A Fury Poland Story
I woke up anxious for my flight to Poland, and usually I’m chill as fuck, never nervous or some shit, but I hadn’t grabbed a plane in months, and gone on some kind of adventure. They say trust your gut. To be honest, my gut was off and I hadn’t been sleeping well for months, so this one bad night’s rest wasn’t all that significant. But there was something off. I’m a spiritual person, believe in life force, the mystique of the universe, and maybe this was some kind of foreboding, all the way down, tingling in my gut. Or this was my experience talking. I’d gone on many travels and adventures and often solo. Rolling out alone, almost everywhere you go, breeds a certain radar. Hammers it into your system. Your ancient evolutionary defense mechanism. Built in, just for you, just for your survival. And maybe in this case my system had gone through several updates, and now push came to shove. Now it was go time. Poland. Wroclaw, third city of the country, after Warsaw, the capital, and Krakow, party capital. Now this trip came knocking, and the system fired off a warning signal. Like with a bank robbery. Covert. But delayed.
At the airport I said goodbye to my family, and went through customs, but it was over quick, so I had time to kill. Therefore I went to smoke a stick I bought just for the occasion. I had only bought one, and pondered whether to smoke it so soon, or wait for it, and save it for Poland, but thought better. Some things aren’t meant for saving, but for savoring. Immediately.
For a second, I pondered the thought that I left my family. The next, I pondered, You’re on your own now. Again. No one saves you. Rely on yourself. You’re on the road now. Again. Ronin Fury. Roaming.
Manual override. Ancient defense system activated.
The smoker’s lounge was upstairs, and past the bar, and outside. Outside, there were tables and all of them taken, except for one on the far left. I sat down and you could see planes taxiing on the tarmac on the left. I pulled out a Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure no.2, a Cuban.
It was a one of the best sticks I ever smoked. Top three. The pull was perfect. The tension tight. You sucked, the stick drew you in, and you drew in smooth sweet grassy smoke. Thick white smoke. Like velvet. Multiple strands of smoke, coiling upward. And left and right. Everywhere. The white smoke was a sight to behold. The Cuban was painting a portrait of smoke, the white creamy strands like the brush strokes.
After a perfect smoke I’d killed thirty minutes, and thirty minutes were left to kill. I hit the airport bar. Ordered vodka Red Bull. Bartender asked me, Eristoff, or Grey Goose? I thought, Eristoff, fuck no. I said, Grey Goose. It’s overrated surely but way better than the disgusting shit that’s Eristoff. Poison. I killed the time drinking, but then it was lift off time.
The flight was pleasant and quick, and I landed in the evening. No fuss with the customs, and I breezed through. Headed to the exit, and on the way bought an airport express bus ticket to the city center. Ten zlotti, Poland currency. Ten zlotti is around two fifty euro and is dirt cheap. But later I found out, if I’d taken the regular bus that’d be three zlotti or something, which was way cheaper, but slower. So rip off?
The bus ride to the center takes about thirty to forty minutes, and we stop at the city’s biggest shopping mall. The sun is setting, and evening draws close. Bag in hand, I stroll my way through the peaceful streets, to my hotel.
The sun was low, and gave a nice shimmer, reflecting off water shooting from the ground. Kids playing. People hustling and bustling. I’m one of the only foreigners. Not a lot of blacks, or Asians. Outsider again. I left home an outsider. Land somewhere else. Outsider. No different. The Ronin status holds. Sauntering like a cowboy new in the dusty town, I find my hotel. Five stars. Pool, Jacuzzi, small gym, sauna. I don’t travel that much, so when I do, I try to ball out, and pamper myself. Like I said once before, getting a Jacuzzi is the definition of self-respect.
I checked in without much hassle, and went to my room, and dumped my bag on the bed. Done unpacking. I travel light, just one carry-on luggage, which was a Nike blue gym bag, like a duffel. The room was petite, for the price. Clean, white and brown tones. The shower was pristine and white but nothing special. The bed was small but the sheets were clean and I shrugged and it was already evening. Which meant the clock was ticking. The darker any city gets, the wilder it gets. I love wild streaks, especially in cities. So I had to get my case of crazy.
