By William Markiewicz
I saw this "true man" and "true woman" at the airport. She was such a "Barbie Doll" that she seemed to be more a menu than a person. Everything was consumable in her. She, obviously happy with herself, talked and smiled looking constantly at her lord and master. It was as if, for example, spaghetti started to talk to its consumer. He, living in a settled predictable universe of sex, career, money and social status took it for granted.
I met an Arab child, somehow mentally retarded, institutionalised, who could read. This may not seem very special but as I knew that children in the Orient sit on the floor around the teacher and must be able to read upside down as well as right side up, I turned the text. The boy continued to read easily, something children with normal intelligence wouldn't be able to do in the West. How many whippings must the kid have gotten before somebody realized that he was handicapped? Circus people know what kind of miracles can be achieved by barbaric training.
I saw beautiful models of elegant, feminine shoes drawn by an illiterate construction worker. He only showed them to friends and had no idea of the right places to present them. Another friend, of the same background, played me a wonderful piece by Brahms on the mouth organ, over the telephone. Still another, a city garbage truck driver and self taught poet, wrote in Polish lines like this (too bad I cannot translate the rhyme and the rhythm):
He walked aimlessly on the streets
Talking to himself in a frightening way
And he prayed in all the chapels
Such for him was this life
How many are the unknown geniuses, dying after an unfulfilled life? Jung believed that value always has its reward and guilt, its punishment. Meaning that in Jung's world there is such a thing as historical justice. On which planet?
I saw this couple often on the street. He, huge, old, built like an armoured vault, his hands like pails, very intimidating, and blind. The little girl was his guide, she seemed to be his only contact with the outside world. I don't remember if he was begging, playing some instrument, or if they were simply taking a stroll. The importance lies in the unbelievable disparity of this couple and in their relationship. I remember how they played -- she seemed to tease a big bear, and he showed his contentment with mouth wide open, like a child. And he could literally have smashed her with one hand. Was she his granddaughter? Had she ever gone to school? Anyway, in today's world, obsessed with sex, this wonderful contact, this reciprocal feeling, might not be possible, nor even allowed.
Two old cleaning women were walking on a Parisian street with their brooms and equipment. When one opened her mouth to speak the second started talking as well. They knew the topic so well that they didn't need to listen to each other. The warm feeling of familiarity, not information, was the goal. Their conversations like their movements, from centuries and generations, must always have been the same.
Today I saw a 'vagabond' on the street. Her gaze plunged inward, to her own world, and for the outside world there was a slight smirk on her lips. Had she ever found a wanderer to stick by her, to sit near the fire, to share the world?
In southern France near the Italian border I was a passenger on a bus. The uniformed ticket controller, a typical local character -- short, fat, jovial -- told me that he was a 'meteque', an insulting French word for the immigrant. In a perfect Southern French accent he told me he had lived in this place for 20 years. "If I had only known what awaited me here I would never, never have come," he was shaking his head. "And where are you from," I asked. "From there," he pointed with his finger through the bus window where a church steeple rose from a village on the other side of the border, less than a half mile away.
I was in this restaurant and nearby sat a couple. Even if they hadn't been nearby I would have noticed them because there was something odd about them. First, the man was much too loud, not in an aggressive way but what he was saying publicly was unbelievable. Was he stoned? It was simply silly and he was silly looking. Though probably past 40, he wore his shirt unbuttoned to show his chest hair and a heavy gold chain like an Italian teenager. He played 'macho-man' in the lowest way possible to the lady sitting in front of him. For instance, she encouraged him to eat more and he answered, with mouth full:, "Don't worry, I'm strong enough for what you want from me." She constantly smiled. She was more or less of the same age, well groomed, well dressed, she looked like a lady but obviously enjoyed the situation so I thought I was simply in the presence of two low characters. The bizarreness was enhanced by the fact that I could feel the guy was a 'lamb', probably even a nice person. I would have trusted my child with him and his rough pseudo-sexy remarks sounded empty and phony -- he was a phony-tough.
At the end of the meal he made a vulgar gesture that he was going to the washroom and both were laughing as if about a good joke. While he was away she asked the waiter for the check. The waiter knew her and he said, "How are you bella?" She answered, "Now you see why I like to come here: here I'm called 'bella' and the lights are dimmed." Then I understood that she was intelligent and that this was her way of life, picking up gigolos. But this gigolo was a pathetic character and her 'smiling' attitude was that of the tigress playing with her prey. She despised him, she was cold blooded, coldly cruel. In bed she would put him down, challenging his manhood to the point of heart attack. How sorry I was for him, if I could only warn him! I wonder if he is still alive ...
I went to a doctor in a fancy Paris neighbourhood. I needed a certificate after an accident. In front of the building, an old man sat on the sidewalk leaning against the wall, definitely a street person but he looked more like a philosopher in some old illustration: spiritual face, long white hair and beard, clean, withdrawn into his own universe. He looked like an ascete outside his grotto. On entering the doctor's office I met this eloquent, authoritarian, elegant man who embodied three personalities -- doctor/lawyer/politician. He was efficient; he had asked me to come again and when I came back he was too full of himself to remember me. He and the 'hermit' outside were from opposing universes, dogmas, philosophies. How they would despise each other if they came in contact. Who was right -- the man of matter or the one of spirit or perhaps dreams? We might as well ask which fish is right, the one that swims near the surface or the one swimming at the ocean's depths.
I was in the doctor's waiting room in a modest Paris neighbourhood. An old woman with a complexion like heavily wrinkled paper emerged from the doctor's examining room. Her face was as immobile as a mask. Only one tear rolled down her cheek. To the younger woman who helped her she said in German: "Ich habe gewusst das ich habe Krebs!" (I knew that I had cancer.) Her daughter, smiling, answered her in Polish, using the syrupy tone of a mother to a difficult child (they were probably Polish Jews). There was no feeling or sentiment in her voice; she was not surprised at all. Certainly she had already heard the verdict from the doctor and she was counting the days until her mother's death. The mother's tears stopped almost immediately and she maintained her masklike nonexpression. She was probably used to being alone. In my thoughts I addressed her daughter, "Just wait: when you are her age your children will do the same to you." Or perhaps her mother was not sensitive to her when she was a child and now she was paid back for it. Perhaps a family tradition for generations.
There was a fellow, middle-aged, promoter or manager or the like, with his little child of about five years old, obviously 'late fruit.' The kid sometimes looked at his father, calling, "Daddy! Daddy!" And Daddy didn't even notice his existence. It was as if the wind was blowing. The kid couldn't earn money yet, so why pay attention to him?