29th of June
It was one of those days when our pockets are full of promises. Others had already left, saying it was late or that they needed to get back since there was an early morning ahead of them. The only guests still present at Robert’s house were Julia and I. The midnight brought a bit of chill along so we put our sweatshirts on and sat on the couch to stare at the dark screen of the television set.
“Where’s Robert?” Julia asked.
“He said he was going for a walk,” I answered without taking my eyes off the empty screen.
“At this hour?!”
“He just felt like it.”
Julia always reacted with such energy, she was full of life, and we orbited around her as the planets orbit around their suns. I was a quiet observer of the world, who liked to chip in the conversation with a joke or two from time to time, only to become silent again. And Robert… denim jackets, guitars, and motorcycles. That was Robert.
“I’m so sleepy.” Julia yawned, and then her head landed on soft cushions that served the function of the couch’s backrest. “But I can’t go to sleep yet. Not until Robert returns from his walk. Where is he, anyway?”
“There’s a forest not far from here. I bet that’s where he went,” I replied with confidence. I didn’t want to give it too much thought.
“Hmm…” Julia muttered, while I closed my eyes. I felt as if the world around me shrank to the size of a peanut and then began to grow back, pressing against me and crushing me with its enormity. I suddenly got the impression that I was falling into an abyss so I opened my eyes. Julia’s feline eyes glittered with a gold shine in the surrounding darkness. She was staring at me attentively. “Are you alright?” she asked anxiously.
“Sure. Nothing’s wrong. So what are we doing?”
“I don’t know… What about playing ten questions?”
“How do you play it?”
“You ask one question, I answer. Then I ask my question, and you answer. We continue until we reach ten.”
“And what happens then?”
“We can start with another set of questions”.
“Without an end?”
“It will have to end at some point.”
“I don’t know so you just need to ask proper questions.”
I thought for a while. It was just a game. My question had already been formulated for some time. It tormented me. I was planning to write a story about it very soon.
“What would you choose to see just before your death?”
Julia tilted her head back once again and closed her eyes, but not a second later we heard a crunch of a handle being pushed and then a door slam. Robert approached us breathless. His black hair got tousled, covering his forehead. A stubble was present on his face.
“Why have you been running? Have the trees been so frightening?” Julia raised her eyebrows as high as she could. Most probably, she already forgot my question. She had the tendency to instantly forget everything that became the past.
Robert dismissed this question with a wave of his hand.
“It’s better not to take chances with the trees,” he answered. “Let’s go outside.”
I got up from the couch. Julia faked reluctance, but I whispered a couple of words into her ear and she let herself be convinced. Robert opened the terrace door, and we went outside carefully so that we wouldn’t let the cat out. It had already earned its reputation of a local tramp.
The air was brisk and the night was calm, as every other idle night at the beginning of summer. There was a small fire still burning. We stoked it up with some branches that were lying around and a couple of old sheets of paper we dug out of our pockets. The fire flared up again, lighting our faces with its warm glare. The flames danced with the shadows of the trees that were being swung gently by the breeze.
“How’s your writing, Charles?” Robert asked me. He always talked facts only. He was that non-nonsense type of man, and I liked him for it.
“I keep on going. You’d better watch out because everything you say might be used in writing.” I laughed quietly.
“Do you think you will be able to make a living out of it?”
“Maybe. I don’t know, but I would definitely like to.”
I dreamt about becoming a writer. My notebook, an inseparable part of me, absorbed new jottings almost every day, putting into words everything I saw and experienced. It was as natural to me as breathing. I traveled and kept committing to paper everything I judged as worthy of writing down. Anyway, I still do that as you can see by looking at these words, at the blackened pages of my notebook.
Julia chucked a single branch into the fire, and it sparkled, sending up a shower of sparks into the darkness, which eventually absorbed it completely. She propped her chin on her knees and gave us a sad look.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do in the future. Now, we’re going on a journey, but we’ll come back… What then? What will happen then?”
“Don’t think about it,” Robert advised her. “Whatever…”
“This feeling is tormenting me. I’m scared and tired… of all of this.”
“Don’t think about it for now. Focus on the journey.” Robert smiled and put his arm around her. Julia’s eyes lit up with trust; she gave in to her friend’s optimism.
We remained silent for some time, listening out for the sounds coming from the forest and the crackling of the burning fire. I had the impression that it was the night that was whispering the old-as-the-hills magic words into our ears.
“I’m glad we’re going on that journey,” I spoke. “I’m glad we’re going together, the three of us.”
“You’re right. There are some people I wouldn’t go with,” declared Julia, lost in reverie.
“Who would that be?”
“That… what’s his name… Sebastian. He’s an idiot and a goddamn opportunist!”
“No, he’s an idiot.”
“Relax, he’s just a kid.”
Julia sighed loudly.
“There are some people you simply can’t go on a journey with.”
I watched one of the windows of the adjacent house, in which the light was being switched on and off repeatedly, as if some child played with the switch. Sometimes I wondered whether God observed me and planned some miraculous coincidences. Was there anything that was the spectator of this theater, like the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg from “The Great Gatsby”?
“Let’s go inside. I’m cold.” Julia’s body shivered.
“Why don’t we stay a bit longer?” I wanted to keep staring at the window light being switched on and off.
“Julia’s right, and I’m flaking out,” Robert settled the matter.
We went back into the house. I stroked the cat and sat on the couch. At nighttime, the house balanced on the verge of dream and reality. I could see only contours of the things we left; plates and bottles resembled picture frames I personally filled with the help of my imagination. I felt tired as if I had just returned from a long journey and was preparing to depart for another one. I was lost at that moment, feeling empty inside like an Easter egg shell, and exposed to the changeable winds of fate like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. I was very happy, too. I really didn’t know what to think about all of that.
I jumped to my feet when the telephone rang. I ran quickly to the cabinet, picked the phone up and held it in my hand. I glanced at its display: unknown number. I didn’t answer.
Julia lay down on the other couch, and Robert went to his bed. I was lying and staring at the picture on the wall. Colorful cicadas on the canvas. Colorful infinity on the canvas. However, the painting lacked a part of the canvas which must have been taken out in the past. Robert said he hadn’t remembered what it had looked like before.
I heard someone’s voice; it was very close, but somehow remote at the same time: “Do you believe in miracles?” I fell asleep a second later, and I dreamt about the things I turned into a story the following day.
To be continued 14-12-2015
Mikołaj Wyrzykowski: a student in the second class o High Schools, speaks in Polish, French and English, his passion is writing as well as music – he plays piano and guitar. He finished The Interegional Workshops of Journalism and the Study of Reportage in Bydgoszcz. Author of press articles, journalist of the regional addition to weekly „Sunday”. He wrote four books: „Tales from the Pine Forest”, „The Hairy Travels: Italy for three collies”, „A Twist of Fate”, a novel about more or les accidental accidents happening during a trip to France, the books is published in Polish and English; and „A Memory of the Present Moment”, a volume of poetry available in Polish and English version also. A scholar of the City of Toruń in the field of culture and of the Foundation Pasjopolis. He have already realised to media projects: „The Hairy Travels in Radio Kielce (2013); „France avec Passion (2014)” and „Along the trail of Saint Jacob- Camino Polaco (2015)” – the reportages will be published in press.