The unlikely ones: Just flesh and bones below

I’m passing by Stary Browar’s parking lot. There’s a traffic light always in red, although no cars enter or go out. I jaywalk as usual. I don’t blame them, I’d do the same if I was rich. I’d put a traffic light on my driveway and set it always in red. It would eventually turn green for a couple of seconds, just like every other traffic light for pedestrians in Poznań, so the mass of people accumulated in front of the red light can push its way to the other side of the road, just like an avalanche of Muslim pilgrims in Mecca. What about the poor old ladies? you ask. Maybe you don’t know Polish old ladies, then, I answer. Beneath that skinny appearance, lies a body full of sinew. How many times has an old lady bumped into me in the street, making me lose my footing and once almost breaking one of my ribs with her sharp elbow. It seems that cold is to old ladies what heat and pressure is to carbon; it turns their muscles into diamonds. But I wouldn’t forget about the police; I’d also put some big garbage bins on the side of the road so they can waylay their victims.

I get to the cinema. She isn’t here and the movie starts officially in ten minutes, though there’s half an hour of commercials before. I sit and read my notes on my phone while I wait. “We’re only flesh and bones below,” I don’t remember what I meant when I wrote this sentence. But it reminds me of a phrase she told me a few days ago. I liked her smell and I asked whether it was perfume or just her after shower natural smell. She said: “I wasn’t born smelling like Chanel, you know?” I cracked up laughing. Her phrase is so useful. Next time someone asks me at a bar: “bottled beer or on tap?” I will answer “Do I smell like Chanel to you? On tap!” Good phrases are universal. No matter that the contexts from which they came were restricted, their meaning have the ability to change your whole worldview. Anyhow, “we’re just flesh and bones below”. It also reminds me of that time when my mother was angry at my father and said to him “You ruined my life.” Actually, that’s what real love looks like to me: One that ruins your life. It’s easy to love when you get a profit out of it: When you have fun and you grow personally, economically or socially. But real love is when you give up your personal happiness for a higher goal: A family. As Jesus said: “Love your enemies… If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” Apparently, Jesus wasn’t a fan of ZUS either, but that’s not the point here. The point is that love is not for profit.

But we’re all just flesh and bones below. I remember once I sent my favorite Argentinean rock song to a Polish girl. She was a professor in Spanish and I spoke the language with her, even though I always prefer to speak Polish. I just liked her too much and I was happy that she would understand the song. She didn’t answer, so I sent her another one, just in case the first one wasn’t to her taste. She didn’t comment on that one either, and what I hate the most in the world is indifference, so I asked her what she thought about them. She said “They’re awful,” in the customary, brutal-honesty Polish way. I thought “What a pity to learn someone’s language just to scorn their songs.” I’m not saying she needed to like every Spanish song, but I saw in her a positivist general attitude. She’d dissected Spanish and studied it as an anthropologist studies African tribes. She’d objectified it and therefore she put no value in its aesthetics. She collected words as an archaeologist collects ancient pottery, not for their aesthetic but for their scientific and historic value. That’s why I generally avoid going out with girls who’ve made a career out of my mother tongue; because I don’t want to be attractive because of my circumstances or achievements but because of my beauty and values. I’m a romantic; I want to be with someone with whom I have nothing in common but the primeval urge to love.

But the Chanel girl isn’t perfect either. To start with, she’s thirty five minutes late, which means we’ve missed five minutes of the film already. She texted me that there was a traffic jam, and it’s woman’s day, so I shouldn’t be upset at her, but I am. I’m generally upset at waste of any kind, even if it is just a movie. Anyway, here she is and I give her a rose and we enter the movie theater. It’s women’s day, so they play Całe Szczęście in all the seances.  The rose is compulsory by the way; they sell it at the entrance of the cinema if you don’t have one. I see the faces of men sitting at the theater. In their countenance, the resignation of an hour and a half of their lives to melodramatic boredom. Some sparkles surely flickered in their eyes during the trailer of the new Marvel movie, but the trailer ended a long time ago and gloominess pervades their faces again. I hear a Spanish girl say to her Polish guy in Spanish “Change your face of wake. To be gloomy, you could’ve stayed home.” “Can I go then?” he says and she answered: “You’re not going anywhere!” she closes the argument.

During the film, women resort to various methods to keep their men awake. Pinches are the most common currency, but a guy has dozed off so many times that his woman just gave him three fast blows on the back of the head with a bunch of six roses. Some of the petals fell off, but she achieved her goal: He sits straight, his eyes on the screen. He doesn’t even dare to rub his head. I look at the Chanel girl who looks knowingly back at me. She also has a rose and I have been silly enough not to nip its thorns. I decide to really focus on the movie. The protagonists are arguing. He says to her: “You pretend to be happy with this peculiar smile you put on in every one of your photos. You do meditation to forget that you are alive and that you can’t cope with yourself. You’ll find another man who will match your demands. You’ll have what you want, but a real smile and happiness, I don’t know if you’ll ever achieve that. Goodbye then, but I really wish you could learn to live at last.” Before he finished that sentence, she grabbed an ashtray and threw it, bull’s eye, to his forehead. He loses his balance and falls to the floor and she grabs an empty vase and breaks it on his head. Then she smiles while she takes a selfie with him lying on the background. She shows the picture to him saying: “Don’t fool yourself, the smile looks fake but it comes from genuine joy.” And she leaves the scene. The women in the theater, who were laughing at the scene, now cheer the exit of the heroine. In the following scene, another suitor appears in her life, while there are quick shots of the previous guy looking at her picture and crying because he misses her. “Life is not black and white,” she says in the end of the film “but grayish areas are for cowards.”

When the movie is over, I walk her to her house. We’re only flesh and bones below. It’s time to say goodbye and she reminds me she hasn’t slapped me yet. There’s no women’s day without a slap on the face of your beloved man. So, I offer my cheek and shut my eyes. I wait ten seconds for the slap; then I wait ten more seconds because I’m afraid she’ll slap me as soon I open my eyes, to inflict more psychological damage. In the end, I accept my destiny and open my eyes. She smiles at me. She kisses me. We’re only flesh and bones below, but she’s something else. She’s made from stardust. The day is almost over. Tomorrow women go back to be just flesh and bone below, all but the Chanel girl.


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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