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wtorek, 04 marca 2014

Funny how people meet. All these months I haven’t seen this guy before. He just shows up right on the other side from me and does what I usually do: dip in and dive, all the way across the pool, lap after lap, all the time, without stopping. It almost seems awkward: as if we were on a secret date that occurred totally unintentionally. It happened like few things ever happen in life, not even when all the careful planning, tiptoeing, arranging, compromising, pleading and oh-please-don’t-you-hurt-my-feelings-ing is executed in the most minute of details, and with the most carefully heartbreaking of efforts. Here we are: him and me, two slowly moving parcels of human flesh and thought, immersed in bluish fluid, passing each other smack dab in the middle point of the pool in an unusually well-orchestrated contrary motion. I go, then he goes; we pass each other in the middle like two trains, forever riding in opposite direction on eternally parallel tracks, never meant to cross each other’s way.


I almost feel like waving at him, but I don’t. I almost feel like smiling at him, but I don’t. It’s better this way: and as you all agree, it’s always tricky to show that one cares, isn’t it? If one does, before one knows that, one is putting oneself in a vulnerable position, doesn’t one? So here we go, shuttling to and fro, fully immersed in fluid, and fully immersed in being what we are, doing what we do. We dive and we emerge, each on their own track, each in their own thoughts. Sometimes each of us is coming from opposite side. Sometimes from the same side, and then I am racing him like crazy although it’s obvious that he is a much better swimmer -- and it makes me feel so much better about myself every time I manage to get to the finish line before him. No explaining is necessary and no discussions are held, no word exchanged; as if we agreed from the very beginning of this unusual encounter that Antoine Saint-Exupery is right, and speech is nothing but source of all misunderstandings. He does his thing, I do mine, in perfect harmony. And as we both know well, each of us is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by our bodies: that is the one of very few things to be sure of.


Am I attracted to this man? No. Do I long to know who he is, and what he does, what are his dreams like, where he is from, why is he here and/or what wine he drinks with his dinner? None of the above. I just think this is a most remarkable of miracles that we both are here. And I am so eternally grateful that for a few fleeing minutes I can get this one thing from a total stranger who encroached on me in my secret hiding place, a thing I don’t have any strength left in me to ask from the dearest of my friends. It almost feels like I knew him all my life without knowing him at all -- because for a brief moment I am certain that he understands this one thing I keep trying and failing to explain: how does this feel to be me.

środa, 11 września 2013
The end of summer, Bay Ridge
Do you realize it is our last summer here? – I asked R. today as we were sitting on a bench at the Bay Ridge promenade, watching the sun set over the milky-grey water and slowly disappear behind greenery of Staten Island. – And it’s ending. Our last summer here is ending.
niedziela, 19 maja 2013
Pavane for Dead Princess

It is considered a minor, lesser kind of love, the one that we have for our animals. Some may say it is but a fancy, born out of surplus comfort, overabundance and unfair privilege that surround the First World people, and thus there is something suspicious about it -- for how can one even afford it in the same world where there’s still famine, and illness, and poverty? So whenever it is spoken of, there’s this apologetic quotation marks hovering around the very word “love”, meant to ensure from the start that these partial to “real” passions of the heart -- parental love, filial love, love of God or love of one’s homeland -- would not get offended.

Yet, to me the fact that this affection is possible has always been a startling miracle. No other feeling known to humans takes us thus far, to the point of ultimate openness towards the totally alien -- where we decide to care deeply for creatures with which we have almost nothing in common. Us: living in the world of words and abstractions, surveying our surrounding from the heights of two-legged posture, with our sight always cast way ahead. Them: silent, driven by fugacious smells, attracted by weird tastes and strange noises; bound to experiencing the world on their fours, in eternal close-up. But once the spell is cast and the wild and the tame come together, it seems like all we do out of affection for these “lesser” creatures is most selfless, most purely humane of what we are capable of.

Thirteen years is a long time. This is how long my human-feline family has been together – and now that one member of it is gone, it’s hard not to feel the loss. It happened so quickly. I wonder if all cats die the way Chrissy died, tail first. She was still breathing – her pupils dilated into dark ponds of pure pain, her cheek pressed firmly against Robert’s warm hand – but as her head was still alive, the tail was turning limp and lifeless, as if she was pulled by it into the black air of a very different realm. There is something particularly heartbreaking in the way such helpless creatures die in one’s arms. Perhaps it’s the nature of this wordless bond between humans and non-humans – or is it guilt one feels for not being able to help them? – but in moments like this, all one feels is blind trust they project, hopeful that once again their people, the almighty providers of food and shelter, are going to save them.

