Digital Ischemia

21/08/2018

Wratislaw part 10 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

While Wratislaw scrabbles for a way to triumph, he must survive the obligatory probing by Kamila.
“Seven, eight years ago, in your interviews, you were…funny. Lately you are awfully serious. Are you overwhelmed by the complexity or the challenge of your many projects? The responsibility of your various roles?” She’s been listening. Inspiration strikes. A question lures. Can he steer toward it?
“Going by this evening’s performance being underwhelming? What could possibly be missing from my life?”
“Time to yourself?”
“Nope. Too much time with myself.”
She ponders. Or perhaps she leaves space to draw him out. Obligingly he fills it.
“Not all interviewers are as intelligent and insightful as you. You always made me think and feel.”
“Often I am told I interrogate people.”
“No, there’s no judgment. You seem genuinely interested. Your questions… Do you remember your ultimate question?”

Kamila’s eyes glint and widen. “My meta-question?” Jackpot.
“How did it go again?” Wratislaw asks even though he’s utterly sure. He needs to hear her say it.
“‘What is the question you would most like me to ask you, and how would you answer?'”
As her voice sounds through his skull he closes his eyes. She muses.
“I remember you cheated; well, you deferred.”
“I couldn’t say it out loud! It was inappropriate. It would’ve changed things…us.”
“So I let you off the hook.”
“You asked if there would be a time in the future when it might be…appropriate.”
“And you said you hoped so. That was exquisitely intriguing.”
“Do you still have it?”
“Of course.”
“Did you ever open it?”
“No! We agreed: not until we both agreed it was appropriate.” She wrings him out with that blasted virtuous integrity.
“How about now?”
They commit, like teenagers goading each other to escalating dares.

Kamila picks and rips at the tightly sealed, worn folds of paper. Eventually the grumpy origami acquiesces and gives up its secret. She jerkily scans his wished-for question. Something is awry. This paragon of calm control is overcome with convulsions of emotion. She pushes it at Wratislaw to read out. He recognises his writing, his wishing, as if he needed any confirmation of consistency.
“‘Would you like to dance with me…for the next fifty years or so?'” The answer is unnecessary. He chuckles cathartically. The image of the unattended piano in the foyer thuds into his mind. “I think I’ll have a bash at that Janáček now. Will you listen?”
Her maelstrom mind will manage only one word. “Always.”

Epilogue

Kamila leans on the sturdy chapel door, closing it with a reassuring squeaky clunk. The sudden, silent, dark dankness is refreshing. She glides between the pews, gratified by the decent turnout and stimulating discussion. Nothing is awry.

“What does ‘Wratislaw’ mean to you?” The question curls out from behind a pillar. She was asked during the event, and she gave answers about place, character, then let the participants add their own responses about marketing stunts and student pranks. This is different. This is the questioner she hoped for. She approaches and peers into the gloom.

Wratislaw’s shoulders fill the pew; his talented hands are clasped, resting contemplatively on the next pew’s back. He flicks those blue eyes sideways to her approach. She has his answer ready. But not just yet.
“You got my message.”
“Most of Edinburgh and quite a portion of the world got your message.”
“They see the word but not the message.”
He exhales a laugh. She waits for him to respond.
“‘Love Wratislaw’? It’s a social media meme now.”
Disappointing. He’s prevaricating.

Kamila returns a petulant truism. “They can circulate it and interpret it all they like.”
“You could’ve just called to say you would be here.”
“Not interesting.”
“Unlike walking from the hotel to the venue seeing my secret nickname chalked on every other lamppost? On thirty-eight random paving slabs? On railings and bins and benches and bus shelters?”
“It took me only two hours. I woke early.”
“You didn’t answer my first question.”
He’s learning. She alights on the bench beside him, just pressing the side of his body, and tilts her gaze. He pulls her on to his lap, and touches her face. She leans into the next fifty years.

END

Incidentally… it all started with a minor character described by John Buchan:

Wratislaw “was to the first glance a remarkable figure. About the middle height, with a square head and magnificent shoulders, he looked from the back not unlike some professional strong man. But his face betrayed him, for it was clearly the face of the intellectual worker, the man of character and mind. His jaw was massive and broad, saved from hardness only by a quaintly humorous mouth; he had, too, a pair of very sharp blue eyes looking from under shaggy eyebrows. His age was scarcely beyond thirty, but one would have put it ten years later, for there were lines on his brow and threads of grey in his hair.” John Buchan, The Half-Hearted

…which led me to research the name (and its pronunciation!):

Wrocław [Vrotswahf] (or Wratislaw [Vratislav] in Czech) is the largest city in western Poland. It lies on the banks of the River Oder in the Silesian Lowlands. The city is believed to be named after Wrocisław or Vratislav, Duke Vratislaus I of Bohemia.
Wrocław is the historical capital of Silesia and Lower Silesia. Today, it is the capital of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship. The history of the city dates back over a thousand years, and its extensive heritage combines almost all religions and cultures of Europe. At various times, it has been part of the Kingdom of Poland, Kingdom of Bohemia, Kingdom of Hungary, Habsburg Monarchy, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire, Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany. Wrocław became part of Poland again in 1945, as a result of the border changes after the Second World War, which included a nearly complete exchange of population.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] …concludes at part 10 […]

    Pingback by Wratislaw part 9 of 10 | Digital Ischemia — 22/08/2018 @ 10:50


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