Close encounters of the second kind

I liked him at first sight. He was a tall and somewhat ungraceful man of crude and unusual features–as if his face had been left unfinished by the sculptor–suggestive of a sound yet silent character. We had met at a restaurant; actually he was the cook; and though sparing in words, we had stroken up a slow yet heartfelt conversation out of don’t remember what. To judge for the short time we had the chance to talk, I gathered he was, above all, a decent human being, such a rare specimen.
He mustn’t have had much work at that time, because, once I finished my meal and paid the check, he told me to go out for a moment and continue our chat while he had a smoke. Right on the doorsteps to the street, for a brief moment I thought I’d lost sight of hime, as if he’d vanished into thin air; but no: a second later there he was, barely minding his cigarette, staring at the street’s damp grey cobblestones, wet by the recent rain, or looking at the unmistakable indigo of the northern sky above the neighbouring houses’ low roofs. Though we hardly spoke anything, I felt his as a close and pleasurable company; a company I could’ve enjoyed more had it not been for that noise, that fastidious and demanding noise that seemed to gush from within my head with growing strength…
It was the alarm clock. I opened my eyes to an unfamiliar hotel room, Continue reading “Close encounters of the second kind”

The ‘Time passed away’ carol

villancicosWhen passing by the function room at the Orthodox Institute, the man hears a choir of child-like voices, and –curious– peeps through the laces of the glass doors. He sees a group of children rehearsing Christmas carols, conducted by a young teacher. Not that young, actually, but for the last few years almost everyone seems young to him, and this -he says to himself- can only mean one thing…
Ditching with a shrug such untimely trend of thought, he quietly opens the door and steals into the large room, takes a seat on one of the rear chairs and, unnoticed, listens to the rehearsal. The atmosphere is warm, absorbing, snug like a womb must be. Outdoors, behind the windows, some feeble snowflakes fall softly against the dark background, putting on the night a white Christmas touch.
After a few carols have been sung, and when the pure and innocent mouths of the children (they are indeed young!) intone the melancholy notes of Silent Night, two lonely tears roll down the man’s cheeks. But it’s not this carol’s particular sadness, by itself, what made those tears well up, Continue reading “The ‘Time passed away’ carol”

The cosmic connection

Dedicated to Andrada

It was years before my natural curiosity and my studies took me to tread the paths of science; before I had any interest in knowledge; it was in my early adolescence, when everything is yet to be discovered and the world, like an outdated conjurer, winks to us from behind its old tricks, that can only fool the children.
It happened to me only twice; just two times; but though four decades have elapsed, how could I forget?
It was the summer; one of those summers of my boyhood, so long they saw us grow, so full of events they became epochs. We used to go for three months to my grandparents’ village, a place where time, light and space took on new, different dimensions. The monotony of our classes, its didactic clock setting the hours and days in the city; or the geometry of desks, classrooms, streets and buildings squaring the scenes with their linear proyections, became suspended in the village, giving way to a changing and heterogenous space, where our spirit spread out in the limitless freedom the countryside and our holidays granted to us. Continue reading “The cosmic connection”

Christmas Eve among bums

It’s Christmas Eve. A big full moon, very round and white, shines on the pure black of a Polish night. I drag my Christmas loneliness, on an empty stomach, along the cold and deserted streets of Bialystok. What am I doing here? Nothing exactly. It’s just that — I’d like to have supper by the warmth of people, like everyone does.
But all shops and restaurants are closed. Not even the Turks open their kebab kiosks today, so I’ll have to return to my hotel room without dinner — and most of all without company.
Suddenly, the sound of some distant music comes to my ears, and thither I turn my steps. Three musicians are playing their instruments under a small marquee, and alongside them, warm food and hot tea is being handed out by a group of volunteers. Lots of bums gather around, filling up their bellies, then having seconds, and then again ask for one extra portion, so they can take it away to their slum dens.
I come closer and look over the counter to the nice-smelling food. I have some qualms, though, to profit from the destitute’s food, which is not meant for me. But upon turning my back for going away, a smiling lady welcomes me: ‘¡zapraszamy, zapraszamy! Jest barszcz, prosze pan‘. A bit ashamed of myself, I take the cup she hands me, full of hot borsh, and there I finish off the tasteful broth among the beggars. Suddenly I feel I’m one of them; they’re my kindred; for, what’s the difference between us? Sure, I could pay this food and they can’t; but the fact is, here we are, all together in the same place, homeless people sharing an unexpected Christmas Eve that the Church has brought to us: merry music and good traditional Polish homemade food: borszcz, pierogi, bigos, herbata
Indeed, this charitable little event is organized by the Catholic Church. Not by the social powers, nor by the always-complaining mobs, nor by the so-called ‘solidary’ groups or parties — leave aside by the anti-Christian trendy movement; no. Those, all of them, are now actually celebrating Christmas Eve with their families. Only the Church cares for us and sets up this munificent counter; the much criticized and opposed Church.
I talk to the lady in charge. I’d like to give them a few bucks I have in my wallet, to contribute, to reward at least the warm food, the hot tea, the music and the nice atmosphere; but she wouldn’t dream of taking my money: this is for free–she says–; but if you feel grateful you can thank the Lord. Ah, madam!, that’s exactly what I can’t…
Eventually, I walk back to my hotel. Sauntering along the cold and deserted streets of Bialystok, under this bright full moon, I’m just another vagabond returning to his den; a vagabond who has just spent Christmas Eve among his kindred.

Lately I’ve been thinking…

Opinions versus judgement

Much more important than opinions is judgement. Opinions — our takes on social or political subjects, our views, can be easily manipulated and may well have been instilled into us; we may have taken them from our parents, our teachers, our mates, media… too often from social networks. Judgement, on the contrary… our good sense, the ability to tell from plausible and deceitful, reliable from demagogic, to critically process the information we receive… judgment belongs only to us, is personal and inalienable.
A working judgement is the best forefather of healthy opinions. However, the opinions of those who don’t have a judgement are but the echoes of others’ voices. Continue reading “Lately I’ve been thinking…”