The unlikely ones: The evil hour

You can’t get inspiration from sadness; it’s not possible. Your actual inspiration comes from the hope of joy that this sadness triggers. And joy is easier to achieve when you’re sad than when you’re in a limbo of satisfaction. The same as it’s easier to go to sleep when you’re tired, it’s easier to reach happiness when you’re sad.

I was walking alone the other day, when I came across a girl weeping on the bridge Świętego Rocha. We all tend to see reality through the prism of our imagination, and mine threw a veil of romanticism on it all. But my mind is also very inquisitive. I didn’t know whether this girl was acquainted with Dostoievsky’s White Nights or if she just happened to be an unwilling performer of the life’s play he had depicted. Of course I could’ve simply thought that the reality of girls like her, who cry on lonely bridges at night, was the source of inspiration for Dostoievsky’s story, but I couldn’t. If you’ve ever seen the movie Vanilla Sky, you already know this concept the movie was based on: That reality is the sum of our experiences plus dreams. By dreams I mean subconscious thoughts, not silly goals. All these things we’ve experienced secondhand through a movie, book or song remain in our subconscious and make up our reality too. Because what’s more real than our minds? A madman’s mind is as real as the mind of a sound man. So going back to White Nights, for those who haven’t read it or don’t remember, a dreamy guy meets a girl crying on a bridge; she’s typically crying for a lover who hasn’t come back to her; he falls for her and she tells him she’ll forget her boyfriend and love him; the boyfriend comes back; our hero pronounces the emblematic words: “My God, a moment of bliss. Why, isn’t that enough for a whole lifetime?” To his rhetorical question I answer rotundely: No, it’s not enough; get over it. But it’s Dostoievsky, not me, what can I do? Anyhow, tinged by this apprehensions I approached the weeping girl, same as our tragic hero did in the story. I swore to myself that if she told me she was crying for a guy, I would throw her myself into the river or walk away, but not without telling her: Have some decency! Crying on bridges stopped being fashionable more than a century ago!

I actually didn’t speak. I’m not like Dostoievsky’s dreamer at all. He was the talkative type; I’m the quiet type. So we could say I crept up to her and stopped at talking distance, or stalking distance, from her, however you want to call it. But no one talked, which was the first thing that struck me as odd. Because one thing that I must admit I didn’t remember till it was too late was that the dreamer didn’t just creep up to her to stay there saying nothing, but he actually followed her in stealth mode, on the odd chance that he could have an opportunity to rescue her gallantly from an imminent danger. And it happened, just like in an American romantic movie. She was mugged by someone and our dreamer rescued her, thus introducing himself. But as much as I wished for a mugger to crawl out of the river, climb up the bridge and mug her, it was mid-winter, and people didn’t swim in the Warta anyway. So that plan being fucked, I decided to try some human interaction for a change, encouraged by her obliviousness to everything, even my potentially threatening presence. I said, and I’m not proud of it, just so you know: “Why don’t you jump?” I really don’t know why I say some things sometimes; they just burst out of my mind and I find them too beautiful to repress them. She stared at me, and it wasn’t outrage or vexation what I saw, but relief. It took time for this relief to take hold of her, because her brain needed to attend to more relevant matters such as what is a stranger doing so close to you. But once she’d dispelled her instinctive fear, which wasn’t hard because I look like I couldn’t kill a fly even if I wanted to; though in my defense, flies aren’t so easy to kill. Once she’d dispelled this fear, she laughed with all her heart.

Now I allow for all kinds of humor, but I didn’t expect someone would laugh at the idea of someone encouraging their suicide. I also must make clear that it wasn’t a joke but an honest question. Grant it, the phrase may be funny because of its callousness , which can only be interpreted as sarcasm, but the reality was that I was nervous because of the whole situation of the weeping girl who’d probably go back to her boyfriend after having seduced me with her defenselessness, so I couldn’t come up with something better. But what she said after simply blew my mind: “Because I didn’t come to jump but to be approached by a nice stranger,” while she smiled, full of self-awareness. At that moment I understood she’d either read White Nights or she simply had this instinctive wisdom in her: When you’re sad, go and cry on a bridge to seek comfort from a stranger. Fortunately my following words were more regular: “And why were you crying?”; and she only smiled broadly. “Did he leave you for good or is he coming back?” I asked, to dispel the doubt once and for all. She answered: “Even if he wanted to come back after what he did to me, I wouldn’t let him.” But coming from a woman, this answer wasn’t enough to convince me of her determination. “And what did he do to you?” I asked. “He abandoned you?” “He cheated on me,” she said, and there was a flicker of bitterness in her countenance: The bitterness of suffering from commonplace pains, such as deception and heartbreak. Then she said: “Life sucks; it sucks dick in a dark London alley for five pounds for crack.” And at that moment I fell in love with her. It was so spot on. Even the choice of city. The dreadful indifference of London was the backdrop for this crack whore offering her services in a street with bad public lighting. No element of dreariness was missing in the picture; it was simply beautiful. She stopped being a stupid girl crying for a selfish reason. She was a sensitive woman crying for the hopelessness of humanity. Her situation had just triggered bitter thoughts in her; she wasn’t absorbed in her own pain, while the world crumbled around her. I wanted to say: “Yes, and it sucks apathetically too,” but I thought it wasn’t the point she wanted to make and it would just take away from the perfect picture she’d created, so I said nothing. “But you’re beautiful,” I said after a deep moment of silence, “and that makes it all worth it.”

