My Friend’s Story

The Narrator introduces us to Peter, his best friend from schooldays, who has prospered, moved to the country with his wife Milena, and taken up organic farming. Peter is idealistic, and his friend remains skeptical, but their friendship has endured—except that the Narrator finds himself, during this visit, drawn to Peter’s wife. The two men, without Milena, go to town on business and stop at a bar where they see Hannah again, a waitress who also sings. After some banter, Hannah performs “Is there a mist on the river?” whose nostalgia prompts the men to join in a memorable trio. At the bar, they meet a mysterious figure, Jacob Sorgen, who turns out to have been a  professor of theirs at college but subsequently fell into disgrace and poverty. Puzzled why he should turn up there, Peter offers to take him home and give him work on the farm. As Jacob goes to collect his belongings, Peter worries aloud about the nameless terror he feels all the time. He has everything a man could want—a farm, his health, a beautiful wife—but feels it all as a nightmare.

A while later, with Jacob asleep in a corner of Peter’s living room, Peter tells the Narrator that Hannah is actually Jacob’s lost daughter, and that he has tracked her down just to be near her. Jacob awakes and explains his strange dilemma. He leaves and Peter—perplexed by his sorrow—discloses his own. He still adores Milena, who told him, when they married, that she would not love him but would be faithful to him. He races outside to sleep on the grass, and when Milena finally enters, she and the Narrator have a twisty erotic exchange—at the end of which, they have passionate sex. The Narrator is cynical about his conquest, while Milena’s true passion emerges and she begs to be stolen away. Suddenly, Peter returns with Jacob—he had forgotten his cap—and calmly says he doesn’t understand. In the dark, they all return to their own lives, while the Narrator questions why anything happens the way it does—without our wanting or understanding it. “I never saw Peter or Milena again,” he says. “I’m told they’re still living together.”