There was Jaws playing on DVD in the cab that took us to the emergency vet clinic – not exactly the kind of mindless entertainment one needs when heading to a place like where we’ve been going. We only saw some twenty minutes of it. But you know what? I should have known right there that something was off. Remember this girl, who dies in the first scene, on the beach at dawn? Her name is Chrissy.

Strange how such loss feels somehow harder to take than ones of humans – colleagues, friends, family members: there were so many I have lost before. Perhaps the bond like this one, a relationship built without conversations and promises feels stronger because we want it to be perfect – no lies, ever; no bitter arguments; no ways for them to hurt us more than by an occasional stolen piece of forbidden food, or a new sweater that was peed on. Perhaps this is why we love them so much: because what we see in their eyes is what we want to see, a projection of our very human longings, somehow always slightly tainted with disappointment when we deal with our own kind.

So she was very sick, and we could not help her, the doctors could not help her – the decision was made, the injection executed, and now she was almost gone. Just a few minutes and then it was really over: our dear friend suddenly turned into small lump of dead feline flesh. We sat in the clean exam room for much, much longer, without talking or even looking at each other. Then they brought the cardboard box, strangely light and wrapped almost like Christmas present --and that was it.

In the undying words of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (deceased): So it goes.

It is a bitter irony that the letter arrived just a few hours earlier, summoning me, at long last, to take an oath as a newly-minted citizen of the citizen of U.S. of A. -- and there was this ugly little voice in my head, one I would not take heed to as I read it, saying that no country is really yours for real unless you allow the soil of this land swallow the bones of someone you loved.

So now I have these bones that make me belong here. I came home at last, but somehow feel lost perhaps more than ever. The pain will eventually pass, as all passes. I will be absorbed again by the grey world of constant rush and puny worries. Before this happens, though, I will savor the knowledge found in this sad moment. What I learned by losing her is it does not matter who it is that you feel connected to, nor how strange this connection may seem in the eyes of others. Whatever it’s made of, this shiny, fragile thread spun from creature to creature – even if it breaks, it’s incredibly strong and incredibly real. Love is the only thing that’s real. 

czwartek, 26 lipca 2012
A Movie Night, the Night After

There used to be nothing special about going to the movies on a Sunday night. After all, it was such a perfect time to catch up with the latest big Hollywood productions. The lazy last night of the weekend was just the perfect time to do that: slow and unassuming, the late Sunday night show at our local theater would usually attract few people. Most of the audience would consist of couples just like us: too busy to go on a school night, and too averse to big crowds to attempt squeezing in on a Friday or Saturday. We used to stroll through sleepy streets of our neighborhood and come at the last minute, just early enough to see a few hangover teenagers at the concession stand, one or two couples lined at the box office, perhaps a single family parading down the hall with their buckets and strollers. The shabby screening room awaited us somewhere at the end of a long, dusty corridor, still smelling of late Eighties and old popcorn. There was no drama and no rush as we made way to take our seats, just quiet anticipation, chitchat in low voices, occasional rattle of noisy plastic chip bags. Everyone would be sitting there, relaxed, waiting casually and carelessly for the movie to begin.

There used to be nothing special about the expression all of us tended to use sometimes: I am dying to see this film. It was, after all, just an exaggerated figure of speech, meant to express one’s unusual excitement. Nobody would consider anything wrong possibly happening to them when they go to the movies. The worst that could happen was a power failure that would prevent us from enjoying the current blockbuster – and even then, the tickets would be refunded, the theatre manager would come down and apologize to all, the gift certificates or free concessions would be promptly issued, no harm would be done other than a bit of soda spilled on the carpet as the audience members rushed towards the door. The movie theatre was as safe and familiar as your own living room -- just bigger, cooler and dimly lit by red “Exit” signs. You would bring your friends and your kids and your snacks. You would sit back, politely silence your cell phone and enjoy the show.

