Sunday, 5th June 2005
The revived Jarocin festival is a big success, with ten thousand people listening to rock bands Dżem, Armia and TSA. The JP2 generation takes part in the annual prayer meeting at Lednica. Zbigniew Religa, cardiac surgeon and politician, has an-nounced that he will run for President and that he wants to be the “candidate for national reconcili-ation”. At the tenth anniversary “Aviation Picnic” air show held in Góraszka, two F-16 fighters are on display, prompting an enthusiastic response from the crowd. In Baku the Polish team thrash Azerbaijan 3–0, despite a poor display, and the Azerbaijani trainer beats up the referee. In War-saw, police distribute grisly photos of car-crash victims to drivers as a warning. In the suburb of Mokotów a number 122 bus catches fire, and on Ki-nowa Street an ambulance overturns while carrying a liver for transplant. The driver, a nurse and a doctor are taken to hospital with bruising, the liver is unharmed and is transplanted that same day into a patient at the hospital on Stefan Ba-nach Street. Maximum temperature in the capital – twenty degrees, with showers.
“Let me tell you a fairy tale. Long, long ago in a small provincial town there lived a carpenter. The people in the town were poor, they couldn’t afford new tables and chairs, so the carpenter was penniless too. He had a hard time making ends meet, and the older he got, the less he believed his fate could ever change, although he longed for it more than anyone else on earth, because he had a beautiful daughter and he wanted her to do better in life than he had. One summer’s day a wealthy gentleman called at the carpenter’s home. ‘Carpenter,’ he said, ‘my long lost brother is coming to see me. I want to give him a dazzling present, and as he is coming from a land that is rich in gold, silver and precious stones, I have decided to give him a jewellery box of extraordinary beauty. If you succeed in making it by the Sunday after the next full moon, you will never complain of poverty again.’ Naturally the carpenter agreed, and got down to the job straight away. It was unusually painstaking and difficult work, because he wanted to combine many different kinds of wood, and to decorate the box with miniature carvings of legendary creatures. He ate little, and hardly slept at all – he just worked. Meanwhile, news of the wealthy gentleman’s visit and his unusual commission soon spread about the town. Its citizens were very fond of the humble carpenter, and every day someone came by with a kind word and tried to help him with his woodcarving. The baker, the merchant, the fisherman, even the innkeeper – each one of them grabbed a chisel, hammers and files, wanting the carpenter to finish his work on time. Unfortunately, none of them was capable of doing his job, and the carpenter’s daughter watched sorrowfully as, instead of concentrating on carving the jewellery box, her father corrected all the things his friends had spoiled. One morning, when there were only four days left until the deadline, and the craftsman was tearing his hair out in desperation, his daughter stood outside the door of their cottage and drove away everyone who came by to help. The whole town took offence, and now no one ever spoke of the carpenter except as a boor and an ingrate, and of his daughter as an ill-mannered old maid. I’d like to tell you that although he lost his friends, the carpenter did in fact enchant the wealthy gentleman with his intricate work, but that wouldn’t be the truth. Because when, on the Sunday after the full moon, the wealthy gentleman called at his house, he drove off at once in a rage, empty-handed. Only many days later did the carpenter finish the jewellery box, and then he gave it to his daughter.”
Cezary Rudzki finished his story, cleared his throat and poured himself a cup of coffee from the thermos. His three patients, two women and a man, were sitting on the other side of the table – only Henryk was missing.
“So what’s the moral of the story?” asked Euzebiusz Kaim, the man sitting on the left.
“Whatever moral you choose to find in it,” replied Rudzki. “I know what I wanted to say, but you know better than I do what you want to understand by it and what meaning you need right now. We don’t comment on fairy tales.”
Kaim said nothing. Rudzki was silent too, stroking his white beard, which some people thought made him look like Hemingway. He was wondering if he should refer in some way to the previous day’s events. According to the rules, he shouldn’t. But nevertheless…
“To take advantage of the fact that Henryk isn’t here,” he said, “I’d like to remind you all that it’s not just fairy tales that we don’t comment on. We don’t comment on the course of the therapy either. That is one of the basic rules. Even if a session is as intense as yesterday’s. We should keep quiet all the more.”
“Why?” asked Euzebiusz Kaim, without looking up from his plate.
