a story by Krzysztof Sowiński, my translation
They stood in front of me… Aiming at me with their automatic arms.
It was just like a film. We’ve seen such sights so many times that, instead of being petrified, we raise our heads higher and higher, driven by curiosity and disbelief this has happened to us, when it actually happened. And that’s a mistake.
They were aiming with one of those most up-to-date machine guns that a man has ever invented to harm another man. Such guns aren’t carried by ordinary bobbies. Those mates were probably in their forties (about my age), not any squirts just starting their ‘career’ in the elite unit.
But… unlike many of their peers, who already had enormous bellies and awkward slow motion and made up for neglecting their bodies only with their self-confidence, and every weekend, having had some beers, when in fighting spirit and with an active reproduction instinct (with every woman but his wife), they felt again as youngsters – those with the guns were different.
Shaped like middle-weight, at most light-heavy boxers. Watchful eyes. Moving their legs softly like agile cats. Gliding their feet over the ground barely touching it, as if they were skating.
I knew at once, being a person who had been exercising for all my life, those guys must go to gyms regularly – and not for some mindless weight-lifting and stuffing buckets of supplements in their stomachs only to wear too tight T-shirts after a while, arousing an applause among other giant fellows – but they had set objectives, well composed and greatly organised training programme that makes a man an efficient tool. A combat tool.
Yes… Those who rule this world need such tools.
And the day was lovely then. Here, in this part of
one does appreciate the tiniest bit of sun. Because everything is marked with a
dark shade, which falls - nobody knows when and from where. London
And now the sky raised its head – as usual here – at Heathrow, it was terrifyingly huge and beautiful. Even the giant planes were only a dark spot in that blue after a while, the blue marked with white scattered clouds, fringed at the bottom here with endless ramparts of concrete, steel and barbed wire, just as dreams of freedom.
Around me, I watched - every day since I appeared here for the first time a year ago – dozens of enormous lorries, bringing something here and leaving full of something else. The space between the two big parallel buildings, where all day and night long, forklifts were bending under the burden, was full of them. But before they parked precisely in the square, the lorries stopped in the penalty line under the floating over their heads sign ‘Warning!’
One was aiming, standing at the driver’s side of the car, the other stood some metres further, right in front of my mini-van, alert to dodge, and one more, calmly but firmly, gave me a signal to pull over.
When I stopped, one of them, dressed in the same manner – in a beautiful well-ironed blue short-sleeved shirt and black uniform-vest accommodating spare magazines, short guns, handcuffs, and torches in its numerous corresponding pockets – told me to get off, slowly. And to stand by the car.
- Who are you and what are you doing here?
It was more of an anticipation rather than full understanding his inquiry. And he, seeing my hesitation… seemingly somebody having difficulties with the language that is not his mother tongue. And the tongue that doesn’t want to leave the barrier of the teeth when someone without any notice asks him a question, so surprisingly, fast and offhand.
- Who’s that man? Do you know him? – he asks a woman, his acquaintance, whom I’ve been greeting every day for a year, asking how she is, and she invariably replied she is fine in health and spirit, and who was just passing by.
I thought to myself I was so lucky that it was she who came there in that very moment – such a nice, pretty, still young, well mannered ‘lady’, a little plump, but here, in the Islands she could be still considered as slim, always smiling… - and she’ll explain everything to those men.
Especially because they were stealing my precious minutes, very precious. Every minute taken now meant that my already long working day would be drastically longer. I already imagined myself stuck in a gigantic traffic jam, late in the evening. And then at least half an hour for seeking any parking space. I was really worried, “Fuck… fuck…!”
And she looked at me and said, “I don’t know him.”
And when they already tossed me to the ground, face down, handcuffed, a driver, huge fat bald guy with gold rings in his ears, shorts revealing his tattoos (a girl in blue on one, and a red cross on the other of his powerful calves), wearing heavy working boots, a mate like many here – also visiting this place every day, came, holding a coffee in a plastic cup and asked, slurping loudly, “Don’t know him? How can you don’t know him? He works here!”
And then she had a revelation, “Oh…. Yes, yes….. He’s our… ‘coffee man’!”
- What ‘coffee man’ ? – asks the officer.
She: Yes, the ‘coffee man’! The guy servicing the vending machines…
And everyone started to laugh cheerfully, because here there’s no more important thing than to start a day with a coffee from the machine, and you can’t do without a ‘coffee man’. And without coffee the world would be unimaginably worse.
The officers laughed, too.
- A ‘coffee man’, ‘a coffee man’! Ha ha ha! A ‘coffee man’!
They take off the handcuffs, apologise, one is tapping my shoulder.
He gives back my documents, which fell on the concrete before and says, “I see you exercise… You’ve got tough muscles… Keep fit… Your looks made us suspicious.”
- Yes, I try to exercise, but it’s difficult here, My work is very hard.
- What did you do in your country? Who were you?
- Who? I don’t know now. Who wasn’t I … I was a sports teacher, but for the first time I am a shadow. Here, I am a shadow. Just a shadow.
- Who? Who? A shadow? A shadow?
He didn’t understand. He took it for granted that is comes down to my poor ‘his language’.
We kept tapping each other’s shoulders more and more resolutely.
And then I heard a shot. Casual shot, as the specialists will apparently claim later. An accident, mistake.
- I’m sorry, sorry – says the one behind the car.
And that was the last thing I heard.
So I am a shadow.
And suddenly, out of the blue, without any notice – so it goes in
– it started to rain. London