All of this is gone now, and we don’t know if for good. Since last Friday night, the experience of moviegoing all of the sudden is associated with police cars parked up front, and officers in plainclothes inspecting all arriving parties with professional contempt, and bathrooms locked during the show, and flashlights lit suddenly in the darkened room as dark silhouettes move up and down the aisle in search for suspicious activity. Of course the reason is big enough: in a small town in Colorado, people like us in a theater like ours were dying to see the new Batman movie and their innocent wish has cost them their lives.

I doubt it will ever become more comprehensible than it is now, less than a week after what happened in Aurora. I doubt any diligent investigations and most carefully conducted due process will ever bring us closer to understanding why. I doubt there is anything left to say more than what has been said already. None of it makes the horror less real, none of it brings the dead back to life – and sadly enough, as it was the case with other mass murders committed with the use of assault weapons, no one is going to change their minds about what seems to be the deepest underlying cause of what has transpired. I don’t know how to discuss this anymore without angrily raising my voice. All I know is the experience of going to see Dark Knight Rising was one of the most bizarre ones in my living memory -- and describing it in words is an uneasy task.

It was quiet enough before the lights went down, with all the usual dances transpiring on the floor – couples embracing, buddies chuckling, popcorn cracking, and cell phone screens glowing in the dim screening room. We just sat there, in the sixth or seventh row, in a theater unusually full by Sunday night standards. Everyone seemed as careless and relaxed as moviegoers usually are. It got darker, the chatter stopped, the previews began – all the usual stuff.

It got uneasy about ten minutes in, when one of the trailers from the night’s selection started – the film was titled Gangster Squat, if I remember correctly; it promises to be an action flick, set in the Prohibition era, with a stellar cast and beautifully stylized prewar sceneries, washed in a golden light. But there was a scene in the preview that brought all quiet conversations in the room to an abrupt stop, and ever since there was something in the air, something dark and suffocating but never fully revealed. As we are explained in the first part of this preview, the outlaw policemen are to conduct a brave mission in a movie theater; there’s much preparation and much tough talk. And then a group of armed men is shown, in the gleam of cinematic Roaring Twenties, as the fire endless rounds of ammo from behind the movie screen into the darkness behind it. The audience part of the room was never shown: no victims, no blood, no screams, no smoke -- all we saw was the gunners and holes in the white canvas before them, and rays of light bursting out as they keep firing and firing and firing. Brief and beautifully filmed as it seemed, it was just painful to watch.

But the action went on, as more comedies and action flicks and stylish dramas were advertised; then the room went totally dark and the main attraction started. From the first seconds I still trying to convince myself it will be just another movie night: two to three hours of easy mass entertainment, men in capes and tights, cartoonish violence, absurd plot devices, nothing to it. But it wasn’t business as usual. It just wasn’t. When we got about twenty minutes into the screening, it was finally crystal clear to me. My heart was racing, my palms were sweating as I was watching aerial kidnapping scene: the last scene of that Aurora screening. This silly, over-the-top action scene that defies laws of physics playing right there on the screen, was just impossible to endure when the thought I was trying to suppress with all my might finally came to the surface and made itself clear: so this is it; this is where it ended for them.

It was so intense that for a brief moment I thought I should get up and leave, but somehow I couldn’t. I sat through this scene, trembling, and through many more that came thereafter. It was a long movie, and not really worth discussing here. The show ended late, at almost 2 a.m., and we slowly walked home through empty streets into the humid Sunday night. And although the story left us rather disappointed, there was something that my husband said that really made my day. It felt good to see all these people come out like we did, he said. It almost felt like we had to. If we just stop going to the movies because of what happened, then this sick psycho f#$%er really wins.

poniedziałek, 16 lipca 2012
Parę słów o przeprowadzkach
Ogromnie mi się podoba "przeprowadzkowy" cykl, kóry publikuje na swoim blogu Ania "Magamara" Ready - więc tym bardziej mi miło, że Autorka zaprosiła mnie do udziału w tworzeniu go. Bardzo to ciekawie zobaczyć własne przemyslenia w kontekscie tego, co o wyprowadzce do innego kraju/miasta mówią inni - i fajnie po tylu latach mieć powoód, by na pewne rzeczy samemu spojrzec trochę uważniej. Wywiad ze mną w TYGLU można przeczytać tu.
wtorek, 22 maja 2012

Le Poisson Rouge – oh how I loathe thee, let me count the ways! You over-hyped and overheated little hellhole, full of overconfident people, with your nasty bar, serving the most disgusting by-the-glass wine my $10 can buy, with your messy re-entry stamps and your disggraceful two-items-at-the-table policy! But I had to come tonight, in the name of this magical evening last November, when I heard Jeremy Denk playing Hammerklavier – and I was awestruck, verklempt, charmed, enchanted, stunned – and head-over-heels in love.

