I need to think differently, I need to talk to myself differently, when seeing what I see and what I used to see before: the factory, the rented room.
Yesterday I stopped before a passing bus. My reflection in the windows would overlay on top of the images of the passengers inside, one by one. I realized that the thoughts occupying my head are no different from those of the people in my reflection. After a while, anger and guilt welled up inside me for allowing that to happen. With that anger I reached my train, and sat down in the quiet zone. I sat with my eyes closed. I wanted to think and know what I’m thinking. I didn’t know what to choose, what to name, what to define. I wanted to start something, and finish something. Whatever it were, I was going to the factory for twelve hours, and not towards one thought or another. Fuck it! – that was my mantra! I know that I repeat it more often than anything else. That is my mind’s image… at the moment. At the moment, for the time being only, because surely I will free myself from this. I will have lights in my head, like rows of streetlamps along my dubious way ahead.
My way… I’ve set that song of Sinatra’s as my alarm. Frank sings of life fulfilled in all kinds of challenges, Angelus Novus looking on American Dream. I look at the week: six days in the factory and Sunday, twelve hours in factory and two hours before leaving for work, when Frank wakes me up with his Gulliver’s voice in my world, in my rented room… I need to think differently.
At the factory, I grind the plastic products which did not pass quality control. Into the grinder, I also throw my personal notes. The ones that fail the quality check, of a different kind, end up as the PVC granules, and I write new ones. It would be so much more straightforward to catch butterflies. A butterfly, even one that failed to escape, is always a butterfly. A representant of its species, a captured life. While my notes have been similar to each other for far too long – whiny, complaining, impatient, insecure, demanding recognition – similar to me, and as such, I grind them with plastic. PVC dust in large tarp bags is sent back to the production department, where a piece of crap has another chance at becoming a product. And yet again I write notes for which nobody asked. In the factory, there is no more redundant item than such a note. An empty food can outside the warehouse, which collects rainwater for cats to drink, is more appropriate. What am I supposed to write to believe that my thinking is not incorrect, that it isn’t the world’s, the city’s, the factory’s, the rented room’s fault.
Sunday is a separate day. To start, I don’t need to count the minutes I consider wasted if I don’t get up immediately after the alarm. I do not set the alarm for Sunday. Sometimes I end up sleeping for twelve hours, but it brings a relief. Relief, what an unbelievable state, bliss which I forgot about – disorienting joy.
I run to keep myself in check. Today was terrific. When I was running up the hill, it was dark already. The moon was surrounded by a gleaming halo. In my headphones I could hear Damage, Inc begin. The increasing and scattering sounds and dark purple waves crashing on the shore were the same thing. And then I ran with all my strength, to not blame myself for running. That’s a good method for production of excusable feelings. For a time.
I came back tired. I returned to my room. In solitude I attack myself with words, for there is nobody else there, but everything else is. The walls are in their place, the music is playing and the candles are burning. Somebody will answer for this. Bring him in. Joseph K. in his first impulse started searching for his documents to show them to the guards. But the guards are not coming. Instead, there is a mirror above the sink in the corner of the room, before which I will shave. I demand words from myself, to finally say that I accept it.
„And so I lay on the pallets as a man complete, as a taxidermied display unit in the Idiot Hall of Fame.
Every man has the same set – two hands, two legs, a head, and thoughts. The scenery where we spend our time is not as dependant on us, but there is no fatalism. It’s all about what you want and what you try. Everything else, that’s just talk, weather forecasts for one Neverland or another, for divine lands populated by ideas.
In the end, I should set my repulsive, obnoxious sentences after myself. Does the city life not have recognizable stages? Is it not split into stages, which allow for tediously building a respectable life. The fucking apple from the garden of Eden was packed with useless pondering, phantoms of competing worlds. Worlds for which the sun is someone’s head, for which someone’s penis, someone’s stomach is the centre of the galaxy. The whole ego is a blunder. Let’s sow that plague on all creation. Let the trees talk, and they will immediately start complaining about their roots, about the perfection of lifting the water from the ground all the way up to the very tip of their last leaf. Let the stones think as well, and desire something more than their structure, coherent and complete, and inside them, an idiotic sand of emotion will emerge, and the need to defecate.”
In a convenience store next to the factory, they have a beer sale. Wheat, cold, thick. Four for the price of three. I bought them in the morning, when I was ready for grinding. I started drinking while cleaning the warehouse. I placed the pallets with bags of grinded PVC so that I could hide behind them. Drink the first beer quickly, and the second one right after, that’s a tested method. A moment of wait was enough, and I let go of my moods in words. I wrote an email to myself.
From all the possible feelings and moods, I seem to be susceptible to those which demand someone’s support. Disgusting. I am the only one repulsed, and yet I feel anger as if I could scold somebody else for it.
I need a vacation. I will give myself ten days to be somewhere else and think something else.
To save up for vacation, I took an off-record job as a cleaner in student hostels. The employer is an old English guy, who won bidding for this commission. His offer was unmatched. He can afford it. He hires foreigners who don’t know the language. He pays them a pound or two less, because he knows they’re scared he will replace them. Paradoxically, those who come in after work to earn extra, earn more, because they have a place to return to.
I will work here for seven days a week, for a month, so that I can take ten days off work.
