a story by Krzysztof Sowiński, my translation
In Memory of Edward Stachura
This English language school for adults is run by a plump and beautiful black Canadian, whose each little braid in her elaborate coiffure smiles… as long as you… pay.
This school consists of several quite dirty classrooms, long-ago-painted walls.
Once in a while, when a whole group of students will fall asleep, heads – weary of hard daily duties - on the desks, and even the teacher will take a nap in the middle of a sentence or a gesture – then, there runs across the room, encouraged by the silence and smell of biscuits, sour odour of sweat, dirty bodies, a courageous rat-polyglot.
The school boasts its signboard: “New Life!”
Lesson number 1
- My name’s Imran. I come from
- My name’s
I come from Mo. . Iran
- My name’s Draman. I come from
- My name’s Paweł. I come from
- My name’s Marta. I come from
- My name’s Chris. I come from
- My name’s Jacek. I come from
- My name’s Ola. I come from
- My name’s Aru. I come from Afganistan.
- I go to work every day – says Imran.
- I get up for work very early. At three o’clock, and sometimes I still work at eight in the evening – says Paweł.
Marta: And I gave birth to a baby here and now I don’t have to go to work. My husband works hard. He’s never at home.
Chris: I work very hard from morning to evening.
- I also work very hard, my boss is a bad man, shouts at me all the time and is… is… unhappy – complains Draman.
Imran: I work for my uncle, I make furniture. I arrived a year ago. I get food and accommodation for my work. I sleep on the floor. I have to keep working like that for another year.
- Yes, yes… - Ann nods her head. She’s an elderly English teacher with an excellent accent and a mouth full of classy phrases, devoid of memory, though. – They exploit as much as they can. Because they can. Nothing can be done. Nothing.
Now, a coffee break. Marta and Ola will rush outside to have a cigarette. When they’re smoking, a bus almost wipes them out, because there’s a bus stop. Some drunk black workers, wishing they didn’t have to leave the bus stop, casually wipe their hands on Marta's awesome breasts. There also get on some elegant ladies and, apparently lost at this time, some schoolchildren.
Draman and Chris are having coffee. Chris drinks strong and black, and Draman white with milk. Draman likes it sweet, so he’s taking six spoonfuls of sugar. They’re smiling at each other. Tapping each other’s shoulders. Draman’s a cute, always smiling boy in his early twenties, who smiles even when his boss calls him by a lazy Negro in Arabic.
Both of them are holding hot coffee cups in their worn out hands, cups, which are the only warm spots in this city. Near the litter bin - the rat’s lurking, eating a biscuit.
Lesson number 2
- Who knows what the words ‘optimistic’ and ‘polite’ mean? – asks Ann, but, before she can hear he answer, she’s fallen asleep, right in the middle of the sentence, she’s also very tired and she’s been working since morning, it’s evening now, the night is interrupted only by the lights of buses and thousands of cars. Rain is tapping on the window panes
- Ann, my colleague, the English, keeps nagging me, mocking all the time. He says I’m an animal. What shall I say? To be polite? … What phrase will be the most appropriate? - Jacek wakes everybody.
- Polite? Appropriate? The most appropriate will be… will be… ‘fuck off’.
Lesson number 3
- Where are you going on holiday? – asks Ann. She’s waiting for any reply, but no-one’s going anywhere.
Lesson number 4
- What did you do at the weekend?
Draman: I worked hard. And I had Monday off, so I slept all the day.
Jacek: I worked all weekend. I have no days off.
- And I don’t have either.
- Neither have I.
- Nor have I.
Lesson number 5
- What’s your religion?
Mo: I’m a Muslim.
Imran: I’m a Muslim.
Draman: I’m a Muslim.
Aru: And I’m a Muslim. I’m a doctor, I come from
, I have five children.
I lived in Afghanistan
for eight years but we can’t practise our religion there, so I came here. For
my children… to raise them in my religion. Norway
Marta: I’m a Christian.
- Chris is also a Christian, because he’s from
– says a student. Poland
Chris: I think religion is foolish, and the prophets, and our politicians alike, are cons. So I have no religion. Some want our money and obedience, the others our money and votes. Religion’s a shit.
- What? What? What? – ask Ann.
- Religion’s a shit. Religion’s rubbish.
Ann: A coffe break! Now!
Students: We’ve got fifteen minutes left to the break!
Marta and Ola are rushing outside to have a cigarette. When they’re smoking, a bus almost wipes them out, because there’s a bus stop.
Draman’s drinking coffee. With milk. Draman likes it sweet, so he’s taking six spoonfuls of sugar. And everyone is holding in their worn out hands a cup, the only warm spot in this city; and near the litter bin there is a rat, lurking, looking curious. It doesn’t like coffee, no matter black or white, but a biscuit would do good.
And Ann is talking to Chris, in private, much as they can hardly understand each other.
- One can’t talk bad things about religion. Religion’s extremely important for Muslims. Don’t you know?
- Really?- asks Chris – But… It’s the twenty-first century, and this is
, right? England
- Right, but it’s dangerous to say such words.
- Yes. Remember. They can tell someone. They have many brothers, cousins. Knives are used here to express differences of opinions. They attack in groups. And there are so many dark corners.
Chris: You are joking?
After the break.
Chris: Religion’s stupid. Religion’s shit! Each religion. Freedom!!!
He’s so proud of himself, he’s just learnt a new word: freedom!
Lesson after the latest