Digital Ischemia

14/08/2018

Wratislaw part 3 of 10

A drily hyperbolic, humorous short story – a pianist with a passion for Janáček’s music finds the composer’s unrequited infatuation is part of the bargain

Wratislaw series begins at part 1

Kamila had said she preferred the Czech version of the Polish Wrocław, although the sound was similar. She knew his real name of course, but wanted a conversation without the public celebrity, without the performance accolades. Wratislaw just wanted the conversation. What had she said?
“It just doesn’t work for me.”
“Doesn’t work for me either, obviously.”
“You are not happy in your illustrious career?”
“No, I mean yes, but the name doesn’t get me the attention of interesting, intelligent—”
She grimaced at the developing patronisation. He stopped. They started again. Obviously, somewhere thereafter, they stopped again. He winces at the recollection.

Advancing through the gloaming, Wratislaw senses dampness in the air then hears a faint, welcome trickling. However, inevitably, something is awry.

Where the river bank blurs beneath a willow’s fine fringe of branches, a suitably willowy figure lies, one leg stretched toward the rippling water. He peers to see if there are bare toes, or dipped toes. That seems more important than identifying the owner. In truth he has already decided that point, even if reality will prove him wrong. In the absence of movement, he begins stealthily closing the gap.

Wratislaw is interrupted by a twig or seed hitting the top of his head and pattering on the ground beside him. And another. Some squirrel at trough, perhaps. He doesn’t doubt that squirrels are nocturnal. He resumes stalking the prone figure.
“Have you thought this through?” That voice scythes through his viscera. It didn’t come from the bank; it was much closer.

He freezes for two seconds; for another two his eyes dart back and forth fruitlessly in the fading light; then he plunges into a convenient rhododendron bush.

Wratislaw crouches among the resentful jaggy branches, palpitating, sweating even. His mind races through his irrational and probably pointless behaviour. If she has seen him, then, obviously, she was the ‘squirrel’. Why hide in a bush, where she can no doubt still see him? In order to see her. And who then is the figure on the bank?

Always Kamila questioned. It was her way of creating conversation. “Why are you here?”
“Here in…Wrocław [vrotswahf]—did I get that right? I was saying ‘roe-claw’ until my manager updated my crib sheet—Good. So, here in this city or right here on this…rampart?”

After the event she tracked him to a flat roof outside the second storey dance hall. The french windows along the corridor were open for ventilation. She seemed relieved, as if she’d been searching for him and had feared she’d missed him. He’d been waiting and hoping, to talk some more, and some more, and some other. He was gratified.

Onward with her interrogation. “Or here in this country, at this building, this event. Or anything between or beyond. The point is to see how you interpret the question.”
“That really over-complicates things.”
“You only have to pick one, otherwise I think you evade the question.”
As he had earlier, Wratislaw found himself comfortable being truthful. “I am fixated on modern Czech classics.”
“Can you have a modern classic?”
“I think the question there was ‘then why are you in Poland’. Because Czech classics since Beethoven are like eating apple crumble for twenty years then tasting lemon sorbet. And now I need some…cheese.” The metaphor expired horribly on him.
“This is how you prepare: with a dessert menu?”
“I want to get right in his head—Janačék—like method acting, but playing. I want to feel ten years of unrequited passion.”
“And more than one thousand unanswered letters?”
“Yes! The wrist-ache!”

Here she frowned sideways at him. Surely she didn’t register smut; English not her first language etc. She ploughed on with the serious.
“Do you think composers must be unappreciated in their lifetimes for them to produce such timelessly brilliant work?”
“Keeps them keen.”
“Do we value composers’ legacies—our selfish enjoyment—more than their personal contentment and gratification?”
“Oh, don’t make it into a moral philosophy question!”
“How can it be a moral issue? They’re dead.”
“Except the living ones.”

So it went on: Wratislaw trying to charm through Kamila’s so very serious pursuit of wisdom, to cover the fact that he was utterly fascinated yet out of his depth. Which is exactly where he is again. Loving every moment. Despite his professional mental focus melting like the sorbet. He recalls the subsequent Chopin festival being another of his unremarkable performances. His Raindrop Prelude was a miserable drizzle. He can plot the correlation between his virtuosity dissolving and her presence in space and time.

…continues at part 4

1 Comment »

  1. […] …continues at part 3 […]

    Pingback by Wratislaw part 2 of 10 | Digital Ischemia — 14/08/2018 @ 18:34


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