with my granny. I was tremendously envious. Some years ago she confessed that she had been tremendously envious of me who didn't have to go to camps. One summer, which as I realise now must have just been a couple of weeks, I was allowed to visit Alyona at her granny's country house. It was my happiest summer ever. Her father allowed us to read in bed, eating biscuits! Who wouldn't be envious of such a father.
We became more detached during our teens, with new networks and interests. Alyona was popular with boys. I wasn't. We almost lost touch in university, but got close again after our first broken marriages. When I moved to Sweden I realised after a few years how much I missed her. The first time she visited me in Stockholm, Staffan got very upset. Alyona and I were talking all the time, and Staffan complained that he understood every word, but had no idea what we were talking about. He felt we only uttered every third sentence. He was right. We knew each other so well that everything didn't have to be said.
Some time ago we started travelling together every now and then. First time I let her choose the destination, and that's why I know every little obscure museum in London: she made me do some serious sightseeing. The next time I managed to take her through check-in and security at the airport without her knowing where we were going. Each time we meet we have tons of things to talk about. We know things about each other that nobody else knows, not even other significant others. A whole life shared.