But now comes the moment of sadness. We all know nothing lasts forever, but there are moments of elation which are followed by deep disappointment. Generally life keeps us awake with annoyances such as money and health issues, but when we’re healthy and economically comfortable, we tend to find a way towards temporary insanity. We simply can’t live a dull life; our subconscious doesn’t allow it. I couldn’t say for certain what she felt at that moment, but she looked charmed by my being so in tune with her feelings about life and I was charmed by her objective beauty. She would’ve been attractive if I’d met her in a bakery or at work. Her darkness was translucent. Russian authors praise blackness, but I think they mean black hair and eyes. Probably Nastenka, from White Nights, was a brunette with very pale skin and pit-dark eyes; a beautiful Snow White. But my heroine was blonde and gray-blue eyed, and still, she had the intensity of that pigment that absorbs all light and doesn’t reflect any; a black whole with infinite capacity for feeling and letting life in.

We walked in silence with no particular direction, but we walked decidedly, towards one aim: know each other. I guess you could call it hunger for knowledge, for truth: the truth about our causal meeting. We both needed silence to assimilate this fact: Life had introduced us to each other on a bridge. You could also call it simply magnetism, or peremptory attraction. At last she broke the spell by saying something. This something led to other questions and after a while we were learning about each other’s activities, our past and our thoughts about the world in general. The truth was forgotten for a while, but it was there, among us. It never crossed my mind to tell her I have a wife who waits for me at home every evening. I didn’t think it was relevant for our truth. She never asked either. It became apparent that she’d taken the lead when we stopped in front of a building and she started pressing the code on the intercom. The conversation was only interrupted when we climbed up the stairs, but then it was resumed. It was white noise; now I knew it. We both knew whatever we said at that moment was meaningless. I could’ve told her: “My wife is very different from you. She gives out a steady light, while your darkness dazzles me at the moment. But I know as soon I’m apart from you, I won’t be able to see your light; it won’t reach me anymore. I need to be at a fatal distance to see how beautiful you are.” We undressed delicately and I saw her paleness. We spent the whole night exploring each other. Even when I slept, I underlined the curves of her soul. Words are futile, but her soul: seeing it so bare and clear-cut; it was more than she could’ve said in a lifetime of feelings and thoughts. I knew her and she knew me, without knowing everything about each other.

I left as soon as the day dawned. My rummaging for clothes woke her up, and I said: “Go back to sleep, I’ll see myself out.” I hadn’t taken her phone number, but she didn’t seem to mind at the moment. She was so blissful that I didn’t want to tell her: “There’s no possible call I can make. My wife doesn’t need to know where I was, specially since she knows I should be in Warsaw, attending to that boring work conference, which I skipped because I don’t care about my career. I can pretend with her, but not with you. If I stay and tell you about my circumstances, there’s no way back to our outward realities. We’ll be trapped in this make believe that we both believed for a moment. And because we believed in it, it was more real than anything else in our lives. But I’m scared of being real. The truth won’t set us free; the truth will burn our flesh and leave our souls bare, exposed to the outward reality. And we’re only humans; let God hold the truth away from us, so we won’t hurt ourselves with it. Sadness is in the fact that we spend our lives looking for the truth, but we can never bear to hold it in our hands for long. But the glimpses of truth we see are pure joy. The fact that I met you and know that you are there, you exist, that’s pure joy. Let’s not ruin it by trying to make it real”


I'm a writer born in Argentina, but currently living in Poland. I work as an English and French teacher, translator and copywriter.

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