The unlikely ones: Lesson for life

“Facebook is not Tinder!” she wrote back to me, getting overwrought over a trifle. Because in the cosmic train of events that led me to contact her, whether Facebook had a swipe right, swipe left function was completely irrelevant. I saw her profile by chance and wrote to her: vain impulse or destiny? All depended on her at that moment.

But there are people who can’t see the forest for the tree. They play it safe; they go for the clear-cut answers, as if life was a true or false test. I’ve never been a good student because to me life is not about right or wrong, but about desire and commitment. They don’t teach that at school; quite the opposite: They force-feed curricula that some musty people decided that are useful to you. By the end of high school, you’ve made no life-changing decisions. The school knows better than you. Your desires are vices to be uprooted, instinct to be straightened. The school doesn’t want you improvising in life; it wants reliable citizens capable of performing their menial civil duties. To work and pay taxes: to contribute to society. To look ahead, not to the sides, following the meritocratic rut. In any case, nothing is by chance. I came to Poland for some reason which I’m still to discover. Something draws me towards this country, the same as it draws me towards beauty in women and in literature. I consider myself an artist, but I’m not sure if order and progress need someone undermining one of the pillars of civilization. Education has been around since people stopped throwing stones at each other for a greeting.

Anyway, I don’t fight any relevant battles in the social change war; I just skirmish here and there. So there I was, trying to teach new tricks to an old dog. I understood her point; I’m old too and I don’t like surprises either. So little do I like surprises that when I go to a public bathroom and I see the toilet lid down, I just change toilet. But for the sake of humor, I answered her: “What are you? The Tinder plagiarism police?” and everything went down a very steep hill from there. She wrote: “Sorry, I don’t talk to strangers.” I’m short-tempered and my tolerance threshold for close-mindedness is very low, so I wrote: “You’re old and stupid.” “Excuse me?!” she wrote back. “Sorry, I meant to say: You’re too old to be so stupid.” I wasn’t sure how old she was, but she looked old enough to be allowed to talk to strangers, so I felt my words were justified. If she’d said: “Sorry, I’m not looking for new acquaintances,” I wouldn’t have reacted that way, but I’m intrinsically bothered by people who hide themselves behind rules. I believe life is too short to live it slowly, so I like speeding up the formalities and pass directly to the part where we hate each other.

I learned to speed up formalities from experience. I used to be friends with a very charismatic Italian elder man. He organized Italian meetings and even an Italian group lesson which I took part in. Maybe he commented a little too much about girls and desire during the lessons; I don’t remember exactly. But one of the two female girls in the group said, in Polish: “The hungry think of bread,” and they both laughed. He understood Polish, the same as I, so it wasn’t long till he understood the full meaning of her words. It was ignominious for a poor old man to talk about sexual desire. Those are the ways of the world, I learned that day: Scorn and hypocrisy. But he didn’t show offense and neither did I. As Jesus would’ve said: “Forgive them, God, for they know not what they do.” He died from cancer a year and a half later, back in his city in Italy. None of them went to visit him to the hospital; although the younger one went to visit him when he was healthy and she even caught the eye of an Italian man and accepted an invitation to sail on his yacht. But, after all, who would turn down an offer for innocuous entertainment? Who wouldn’t be shamefully hedonistic if there was no shame in it?

Oddly enough, we’re together now. After we broke the ice, she said: “You’re never too old to be stupid, the same as you’re never too young to be an asshole.” As you can imagine, a heated conversation ensued and by the end of it I was charmed by this woman. She, however, held our conversation against me for a while, turning down all my invitations to go out, and every time she found an excuse to say that the world was full of assholes. Her replies were hilarious because they didn’t make any sense sometimes. I would say: “Seems we’re having a nice whether today,” and she would answer: Yea, pity that the world is full of assholes.”  I didn’t feel alluded to at all. I even seconded her with phrases such as: “Yea, it’s a Darwinian tragedy: Assholes always survive.” I don’t have a tail of straw, as we say in Argentina, which means that I can go near the fire and not get burnt. Once I even teased her by telling her about a short story I was writing, though none of it was true. “A woman is fed up with her life and she starts taking it all out on the first passerby. Instead of choosing to be offended, he sees this as his destiny. Instead of insults, he sees a cry of despair and his heart melts for her.”  And her reaction was completely unexpected. She said: “She’s not fed up but deeply anguished, because she isn’t above it all like most people, but she cares and worries. He represents everything that bothers her about the world, and unhappily she can’t check herself and she bursts out in front of him.” And with that phrase she bought my heart. I told her: “Please don’t vulgarize my words by putting them in context, since I need to tell you that I really like you.”

She started giving in after that, till she accepted to meet. I’d never been so patient in my whole life. I’m a writer, so words are meaningless to me, but hers somehow raised my interest, so we managed to chat innocuously till her irritation wore out.


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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