I’d done my research and googled basically three things to do in this city. Steak, cigars, drinks. That’s it. Down to my core that’s what I really cared about. So first on the list was the cigar shop. It was dark now and the city was getting quiet. The streets were getting less crowded. People were leaving, for home. Or getting ready to go out. It was Thursday so maybe they didn’t go out. But student night or some such perhaps.
The city gave off a timid vibe. Like a shy introvert, sitting in the corner. It also gave off some spooky vibes, which you often find in Eastern Europe. All in all, my hometown Rotterdam at night feels more unsafe, compared to almost any city I’ve been in the world. So we good. The architecture gave the whole city center a medieval vibe. Like Renaissance time. Lots of pastel colors in action. But it was dark now and the next day I’d see more of the colors in action.
I crossed Rynek square, the biggest market square in almost whole Europe. It’s pretty huge, but just this big square. Literally. The four sides of the square was lined with bars and restaurants and shady strip clubs, or gentleman clubs as the hustlers would call it as they approached you. Every night at least three people approached me, to get me to one of these dodgy places. I was alone and wasn’t about to get beat up for no reason, stripped of all my money and cards or some shit. Don’t go to these joints. I went to a strip club in Krakow once, but I was with at least three dudes.
I went to the ATM and withdrew some cash. Just for the day. Enough for a steak, a cigar, and some drinks late in the evening. I thought it was enough and tried to watch my spending. Not thrifty, but just be careful you know. Not going all wild and spend it in one night.
I walked all the way to the one of the corners of the square. Made a right and came to the cigar shop. The door was closed but the lights were on. I entered. The guy who greeted me was chill. He seemed like a hipster, long beard, and knew his cigars. We talked cigar shop. He recommended me a Bolivar Corona, after he asked me what I smoked this morning. I said Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure no. 2. He said the Bolivar is a solid smoke, stays strong from entrance, to finish. Just what I needed. The Monterrey was smooth as fuck but the taste diminished a tad on the end. Guy promised the smoke would deliver. Very professional, very laidback. He even offered me to smoke it in their lounge. The shop was small, and the lounge was these four big comfy leather chairs bunched together. I said no thanks and he gave me a receipt of the smoke. You never know what you smoked otherwise. I liked the guy very much and should have given him a tip.
He made a funny last remark, ‘Have you eaten? The cigar needs some food, in the stomach.’
I just smirked. He doesn’t know the Fury. I’ve smoked cigars on an empty stomach. Many times. I left the shop and headed back to the square for dinner. Steak. The restaurant was called Whiskey in a Jar. Very cool place. I stood outside and a brunette, tall, approached me, brisk, but polite. Like she’d seen too many tourists in her day. A bit serious. Like don’t flirt with me. She was very attractive. Reminded me of the Slovenian I used to love. She even had the same shoes she liked. Vans, classic, black, with the white wavy stripe. She ushered me into the place, which was just one step up, and you were on the porch. I wanted to sit outside, under the lights. They gave an ambiance, showering the tables and the seats with orange red light. Fiery orange. It was cool, and I like lights, especially in restaurants. Gives the place that much more oomph.
I squeezed into my seat. I sat alone, but all the tables crowded each other. Ample space. To my left sat a big Polish cruiser. No cauliflower ears, signaling his fighting prowess, but a thick big skull. A beef head. Who lifts and with a mean mug and he spotted me and I him. Like finds like. It’s funny. I call myself situationally aware. It’s partially true, since I’m more aware than most. But the thing is I’m just that noticeable. Polarizing. A Moses who splits the ocean of people. One side hates me. The other loves me. So every time I enter a new place, it’s quite easy to see who you should fuck with, and who you should not. That simple.
I sat down and the tall brunette with the dark eyes and the tanned skin approached my table. She gave me the menu and said the waiting time is forty minutes. Same professional tone. Same look. I thought what the fuck but shrugged and thought I got time to kill. With a special stick. I popped it out. I expected the Bolivar Corona to last about thirty minutes, given the length and girth. I’d gotten quite good at deducing how long a smoke lasts. Experience talking.