“Because then we use words and attempts at interpretation to cover up what we have discovered. Meantime the truth must start to take effect. Find a way through to our souls. It would be dishonest towards all of us to kill the truth through academic debate. Please believe me, it’s better this way.”
They went on eating in silence. The June sunshine was pouring in through the narrow windows that looked like arrow slits, painting the dark hall in bright stripes. The room was very modest. There was a long wooden table with no tablecloth, a few chairs, a crucifix above the door, a small cupboard, an electric kettle and a tiny fridge. Nothing else. When Rudzki found this place – a quiet refuge in the very heart of the city – he was thrilled. He reckoned the church rooms would be more favourable for therapy than the agro-tourism farms he had previously hired. He was right. Even though there were a church, a school, a doctor’s surgery and several private businesses located in the building, and the Łazienkowska Highway ran past it, there was a great sense of peace here. And that was what his patients needed most of all.
Peace had its price. There was no kitchen, and he had had to buy the fridge, kettle, thermos and cutlery set himself. He ordered the meals from outside. They stayed in single cells, and also had at their disposal the refectory, where they were sitting now, and another small classroom where the sessions were held. It had cross-vaulting, supported on three thick columns. It wasn’t exactly St Leonard’s Crypt in the Wawel Cathedral, but compared with the tiny room in which he usually received his patients, it almost was.
Now, however, he was wondering if he hadn’t chosen too gloomy and enclosed a location. He felt as if the emotions released during the sessions remained between the walls, bouncing off them like rubber balls, and hitting anyone who had the misfortune to be there on the rebound. He was barely alive after yesterday’s events, and he was glad it would soon be over. He wanted to get out of here as soon as possible.
He drank a sip of coffee.
Hanna Kwiatkowska, the thirty-five-year-old woman sitting opposite Rudzki, was turning a teaspoon in her fingers, without taking her eyes off him.
“Yes?” he asked.
“I’m worried,” she replied in a wooden tone of voice. “It’s a quarter past nine already, but Henryk’s not here. Perhaps you should go and check if everything’s all right, Doctor.” He stood up.
“I will,” he said. “I think Henryk is just sleeping off yesterday’s emotions.”
He went down a narrow corridor – everything in this building was narrow – to Henryk’s room. He knocked. No reply. He knocked again, more firmly.
“Henryk, time to wake up!” he called through the door.
He waited a second longer, then pressed the handle and went inside. The room was empty. The bed had been made and there were no personal belongings. Rudzki went back to the refectory. Three heads turned in his direction simultaneously, as if belonging to a single body. It reminded him of the dragons in children’s book illustrations.
“Henryk has left us. Please don’t take it personally. It’s not the first or the last time a patient has given up the therapy rather abruptly. Especially after such an intensive session as yesterday’s. I hope what he experienced will start to work and he’ll feel better.”
Hanna Kwiatkowska didn’t even shudder. Kaim shrugged. Barbara Jarczyk, the last of his three – until recently four – patients, glanced at Rudzki and asked:
“Is that the end? In that case can we go home now?” The therapist shook his head.
“Please go to your rooms for half an hour to rest and calm down. At ten on the dot we’ll meet in the classroom.”
All three – Euzebiusz, Barbara and Hanna – nodded and left. Rudzki walked around the table, checked to see if there was still some coffee in the thermos and poured himself a full cup. He cursed, because he’d forgotten to leave room for the milk. Now he had the choice between pouring some away or drinking it. He couldn’t stand the taste of black coffee. He tipped a little into the waste bin. He added some milk and stood by the window. He gazed at the cars going down the street and the Legia soccer stadium on the other side. How could those bunglers lose the league again, he thought. They won’t even be the runners-up – slaughtering Wisła and the 5-0 win two weeks ago were all for nothing. But maybe they’d at least manage to win the cup – tomorrow was the first semi-final against Groclin. Against Groclin, whom Legia had never once beaten in the past four years. It’s like another bloody curse.
He began to laugh quietly. Incredible how the human brain works – able to think about the soccer league at a time like this. He glanced at his watch. Half an hour to go.
Just before ten he left the refectory and went to the bathroom to brush his teeth. On the way he passed Barbara Jarczyk. Seeing him go in the opposite direction, away from the classroom, she gave him a questioning look.
“I’m just coming,” he said.
He hadn’t had time to put the toothpaste on his brush when he heard a scream.