How many times have I read White Nights? I’m not sure. I’d say enough times to have this story imprinted on my mind. Is that a perfect romantic story? Yes, it is, because what more romantic than someone who can’t get over a truncated love? What more romantic than lifelong suffering? But now we aren’t talking about the perfect romantic story but about the perfect love story, so I’m forced to revise Dostoyevsky’s masterpiece.
I was walking through Most Biskupa Jordana, as usual when I couldn’t get myself to sleep. The Poznanian summer night was fresh and the serene view was exhilarating. As usual, I was spending my summer in the city; what to go somewhere else for when I was already somewhere else? Poznan was my adventure; everything was new to me there, even when I’d been living there for more than three years. A great percentage of the youth went back to their hometowns, maybe out of remorse for abandoning their parents, and those Poles who could get days off from work chose to go abroad, so the night was full of early sleepers whose sleeps were full of tiredness from work and void of dreams. The wind, however, blew this charged atmosphere away and left only the placidity of the empty night, so empty that it invited me to fill it with wild adventures. And what wilder than strolling around Katedra and through the lovers’ bridge, whose bars were full of padlocks left as tokens of fervent love? I wonder about the ritual for that custom. If I were to do that, I would surely take the keys with me and, after having locked the padlock in company of the woman of my life, I would throw the keys to the waters so the Warta could hide them in its bosom forever. Then a divorce would be very difficult because I would have to dive in the dark waters and try to unearth the keys from wherever they were. That’s a lifelong deal! I thought, and I sneered at church and civil marriages that could be dissolved with such relative ease.
I was lost in these thoughts when I saw a female figure leaning on the parapet of the bridge. I walked towards her, my heart beating faster, as her beauty revealed itself in front of me. I saw she was crying so when I got to a prudent distance, so as not to scare her, I asked her: “Can I help you?” Of course she didn’t answer. She was startled by my sudden intrusion in her sadness. My presence was as unexpected as unwelcome. She stared at me, however, not with fear but with deep annoyance. I saw in her eyes that she had nothing to lose, but she would be glad to inflict some harm on someone. Fortunately I was there and I was happy to put myself at her disposal, because I didn’t have much to lose either. I said, opening my heart all at once: “Please let me help you; I’d feel useless if I can’t. You see, we’re here at a ridiculous hour on a place that’s only visited by idlers and blind lovers. I wasn’t expecting any company when I came here, but I found you and I can’t help feeling it’s destiny. You’re crying and, despite the fact that we don’t know each other, I already feel that your pain is my pain and I couldn’t live with the idea that I abandoned a part of my soul on a desolated bridge. So I repeat, would you please let me help you?”
She only smiled, but it was more than I could expect. Tears were still running down her face, but they now looked like warm tears of happiness. The illusion was perfect: For some seconds I saw a beautiful girl, smiling at me and crying. It was too much for my voluptuous heart; I fell in love immediately. Now I needed to know who was this girl I was meant to love; I needed her to start telling me everything about her, while I listened in silence. But she didn’t utter a word. My heart started battering my chest, but I didn’t know how to make her manifest herself to me. After some seconds of utter confusion, I said: “What’s your name?” and for the first time I heard her voice: “Malwina”. If a crow had come out of her throat, I wouldn’t have minded because my feelings for her were already cemented, but what I heard was the most beautiful sound I’d ever dreamed. Her voice didn’t thrill nor was high-pitched; it was deep, but extremely feminine. I introduced myself and she didn’t seem to care about anything I said, but she put up with it as if she had no other option. Once in a while she stared for a long time at the waters and I knew everything I said during those lapses would be carried away by the wind, but I didn’t want to stem the flow of the conversation because I felt it was the only thing that linked us at that moment.
After a while, however, I just lost courage and made silence. I gave up, yes! Could you believe it?! I gave up on love at that moment, and it’s the most shameful thing I’ve ever done. But she wouldn’t allow me to fall so low; she said: “Would you walk me home?” and we walked silently to her door. When we arrived, I asked her: “Could I see you again?” and then she told me: “I like you, but it’s complicated. When you found me I was crying for my boyfriend. We are apart and our love is impossible, but I love him, I love him with all my heart. I like you, but I don’t want to make you suffer as I’m suffering now: from unfulfilled love.” “I’m suffering already,” I said. “You wouldn’t believe how fast two kindred souls may reach communion of feelings, but it’s true, I could swear on my life, it’s true! And I’ve learned it today, when I saw you. If you don’t feel the same, then I’m just a fool, but I feel we’re meant for each other.”