The English guy assigned me to bathroom cleaning duty. In each bathroom, there is a mirror. Every ten minutes, I see myself in a different mirror. At first, I greeted myself with a smile. Later, getting sweatier every minute and trying to keep up with other cleaners, I permitted myself grimaces at best. After half an hour, even that was gone. The facial expression was redundant. I adjusted to the general rhythm.
We finished cleaning the first hostel on the upper floors. We spent our break on the roof. People would sit around the air conditioning vents. The hostel is one of the tallest buildings in the city. I approached the edge of the roof to look at the city’s panorama. I looked at the city, spanning all the way to the waters of the English Channel, then at the people on the roof. Looking at one of those, I could not conceive how the other can exist. I walked back to my place and watched the people around me. We were all preoccupied with many things at once, all done habitually. Eating and drinking, making cigarettes and smoking, laying down, before we had to get up for another few hours of work. Leftovers, packages, trash were what remained.
I was sitting opposite to the twenty year old Jo. We were smiling at each other. What was left from my attempts to reach Jo? I wanted to stroke her arm with the tip of my finger. Born on Malta, her skin is dark, shining in the sun. I was very curious about her small, pointy breasts. At that moment, the English guy found us all on the roof. He assigned us all our duties for the next hostel, a few blocks away.
The separation between paragraphs has very appropriately been called a light. How long has it been since I wrote last time?
At the factory or during my breaks and while returning home, I only manage to write down fragments. I think about a poem that Zbigniew Herbert dedicated to Zbigniew Zapasiewicz. In it, he mentions a method based on writing whatever, anything. I can’t say what would not be writing anything. My sentences are single-use mirrors. I see what I see. Would I rather see something else? My Way.
The sunlight is bouncing off the phone’s screen, so I direct the stylus’s movements from memory. I draw curves from one letter to another, and that’s how words emerge. I am riding on a bus, but I feel like a piece of air available to everyone. People’s faces, their swinging in response to the vehicle’s tilts, their eyes? No, the movements of the stylus, from letter to letter.
A woman with a child sits down opposite to me. The girl is tapping her finger on the window and in her own way, is naming what she sees.
She is only naming what she sees.
The first two days of my vacation, I didn’t leave my family home. I talked about my work, completely differently to what I write about. How many hours, how much they pay, in what city, and how I’m doing. I felt like a puppeteer, I spoke with a voice coming from behind a curtain.
Yesterday I passed by a library. I haven’t been there for about seven years. Nothing has changed on the inside. All sections were in the same places. I was remembering in what circumstances I read one book or another, or specific quotes. I picked up Camus’s essays published along with his notes. Browsing the book I found my own notes. That brought me a sudden burst of joy. I can’t remember when was the last time I reacted like this. It had nothing to do with the contents of my notes. I remembered my own eagerness with which I used to be able to read.
I rented Fantastic Tales by Dostoyevsky, to read The Dream of a Ridiculous Man.
I had an appointment at Mariacka street in a little club by the church. To get there, I had to pass the promenade. Cacophony of human voices, music, colours, steps, and objects being moved. Eyes, breasts, calves, lips, hair, in amount and rhythm that pushed all lust out of me.
At the end of the promenade, Jesus Christ on a cross, bright white, impossible to overlook, a secondary character.
I sat down with my friends. They aged visibly. It was the first time when I thought this way about myself as well.
We drank a lot of beer, but nobody wanted vodka. I was the only one on vacation. We talked a lot, informed each other about our relative situations. We changed place after a few beers.
We found a pub in an old building with the backyard redecorated into an outdoors dancefloor. People were dancing on a wooden platform. Some gravel has been scattered on the ground. There were wooden tables for guests. The music was blasting from an angular column. The bass was drowning the whole yard. We stood observing it and wondering how to join in. Two girls invited us to their table. I wanted to drink more beer and talk to the brunette. I waited for this. No doubts, skin to skin. Mobilisation which someone newly met can infallibly stir. To seduce, you must show that you’re alive. I spoke to her with a voice like I have never experienced something that had no well-deserved punchline. She wanted to dance. On the dancefloor, she pulled me closer. We embraced and danced holding each other, in rhythm much slower than the music. I liked that. She seemed to not mind this place, she created her own space. Back at the table, we held each other, not speaking too much. I watched her. An hour ago, she didn’t know I existed, and now in my arms she was completely relaxed. When I caressed her neck and shoulders, she did not open her eyes. We could have chosen a club ten meters further and none of this would have happened. I held in my arms someone who was fulfilling their own need. I didn’t want to stay there any longer.
I’m at the airport. My vacation is ending. Waiting for the gates to open, I read Pensées by Pascal on my phone, through wi-fi. „A man is such that if we tell him again and again that he is a fool, he will believe it; if he repeats that to himself, he will believe too. Because inside himself, a man conducts an internal dialogue, which needs to be directed well.” Destinations are being listed over the loudspeaker: Rome, Berlin, Manchester. Where would I go in those cities? The district of cheap rooms and temporary work agency? What am I trying to tell myself this way? Not this. I will notice when I’m saying it, just as well as I know now that this is not it.
//translation: Ania Pabian//
Daniel Orzadowski – 1983, from Siemianowice Śląskie. He works in a non-governmental organization.