So come I did, on this rainy Monday night, with my high heel shoes killing me (very bad idea if you’re in for standing-room-only admission), my Beethoven t-shirt suddenly so appropriate for the occasion, and with a great hope for just a bit of what I felt last time around. I heard the CD our soloist was about to promote on NPR’s First Listen, and liked it, but wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Jeremy Denk, after all, is the closest classical music has to a hipster: modern to the bone, eloquent, witty, cool – a concert pianist you can actually follow on Twitter. And I freakin’ hate hipsters, even if they can play Opus 106 so beautifully they almost make me cry. I noticed last time he is not free from mannerisms some people find annoying; I, for one, did not mind so far. At least not when he was playing Ludwig Van, and that was the plan for the evening. Well, for part of it.

The place was packed – almost as packed as the last time when I was there, for the amazing Górecki evening with Jack Quartet and Signal. The well-dressed older folks, the Julliard sirens, the Manhattan School of Music clarinet-class dandies – all of them were there, with their faces lit like moons from the glow of their IPhone screens as they tapped on them mercilessly, making status updates and check-in announcements for the rest of the wired world to know where they’re at. Sipping overpriced beers, munching on tasteless chicken nuggets, waiting for the celebration to begin.

It started half-comically, with the pianist shrinking in the blinding blue spotlight which make him look like glowing zombie and rendering the Ligeti Etudes score at the stand completely illegible. A short moment of commotion. Light turned softer. The music started. And it worked.

I am quite surprised how much I enjoyed these nervous, unpredictable pieces, with their sudden turns from raging forte to the most delicate pianos (which, for my money, Denk executed quite elegantly and with great taste). I enjoyed even more the intrusion (not quite an unexpected one, as the pianist mentioned before the music started that this is what he intends to do – insert an odd piece between the Fifth and Sixth of the Ligeti’s etudes) – a Liszt/Bach transcriptions of one of the Cantatas. Surprisingly well balanced mix: almost as good as what Uchida did in her Carnegie Hall recital few years back, setting Kurtyag against Die Kunst der Fuge. Throughout the set, the rattle of bar shakers never stopped, as if the mighty bartenders wanted to tell you that music is music, however sublime – but what people want is martinis.

So it came and went, impressive if not earth-shattering, elegant if not unforgettable. A short break followed, with more blinking phone screens lighting up some of the faces. The pianist returned. The music stand was removed from the top of the massive black Steinway, which barely fit the small club stage. Then there was finally silence, and the first C-minor chord of Opus 111.

I liked what he said about the piece, and how what late Beethoven really wanted to say was not really picked up until the 20th century because the 19th was not ready for it. I liked the tempo –considerate, respectful. I liked his touch, amazingly light in the pianos, powerful in fortes without even raising his wrists too high. Niiice. The first movement of this amazing 32nd sonata, the last piano piece by the greatest of masters, always seems too short for me, in every performance – but then the second one starts, and I am in heaven. This one drifted in and lingered, but then – oh man, I feel the bloodthirsty rage every second I recall that – then, just a few bars before this most amazing transition – the one when Beethoven pulls a total Scott Joplin on us and goes jazzy, peaking into the 20th century, like this monk on the Flammarion engraving, the one who stuck his head outside the limit of the earthy realm and saw the revolving celestial spheres – right THEN some moron turned on the huge A/C unit on and all I could hear was deep, imposing, machine-like hum over Denk’s subtle passagework. Believe me, you don’t want me anyplace near deadly weapons when something like that happens in a concert hall.

Thankfully, just before his jazzy passage begins the machine stopped, and the soloist was allowed to work his magic there. It was good: energetic but not overly cheerful , just as it should be, and I wanted to hear it again right away. This, however, you don’t do to in your theme & variations piece. The next section came, and then the next one. And just as I was about to start complaining that the earth was not shaking from those chords as much as I expected, there it came: the coda. So gorgeous you want to die right with it as it fades.