She sighed and said nothing. My heart stopped beating for some seconds, or maybe it was just vibrating so fast that it felt like a still string which could snap at the slightest tension. I couldn’t utter a word if my life depended on it, so I was just waiting for the coup de grace to go home and assimilate all the feelings of the night. But she said: “I feel the same for you. Since I saw you, I felt a strange comfort in my soul, as if I wasn’t alone anymore.” Oh Malwina! How happy you made me at that moment! How could I ever pay you back for such a gift?! I said to you that night: “You don’t have to be alone anymore, because I’ll never leave you.” And you smiled and I was the happiest man on Earth.
We went on meeting and the subject of your boyfriend was never touched. I was happy with that arrangement because my heart couldn’t possibly deal with the idea of losing you. I preferred to believe we were in a romantic limbo, in a love nest built of ethereal branches on a peak unreachable to anyone else. You gave yourself completely to me, or maybe my feelings for you enshrined you in tenderness and enthusiasm, so I never saw your doubts, you pain, the hole in your heart. But everything comes in cycles and our relationship was reaching the starting point anew. After two weeks of heaven, you mentioned the inevitable: Your boyfriend was coming to visit you. I didn’t want to believe about his existence; not after all the days I had seen your happy face in front of me. For a moment I thought that we needed just one last strenuous emotional effort to vanish him from your life; he seemed so surreal to me at that time. But since you gave me the news, everything which seemed so real before started fading away, so fast than in no more than a week I knew for certain that our love would never be.
Now, if I stopped the story at this point, it would be romantic, but it wouldn’t be happy, and my definition of love implies happiness. Now love is not a feeling but action. Love cannot be spoken and it can be felt only by the person loved. We can’t feel that we love someone; that’s absurd to me. However, we can feel loved by someone and we can try to reciprocate that love or to share that love with others. If you asked me to put it simple, I’d say that: Love is care.
Now comes the convoluted part of every romantic story. When I met Malwina, I was single, but it’s never so simple. In my case, it was as simple as it can get, because it had been a long time since I last fell in love, so I was ready to invest all my feelings in a new relationship. However, there were some friends and ex-girlfriends to which I owed some explanations. Some people are discrete and choose not to say anything until it’s so evident that there’s nothing to say, but that’s not my style. Whenever I was in front of my friend I felt the way she looked at me implied the fact I was single, so I felt cheap not to tell her that I’d met someone. With my ex-girlfriend it was a little different because she actually asked. It was subtle; I’d had an accident and she asked me: “Is there someone to take care of you? A girlfriend?” Well, it wasn’t so subtle, but I must give her some credit for taking advantage of every opportunity to inquire about my civil status. I also told my mom, but that just because I’m expansive and I have a friendly relationship with her. Anyway, the point is: I was betting hard on Malwina because I felt really confident about her. She is so sensitive that I would’ve never thought she could get lost in her own feelings. I’ve gotten lost in mine sometimes, but not for long, and I never regretted a decision or opened a door that was already closed. Not that I didn’t try; it just never worked for me because, in the end, I found myself in the same place as before. Our minds play tricks on us and sometimes bring vivid memories of parts of our past lives, but those are just Hollywood movies, made up of the best scenes; they are pure image without text between lines, without substance. I’m not saying we can’t try again with someone of the past, but it shouldn’t be based on memories because they are deceitful. If we happen to find an ex-partner in our lives again, we can start to build all anew, but we shouldn’t count on past feelings, because they’re surely changed already. But our minds are sometimes so vain as to believe they can erase the part of our lives in which we were apart from the other person and we can just return to our previous relationships. We believe that we can catch up with everything, obviating relationships with other people and events that transformed us completely. Our characters always remain, that’s true, but circumstances are the greater part of love: Real love, not the thrill we have when our eyes or minds are flattered. Love happens naturally as everything else in the world; love is no fight but surrender. Love is here and now; it’s not in plots or future projects but in the reaction to our present situation.
I had burned my bridges for Malwina, but love was there to save me. In the darkest moment, when I realized everything was over between us, a stranger approached me in the street. However, she seemed to know me, and after a few seconds I recalled her too. “You’re Ewa, right?” I said. We had been at the same party two weeks before and we had talked for a while. Talking to her back then had been uneventful, but now I couldn’t help seeing she was very attractive and she had beautiful features. Back then I hadn’t even paid attention to the fact I was talking to a beautiful girl, but now all came to me as in an epiphany. Back then I hadn’t noticed her eagerness to talk to me, but now I noticed. I asked her number and we are in touch since then. What happened to Malwina? I don’t know, but to let her go without hindrances was real love from my part. Now my need for giving love is anew appeased, since Ewa seems to accept all I want to give her. Is this not happiness? Even if it ends one day, right now I’m just happy all my love didn’t go to waste; that it found someone who gladly accepts it.