English

LET’S TALK

Summer of 1974, Warsaw

Hi Andrzej,

Since we were not taught to tell with words, I thought to write. When we attended the kindergarten, we were given games, we were taught to play with other children in a group. And we played. We were taught that playing is acting. You will be the father, and I will be the mother, and they will be the children. But this game doesn’t mean that I can’t be the father, and you can’t be the mother, or the son, or the daughter. Or even the family dog. But we were not taught to say what we wanted while playing. Because if I had been the mother and you the father, it wouldn’t have meant that I really wanted you to be the father of my children.

When we got to grade 0, they started teaching us to write. And since the 1st grade, we were told write-write-write; read-read-read. And we wrote-wrote-wrote (the essays we were set) and read-read-read (stuff like Henryk Sienkiewicz´s trilogy etcetera).

We didn’t do anything else till we had to go to the university. Write essays; read books. Parents insisted on we had to attend piano lessons too. And Urszula tried to teach us some notes in the living room of her house. And we learnt some scales, to play easily three of four piano scores. Sometimes, we played piano – not really well- in family meals, to please our parents; to horrify the rest.

And in the university, all the essays that we wrote in that Fine Arts faculty. Almost always with the congratulatory messages of the teachers, Ewa, you write marvelously… Write. I wrote perfectly. Marvelously. But what is writing marvelously worth if there is nobody to tell about what you have written? You could have someone, but if the person in front of you is not going to understand what you want to say? Since grade 0 we were taught that literature is fiction. Otherwise, autobiography. But autobiographies are written when you are old. Not when you are at university.

At home we were not taught to speak. They didn’t tell us that souls are repaired through words. That people are shaped through words. That hearts get closer through words. My mum told me: wait. Wait. Wait. And we waited. But how long do we have to wait? Who do we have to wait for? What do we have to wait for? Why do we have to wait? Mother never specified. (I think that mother wanted to say: wait. The Prince Charming will come. But he never came. Perhaps because there is not any prince? We live in a communist republic! I believe that mother wanted to say: if you don’t wait, men will think that you are this kind of easy girls. That is, a prostitute. But what would happen if I became a difficult girl because of too much waiting?)

Mom told us that signs are “words”. And that we could know who loved us through signs. But signs can be interpreted as you want. And mom didn’t teach us how to solve hieroglyphics.

Suddenly, while you are walking, the man who is in front of you opens his arms, as if he wanted to close your way, and you think that it is not funny someone to be closing the way –less funny if he is a stranger-, and apparently he wants to say “come to my arms” and you dodge him – not to spit him.

Mother said to us that glances are “words” as well. But glances are exchanged. They don’t stop. And they don’t pronounce. And glances can’t be read. They go by. Go. Come. But they don’t stop.

And suddenly if somebody’s look stops for too much in your legs that has been showed to the sun, what he/she wants to tell you is “I would like to be the sun to caress those legs”, but the only thing that you understand is that you feel uncomfortable. Why didn’t I wear long trousers, shit!

We were not taught to speak, not at school, not at the university, not a home. They didn’t teach us to equal the differences between telling, thinking and feeling. We have seventeen different ways of saying a number, and not even a way to say the truth to the face.

Unexpectedly someone tells you “your eyes are wonderful”, when he/she wanted to say “I like you”. And you have to guess that the person in front of you likes you after hearing that you have wonderful eyes… and we were not taught to figure out that.

All of a sudden someone says to you “shall we smoke a cigarette?”, when she/he wants to say “I don’t want to be alone”. And you accept the cigarette invitation, you smoke it and you come back to the friends that stayed inside the bar, but you haven’t understood that the cigarette was a cheap excuse, that the invitation was an invitation for being alone you and the one who invited you.

And suddenly you tell somebody “if my mom saw me…”, when you wanted to say “I feel comfortable doing this”. But he/she doesn’t understand. And he/she stops kissing you, does up your flies, takes out his/her hand from your crotch, and says that your mom is right, that the street is not an appropriate place to do filthy things. But he/she tells you that he/she hasn’t got home, a bedroom to go with you. And you would like to ask to continue, that you are hot… but you don’t say anything.

You tell somebody “I can’t”, when you wanted to say “I want”. He/she tries to be comprehensible. He/she says that he/she understands you. That that’s life. He/she says to you what we are going to do about it. And you want to say: hey, you dumb, let’s practice sex! But you don’t say anything.

So, this was everything I wanted to say and I wrote. Everything that I couldn’t tell, but I could write.

You will receive the letter in a mailbox that has not your name and surnames on it, in a mailbox that is identified by the number of your apartment. The postman will ring anyone’s doorbell, since he won’t know which yours is. Why don’t we write our names and surnames on our mailboxes and doorbells? We hide the chances to speak behind numbers…

I don’t want to receive a letter from you as an answer. If you have to answer, set a date, and let’s talk. Once and for all, let’s forget to write… and let’s learn to speak…

Ewa.

P.S.: Forgive me for writing this letter on a decayed Sunday. But these summer days that look like fall days –cloudy, grey, with northern winds, in the living room of my mom- make me feel like speaking…

Ewa Kuryluk, "At the typewriter", from the series "Mother's room in Warsaw", 1975, autophotograph, curtesy of the artist
Ewa Kuryluk, “At the typewriter”, from the series “Mother’s room in Warsaw”, 1975, autophotograph, curtesy of the artist

LET GO

Hold on to me. Tightly. He asked her. And you did what he said. I am happy now. He told her. Facing the sea and you embracing me. It’s perfect. He confirmed. You, meanwhile, shall I let him go? You thought. And you didn’t see the sea because you had your back to it. All you could see was a white T-shirt. You smelled a landscape in which the smell of cologne was stronger than the salt sea. And even when you are not here, will you love me? He asked. Don’t be silly. You replied. I’m afraid. He said, looking at the sea. Why are you afraid? You asked. Because you may meet someone else abroad and won’t love me any more. He said, in all seriousness. That can happen here, too. You thought. That can happen here, too, can’t it? You pointed out. No, not while I am here. Distance puts an end to love, but I will love you even if you are far away on an Erasmus programme, he confirmed. Let him go, let him go, let him go. A voice deep down said to you. You heard it, but your arms continued in the same position as before. Your arms did not hear. I am happy now, here. He repeated. As if he would be happier by repeating the phrase over and over again. As if he would have to believe in that happiness. And you, are you happy here and now? He asked. You remained silent, thinking. Were you happy then and there, seeing a white T-shirt, as you hung from the neck of someone who is much taller than you, embracing him on tiptoes? You let him go and turned round to look at the sea.

Leire Galarza
Leire Galarza

 

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