Oh, lovely. It was lovely, indeed. But only that. What stayed with me afterwards was not that much Jeremy Denk’s interpretation, however graceful and well-balanced – but the overwhelming timelessness of this amazing piece: if there’s anything capable to convince me of the immortality of the soul, it is late Beethoven. But unlike that November Hammerklavier night which left me breathless, this performance got me longing for this moment – maybe ten, maybe twenty years ahead from now – when I get to hear Jeremy Denk again, an aging man, playing the same sonata as seen from a totally different spiritual place. He is an amazing pianist, that is for sure, his musicality is as impressive as his skill, and he certainly has a deep intellectual understanding of every piece of music he gets to perform – who knows, perhaps he is a new Charles Rosen, a pianist-philosopher in the making. But he is not there yet. He is a 42-year old rising star, and for the best interpretation these late pieces require the sort of humility possibly unattainable for anyone who has not yet been afraid of sticking his or her head to the worlds outside this one. And that was what I was thinking, leaving the club, not waiting for the CD signing – I wanted out, as soon as I could, before the noise of clunking wine glasses and hurried voices would wipe out the last memory of this sublime last cadence. I left. The train came for me and took me to Brooklyn.  

There was a manic subway performer in my car, rattling his maracases and yelling I AM THE CAT IN THE HAT over and over again, and then preaching – because, apparently, that is what his god told him to do: to make noise on the train all night long. The feeling was gone. The memory of this magical last chord was gone. Suddenly all I could think of was that I lost a day of my own piano practice because I went out. And as much as I enjoyed the concert, it set me even further away from that day – should it ever happen – when I will finally be able to read Opus 111, and maybe, just maybe – play it. And this, all of the sudden, made me want to cry.

sobota, 07 kwietnia 2012
It must have been 1992 or 1993, the last year I have been still living with my parents; it must have been the end of March or the beginning of April of that year. It was Easter, and what you need to know is that usually by this time of the year my younger brother would turn into a family jester. It was fun to be around him. I will always remember this one time when Ma has send him out to buy a sugar lamb – one of these dreadful, corny things that have always been a mainstay of a Polish Easter: an indispensible addition to your Easter basket which, believer or not, everyone was supposed to carry to the nearest church on the Great Saturday, to be blessed by a local priest. In these years, way before the era of imported chocolate bunnies, every local warzywniak would stock these starch-and-dyed-sugar monstrosities before the holidays in all shapes and sizes. All of them were perfectly ugly and – what made them even more pathetic – despite high sugar content, completely and utterly inedible. My Ma could not imagine an Easter without one of those things. She would buy one every year and stick it right in the middle of the other clumsily arrangement foods in your basket – the ugly piece of moulded sugar, stuck somewhere between all the hand-dyed eggs and the festive salt dish and a miniature babka you were so not supposed to eat. My brother stepped out to get the medium-size sugar lamb he was instructed to acquire, and as he came back, he handed over two Easter sugar lambs back to my stunned mother. – Why would you buy two? – we inquired, and he gave a simple and utterly logical answer that totally cracked us up: because they only had small ones in the store. I do not remember ever laughing so hard in my life.

So it was Easter again, and armed with plethora of sugar lambs in our basket, off we went, to the church, for the blessing ceremony – there was one every hour, held in a lower level of the ugly, oversized, concrete local church. No one would ever ask you if you wanted to go: you used to go when you were little and then the precedent would just continue into years to come; you just went, and everybody you ever knew went as well. It had nothing to do with any faith or lack thereof, or with any respect for the ritual or lack thereof: you just went because your mother has told you to, and as the youngest in the family you were somehow presumed to enjoy this. Which you did, perhaps, until the age of seven or so – you would just grow out of it naturally like you do grow out of your kiddie short pants; but unlike children’s clothes, rituals do not wear out easily. So like any other year – we went, just the two of us, in our late teens, carrying our carefully decorated basket with eggs and sugar lambs and babkas and kielbasa and all nine yards.

