by William J. Brazill
I downshifted and eased my BMW M3 rental among the pedestrians on Warsaw’s Rynek Starego Miasta. I did not worry that the street was closed to automobile traffic. The police in post-Communist Poland were as lax as everyone else here about rules that once would have been enforced ruthlessly. Here in the heart of Warsaw’s Stare Miasto, the Old Town, I gazed in awe at the elegant baroque buildings and vaulting medieval structures, an instant history recreated in precise detail to replace what the last battles of World War II had pulverized into ruins. Who could imagine these were not the original buildings and that this was not Warsaw as it always was? A world that belonged to itself as it was more than two hundred years ago yet was only an illusion of that world.
Then I saw her. A sudden flash in the spectral twilight. Imprecise, blurred, edges blending into the aura of Old Town. It was she. I knew it. Unmistakable. Her blond hair, the supple movement of her body, the sensuous strides, the texture of her presence, all instantly identifiable. As she disappeared into the crowd, I knew I had to follow her, catch up to her, embrace her, bring her back to what was, to what we had been together. I parked and ran to where I last saw her, but she was no longer in sight.
I sensed she must be going to the Klubo Kawiarnica. A place of past and present. A basement dance club with funky disco music and live freaky rock groups. The décor a splash of Communist chic raised to ridicule: busts of Lenin and Marx, 1950s propaganda posters urging Poles to labor for the goals of the Party. The gyrating dancers’ erotic movements a rhythm of scornful laughter at the country’s recent past.
Easing the doorman aside with a bribe, I laboriously pushed open the heavy wooden doors into Klubo Kawiarnica and waded into the mass of lithe bodies. Youth aflame in the mighty beat of mesmerizing sounds. Memories of even yesterday being obliterated in swaying unison. Closed-eye rhythms that communicated I-don’t-care attitudes. Mimes of forgetfulness. Lost or seeking to become lost. I searched for hours, but she was not there.
I spent the next two days scouring Old Town, but I could not find her. It was the same experience as when over the years I saw her near the Red Fort in Delhi, the Rialto Bridge in Venice, the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin. There, and suddenly gone.
I knew I would have to keep traveling and searching for her. I knew myself well enough to know that. Even as I suppressed the threatening awareness within me that I was seeking her as she was, not as she has become.
William Brazill lives in northern Virginia on the banks of the Potomac River, where he writes fiction and watches the water flow by. His most recent publications have appeared in Amsterdam Scriptum, LitBits, Powder Burn Flash, Hack Writers, Boston Literary Magazine, and The Barfing Frog.