Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)
Marianne checks the time in the top-right corner of the screen: 09:49. She navigates back to Joanna’s message and hits reply.
He’s taking the photos today, I’m actually heading over there now. Of course I will send them to you when they are finished AND I expect long flattering commentary on each individual photograph. I’m excited to hear what you’ve learned about the US Civil War. All I’ve learned here is how to say ‘no thank you’ (nej tack) and ‘really, no’ (verkligen, nej). Talk soon xxx
Marianne closes her laptop, eats another two bites of the pastry and folds the rest up in its little greaseproof wrap. She slips her laptop into her satchel and removes her soft felt beret, which she pulls down over her ears. The pastry she disposes of in a nearby bin.
Outside it’s still snowing. The exterior world looks like an old TV screen badly tuned. Visual noise breaks the landscape into soft fragments. Marianne buries her hands in her pockets. Flakes of snow fall on her face and dissolve there. A cold flake alights on her top lip and she feels for it with her tongue. Head down against the cold, she is on her way to Lukas’s studio. Lukas’s hair is so blonde that the individual strands look white. She finds them on her clothing sometimes, finer than thread. He dresses all in black: black shirts, black zip-up hoodies, black boots with thick black rubber soles. He’s an artist. The first time they met, Marianne told him she was a writer. It was a lie. Now she avoids talking to him about it.
Lukas lives near the station. She takes her hand from her pocket, blows on her fingers and presses the buzzer. He answers, in English: Who is it?
It’s Marianne, she says.
Ah, you’re early, says Lukas. Come on in.
Why does he say ‘you’re early’? Marianne thinks as she climbs the stairs. The connection was fuzzy but he seemed to say it with a smile. Was he pointing it out to make her appear too eager? But she finds she doesn’t care how eager she appears, because there is no secret eagerness to be discovered in her. She could be here, ascending the staircase to Lukas’s studio, or she could be in the campus library, or in the dorm making herself coffee. For weeks now she has had this feeling, the feeling of moving around inside a protective film, floating like mercury. The outside world touches against her outside skin, but not the other part of herself, inside. So whatever Lukas’s reason for saying ‘you’re early’, she finds it doesn’t matter to her.
Upstairs he’s setting up. Marianne removes her hat and shakes it. Lukas looks up, then back at the tripod. Are you getting used to the weather? he says. She hangs her hat on the back of the door and shrugs. She begins to take off her coat. In Sweden we have a saying, he says. There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.