It was a short walk from where we lived, and the road would take you across the space filled tightly with almost identical, six- or seven stories high apartment buildings of the ugliest possible kind – one of these gray, concrete suburban Warsaw neighbourhoods build in the early 1970s. From afar, we could see a stream of people trickling down slowly in the same direction – mostly children escorted by parents, swinging their wicker woven baskets filled with hand-painted Easter eggs which, when finally uncovered and displayed in the church, would turn out so much prettier then these pathetic ones you have spent the entire night decorating. We were almost half way there, and it was getting crowded the closer we got, people from all over being drawn by the church’s peculiar gravity. It was almost a done deal that this trip will end up like all other such trips before, with us reaching the cold, damp interior of the lower church and spending twenty minutes of our young lives crowded among uneasy parishioners, fidgeting about in the crowded space. But then something happened.


It’s not like it has been discussed. It’s not like it has been planned. There wasn’t even a wink, a word, a sign, a sight. As we were approaching the last local deli on our way, literally three hundred yards away from the church, we just looked at each other and made a turn into a different direction. The blacktop road would veer towards the local school, deserted now, and its soccer field, still gray and covered with last years’ brown dead grass. There was no one there. We came in, we sat on a small hill behind the shabby goal gate with no net in it, and stretched our legs in the sun.

The day was warm with the warmth of these early spring days in Eastern Europe, the warmth I have never experienced since. The air smelled of freshly sprouted grass and warm soil, first dandelion flowers opened up just a day or two before. We looked into each other’s eyes again, my brother and me, and as if the act of disobedience and transgression we just committed would have not been bad and rebellious enough -- with no word about it, we lit our cigarettes.

We sat there for a while, smoking and staring into empty soccer field – and then a few minutes later just like that, without discussing it, we stood up and walked away towards our home. There was no question as of what we were going to say – from the very first moment of this silent conspiracy we just knew were going to lie about the whole thing, improvise something about boring speech and fidgety crowds and crying babies, and then just have another family Easter. We were going to hell for this, and we were both in this together.

No one has ever found out.

It took me years to realize it was the best Easter I ever had. I never told this story to anyone and neither did my brother: we both kept our silent pact about it, but we never had a chance to try this trick ever again. I moved out this very Christmas; I think next Easter my mother has finally decided not to bother with this shtick anymore. It took me leaving for another country and never coming back home for this holiday, and him dying a stupid and unnecessary death a few years later for me to finally recognize this moment for what it was. And I can see all this, as if I was there again – the younger, slimmer, sillier version of myself, on an Easter Saturday in a country that is no longer mine, with the brother I no longer have, smoking a cigarette I would no longer enjoy. I would love to go out and look for that place, that field, that spot. Perhaps we are both still there, sitting in the April sun, puffing away on our forbidden cigarettes, freezing our teenage asses on the damp cold ground, careless, drunk with joy, and immortal.

niedziela, 16 października 2011
Confessions of a Reluctant Occupier
(Wybaczcie, tym razem musi byc po angielsku...)
piątek, 03 czerwca 2011

NYC - Mindrelic Timelapse from Mindrelic on Vimeo.

sobota, 23 października 2010

Jeślibym kiedyś była tak zamożna, by móc mieszkać, gdzie tylko zechcę –w dowolnym zakątku Miasta, choćby nawet w najbardziej ekskluzywnym sąsiedztwie, w najbardziej obłędnych luksusach – nie mam wątpliwości, co bym wybrała: pokoik z dwoma wysokimi, łukowato zwieńczonymi oknami, na samym szczycie masywnego budynku z czerwonej cegły na rogu 7th Avenue i 57th Street. Okolica przykra – bo tłum, ruch i hałas, zieleni ani na lekarstwo; widok niepiękny, i sam budynek z zewnątrz niepiękny – zwłaszcza teraz, kiedy cała fasada od strony 57th pokryta rusztowaniami – ale i tak nie znam lepszego miejsca. Bo co to by była za frajda, codziennie patrzeć na gęstniejący wieczorami tłum na rogu i móc w każdej chwili zbiec po schodach i dołączyć do nich – do ludzi, spieszących na koncert w Carnegie Hall.

Tłum pod drzwiami jest zawsze, przed każdym koncertem; nawet dzisiaj, mimo, że to dopiero jedenasta rano, pora, o której większość bywalców dopiero budzi się do życia. Senne jeszcze, schowane przed lodowatym październikowym wiatrem za połami pięknych trenczy i kaszmirowych szali kulturalne towarzystwo wlewa się leniwie za przeszklone drzwi, do hallu wyłożonego jasnym marmurem, gdzie odźwierni w liberiach i bileterzy w czerwonych uniformach strzegą podwojów najsłynniejszej sali koncertowej świata.

