Trude Marstein's Gjøre godt (2006) can be said to be all about meetings and non-meetings - from beginning to end. The way the novel's story is unveiled, from the points of view of 118 different persons moving about the same small town one summer weekend; their lives intersecting more or less consciously - it offers a perfect image of the mingling co-existence we move about in - and the impact actions and choices we make have on people passing by - emotionally or physically close to us. There are so many destinies decided by what wasn't dared done - what wasn't then said - and what was! - for different reasons - but all the more crucial for what will come.
From page 410 to 419 we observe one of the longer moments recounted. Markus (27) is sitting in a restaurant for the second hour alone waiting for his girl friend who is at home breast feeding their daughter Malene, trying to get her to sleep before joining Markus for a meal. Up from the basement comes Beate (35) who has madly left a school reunion after one of those really embarassing party games that are only fun for the (really few) "successful" among us (having normally planned them?!) - and after an instant smile, he invites her over with an arm movement. Single mother of two she obviously does not think highly of herself - and she has had a secret wish for perhaps meeting someone at the party - finally out in a setting where that might be done, although - as she puts it - she has had no expectation of doing so. She tells Markus she has not had sex in two years. She thinks she might have to wait until the kids move out to do so - and she gets tears in her eyes realizing it won't be until at least in ten years. Markus finds her really sweet - and comforts her by saying it will happen when she least expects it. They talk about the complications of trying to find someone to love - and together they formulate thematically the title of the book:
"Nei, mennesket er jo tross alt et flokkdyr, sier hun, biologisk, jeg tror opprinnelig at det har en trang til å bety noe for andre, på en eller annen måte, bety noe. Ja, gi noe, sier jeg. Hjelpe hverandre, sier hun. Være gode mot hverandre, sier jeg. Hun har så myke hender. Vi sitter og holder hverandre i hendene mens vi snakker og snakker, og jeg tenker at det er bra at vi holder hverandre i begge hendene, hvis ikke ville jeg tatt på henne på hele kroppen, og det kan jeg ikke, det må jeg ikke, men hendene."
Beate sees herself as a lot older than Markus (8-9 years). The moment is broken by the phone ringing; Sonja, Markus' girl friend has put their daughter to sleep and is coming to join him. Markus tries not to let go of Beate's hands as he speaks on the phone, and gets hold of it again when he has hung up.
"Jeg stryker tommelen over håndbaken hennes, den valker seg mykt. Jeg må gå, sier jeg. Ja, sier hun. Jeg er helt nødt, sier jeg. Ja, jeg skjønner det, sier hun. Vi sitter helt rolig. To minutter til, sier jeg. Hun smiler så vidt. Skal du tilbake, sier jeg. Dit. Jeg peker på trappen. Hun rister på hodet. Nei, sier hun. Eller, jeg får se. Jeg venter i alle fall litt. Kanskje jeg bare kan få gi deg et lite kyss, sier jeg. Jeg lener meg over bordet og kysser henne lett på munnen, hun sukker gjennom nesa mens jeg gjør det. Hun krever ingenting mer enn det jeg kan gi henne, og det er nesten ingenting. Kanskje vi ses igjen en annen gang, sier jeg, her, eller et annet sted. En liten flekk av spyttet hennes på overleppen min kjennes kjølig. Kanskje, sier hun."
Markus leaves. He sees a couple making out outside a restaurant.
"Vi skulle ha ligget sammen. Jeg blir sikker på at det hadde vært bedre om det hendte oftere at noen lå sammen. At jo flere som lå sammen, jo bedre hadde det blitt å leve her, også for de som ikke lå med noen, at det ville vært bra for menneskene, jeg tror det. Jeg tror ikke det er bra å unngå å ligge sammen når det å ligge sammen kjennes som det mest riktige av alt."
- and people meet and they nearly meet and they almost, but really don't meet. -and what's there to it? The tiniest choice might have life changing impact - it's really all about appreciating becoming. There is a potential choice at every instance.