Somehow, I've run out of steam, and last week feels like plusquamperfectum, but I guess I owe you, My Dear Reader, the conclusion of the story.
The journey home was uneventful, the always-on-time airline was on time, and we were safely in bed long before midnight. The cat didn't seem to have noticed our absence. I was still feeling horrible the morning after, and if it hadn't been a dinner for me that night, I would have sent an apology. But you can't flake from your own birthday dinner. I considered asking Staffan to drive me and taking a taxi home, but decided against it. However, I realised my mistake when I parked in the large parking structure and walked through the weirdly empty mall with all shops closed. A bad movie played in my head: I never turn up at the dinner, and my cold corpse is found next morning in some dark corner... It was too late to get out and park elsewhere. I decided not to let the prospect of going back into the parking spoil my evening.
I was the first to arrive, which I always find awkward – yet another example of my “victim behaviour”. But the table was ready, and very soon another colleague arrived, and I had to relate the events of the week once, and twice and all over again as the table filled. I had never been to this place before, although I drive past it every day. It is very discretely hidden behind a kitchy Eastern European delicatessen that has advertised its imminent inauguration for the past year. But next time I want to invite someone to a fancy dinner in Cambridge, this will be my choice. Even with all the previous nice meals of the week, that one was by far the most exquisite (sorry, Clas på hörnet).
What's more, I had thought that I had heard so many nice words during the week that I wouldn't be overwhelmed again, but I was. And these were not big words in front of a gathering of people, but words spoken by a very intimate group of colleagues whole opinion I value. I won't say they were surprising, but rather unexpected, because they weren't the kind of words people are obliged to say, but the kind they say because they want to. If you know what I mean. I was moved more than I perhaps showed since, honestly, I didn't know what to say except repeated thank-yous which isn't a very nuanced response. I will have to find a way of saying thank you properly because these people have made the past four years of my life possibly the most happy years and definitely the most satisfactory years professionally.
When we were leaving, I asked the only male in the group to accompany me to the parking structure.