Już za bileterami całkiem inny świat, inna pora dnia, a może nawet inna era: wnętrze nieznacznie rozświetlone miodowym, ciepłym światłem, kandelabry, złocenia i czerwony aksamit – wszystko od progu buduje nastrój z innego czasu, z innej, mniej nerwowej, mniej pospiesznej, mniej przesiąkniętej blichtrem epoki. Na parterze szemrają w kuluarach eleganckie starsze panie i panowie; większość z nich ma miejsca na parterze, tuż przy orkiestrze. Przyćmione światła. Przytłumione głosy. Pachnie drogimi perfumami i dziewiętnastym wiekiem.

Na ścianach korytarza wiodącego do kawiarni wiszą oprawne w proste, eleganckie ramy autografy: Rachmaninow, Dworzak, Boulez, Bernstein… Między balladą Petera Seehera a fragmentem z bodaj American Berzerk Johna Adamsa bardzo pożółkła kartka papieru nutowego, zapisana czyjąś nerwową ręką, niecierpliwie gryzmolącą nuty bardzo grubym, chyba stolarskim ołówkiem: na ramie mosiężna tabliczka, z której można się dowiedzieć, że te neurasteniczne nuty rozrzucone po pięcioliniach to fragment szkicu do Zwycięstwa Wellingtona, a bazgroły wyszły spod ręki Ludwiga van Beethovena. Jakaś parka przede mną – nobliwi, w średnim wieku – zatrzymuje się przed autografem i stoi przez nienormalnie długą jak na dzisiejsze standardy chwilę, milcząco kiwając głowami.

Czas na salę: przede mną nieskończenie długa wspinaczka nieskończenie długimi schodami. Windy są, owszem, ale o każdej porze szczelnie wypełnione gromadkami eleganckich starszych państwa; toteż młodsza lub bardziej niecierpliwa publika – zwłaszcza ta z biletami na najwyższe dwa piętra – zwykle gramoli się po schodach. Nieznaczna zadyszka, z jaką zwykle docierają na właściwy poziom, niezmiennie – i jakże słusznie! – przypomina o konieczności powrotu do zbyt często zaniedbywanego dziś ideału kalokghatii.

Na szczęście w tej sali nie ma złych miejsc; wszystko wspaniale widać i słychać nawet z tych na samym końcu, w ostatnim rzędzie u szczytu górnego balkonu, gdzie jest stromo jak na górskiej perci i gdzie każde spojrzenie w dół przyprawia o zawroty głowy. Na szczęście dziś nie muszę wędrować tak wysoko.

Dziwny i ciekawy to tłumek, ci ludzie, którzy jak ja przyszli tu, by zacząć dzień z Mahlerem. Wypomadowani dandysi, piękni i przybywający pod dwóch, miękkim krokiem. Piękne młode Azjatki o wiotkich ramionach, zwykle u boku dużo starszych mężczyzn. Zasuszone dziedziczki zapomnianych fortun, drobnymi, ostrożnymi kroczkami sunące ku swoim lożom na pierwszym piętrze. Samotni mężczyźni w garniturach z szarej flaneli, w mahlerowksich okularach w cieniutkiej drucianej oprawie, zwisających na czubkach dumnych mahlerowskich nosów. Ruchliwa i hałaśliwa wycieczka z jakiejś szkoły średniej, wlewająca się ciżbą na parter, zajmująca każde wolne miejsce wokół srebrnogłowych wysepek, uformowanych z grupek eleganckich starszych państwa. W półmroku widowni pobłyskują tu i tam sine ekrany telefonów.

Gong, ostatnie niecierpliwe wędrówki wśród wyłożonych aksamitem foteli, ostatnie cichnące szepty; zaraz potem drzwi po lewej stronie sceny uchylają się: najpierw nieznacznie, potem szerzej – i wychodzą zza nich muzycy petersburskiej orkiestry Teatru Marijnskiego. Młodzi, wielu młodych. Smukli trębacze. Piękne skrzypaczki. Eteryczny timpanista. Przystojna wiolonczelistka. Siadają; obój mówi im „A” i w chwilę później są gotowi na przybycie swojego dyrygenta. Drzwi znowu otwierają się i, gorąco oklaskiwany, wychodzi z nich Walerij Abisalowicz.

Dziennikarze okrzyknęli go „dzikim człowiekiem muzyki poważnej” – ale kiedy maestro Giergijew stoi przed swoją orkiestrą, nie widać w nim dzikości. Jest zwinny i prosty jak trzcina, skupiony; jego gesty są na początku tak subtelne, tak nieznaczne, że aż dziw, że orkiestra w ogóle je dostrzega. Tylko niesamowicie długie i białe palce prawej dłoni, wzniesionej na wysokość twarzy, trzepoczą nieustannie, z niemal kolibrzą szybkością – jakby na końcu każdego z nich zaczepiona była niewidoczna nitka, za którą ostrożnie, leciuteńko będzie wyciągał ze swoich muzyków kolejne nuty Piątej.

Zaczyna się pięknie i pewnie; nie każda orkiestra miałaby odwagę grać Mahlera w Nowym Jorku tej samej publiczności, która niespełna dwa tygodnie temu na tej samej sali oklaskiwała legendarnych Wiedeńczyków – ale ci muzycy to pierwsza światowa liga i słychać to od pierwszych taktów. Płyną miękko i z wielką elegancją przez pierwsze dwie części; potem zaczyna się Scherzo, publiczność kiwa się leciutko w fotelach w rytmie tanecznego tematu – aż nagle, niespodziewanie nawet dla tych, co znają tę długą i burzliwą symfonię na pamięć, nadchodzi ten moment, gdy wszystko przycicha jak po burzy, a ze sceny dobiega tylko cichuteńkie, niematerialne skrzypcowe  pizzicato. Siedzący koło mnie ponury człowiek o wyglądzie mordercy z niskobudżetowego japońskiego filmu z osłupiałą miną odkłożył na kolana program: teraz już było jasne, że zdarzy się coś niezwykłego.

A przecież wiedzieliśmy, co będzie dalej: jak informuje program, teraz część czwarta, w F-dur, instrumentacja na harfę i smyczki, czas wykonania około dwunastu minut. Słyszałam to słynne Adagietto dziesiątki razy – z płyt i na koncertach, z filmowych soudtracków: wydawało mi się, że niczym mnie  już nie może zaskoczyc  ten eteryczny, nieskończenie tęskny i słodki motyw, który jakimś cudem uniknął jeszcze fatalnego losu ilustracji dźwiękowej do łzawego romansidła – lub, co gorsza, do reklamówki śmietanki do kawy. Myślałam, że jest ckliwy; myślałam, że mnie nie rusza. Ale kiedy smyczki i harfa Mariinskiego zagrały, zaśpiewały po rosyjsku – coś się stało. Coś, czego nie zapomnę. Coś, czego wspomnienie do teraz ściska za gardło. Czas stanął w miejscu, wypełniając się wspomnieniem wszystkich dobrych rzeczy, jakie kiedykolwiek mnie spotkały, wszystkich pięknych snów, wszystkich nadziei, wszystkich tęsknot. Nie wiem, ile dokładnie to trwało; na pewno za krótko. Wiem tyle, że słyszałam doskonale, jak w momencie, gdy wybrzmiewał ostatni, niematerialny, eteryczny dźwięk – prawie trzy tysiące ludzi zebranych w Perelman Auditiorium wstrzymało oddech.

Dalej był, jak nietrudno zgadnąć, finał, wspaniały, i brawa, masa braw – i uradowani trębacze, szczęśliwe skrzypaczki, i maestro kłaniający się ze swoim kocim wdziękiem, który trochę przypomina mi Karajana. I koniec, i długi spacer schodami w dół, i ostre światło październikowego dnia za drzwiami. I wiem już, dlaczego tak rzadko grywa się taką muzykę w środku dnia. To naprawdę nieznośne, musieć wyjść i iść z głową pełną takiej muzyki nie w ciszę i ciemność – ale w miejski młyn, w nieznośny cyrk, jakim w dzień jest Midtown, w uliczną przepychankę, w gwar rozmów o niczym, w natrętny muzak na ruchomych schodach. Tym bardziej boli świadomość, że to była chwila, jaka zdarza się raz na milion chwil, i teraz przyjdzie tęsknić za nią przez całą długą zimę, a może dłużej – nadaremnie próbując znów zawędrować w miejsce, gdzie brzmi zawieszona w bezczasie ostatnia nuta Adagietto.

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