I lit up the stick, and asked an American couple beside me to take a picture. It’s a special picture, one I’ll never forget. For a myriad of reasons. The couple was from Oklahoma, and they were here for a wedding, and the groom flew them in, and the dude was the best man. We chatted a bit, but then I returned to smoke.
I sat and smoked in silence, solo. The Bolivar was like other Cubans, woody and grassy, but more mild in those flavors. What did hit me though, funnily enough, was the hit. It was a strong cigar and the guy had been right. The hit was epic. But the guy was exaggerating a bit. Or, my tolerance for hits is high. I know which it is.
The smoke wasn’t as thick and creamy and a mouthful as the Monterrey. The smoke wasn’t that white. This smoke was more complex, the subtlety of the flavors its forte. The smoke lasted long enough for the steak to arrive.
I’d ordered the ribeye, three fifty grams. The steak came with salad and fries. I smoked the Bolivar while I ate. The Bolivar made a surprising great combo, with the salty sweetness of the crispy steak fries. The steak was tepid, chewy, but okay. Seasoned well. No special effect with the Bolivar. The salad was fresh, and the cherry tomatoes matched good with the Bolivar.
I finished the stick slow, like passionate midnight love. After that I took my time with the steak and salad. I’d made sure to finish the fries together with the Bolivar. Such a unique toasty combination. The burnt flavor of a cigar with fried potato, who would’ve thought. Damn. The waitresses were given me the looks. Rushing me away, with their eyes. I’d overstayed my welcome and the vibe wasn’t that lit anymore.
I paid my tab, no tip. And headed for the next objective. Drinks. I was on a tight itinerary. So far so good. Cigar, steak, and now the fabled vodka. I walked across the gigantic square again. The same douches from strip clubs approaching me on the ghastly square. The later it got, the spookier the square. On the square were these small wooden huts, which sold food and drinks during the day, but during the night were just small cabins of ominousness.
I like cities that are less touristy, for sure. But during the night it’s less fun, and Wroclaw showed that. It reminded me of Ljubljana, Slovenia. It’s the Balkan, Central and Eastern Europe vibe. All those cities have it. It feels like Walking Dead, as soon as it gets dark. Budapest and Bangkok had it too. But there I felt safe. Here not so much.
The ancient software going haywire.
I got to the same corner of Rynek square, and passed the cigar shop, and kept walking. At a huge crossing, open and dark and silent, I saw the ‘party’ zone. It was this street, wedged into two buildings, with a steel gate open in front. When you’re early, or during the day homeless people scour the front of the gate. Creepy.
I saunter past the gate and into this courtyard. To the left was a stairs down to a club. Then a kebab. Then a beer and vodka place. I’d remember the sign, as it was chain, and their shots and beer were cheap as fuck. On the right you had some clubs, but they were closed as it was still early. Around eleven. Then there was this bar. And another club. But that was about it. That was the whole courtyard. At back you had an archway leading to an alley, away from this ‘party’ zone. To the left, past the beer and kebab places, you had this dodgy parking place where I took a piss during drinking.
It was still early so I took the bar on the right as my first entry point, and did what any sane person would do to kill the time. Drink. Vodka. The bar was called something like Area. The place was dodgy, and just how I like it. But it was empty as fuck, not how I like it. Maybe two, three people. Four tops. There was one couple being lit, and dancing to the music which was loud as fuck and bangers only. Also how I like it.
I needed to be patient, and just drink, and kill time. Whatever. The place was a square, bar at back, just a couple of meters in front. Between me and the bar, the dance floor. More like dance square. There was a second floor, tables and seats, empty too. I walk to the bar and this chill looking bald Polish dude flashes me his best bartender smile. Trust me, there are levels to the depth of the smiles. Lot of bars, lot of smiles.
I said, in Polish, ‘Do you speak English?’
‘Yes, of course man!’ the guy said with a smile.
Good start of the night. I was expecting some hate. Force of habit.
‘What can I get you?’ the guy asked, in perfect English. Devoid of an accent, or maybe with. Some kind of American Westernized one. Polished by hours of Netflix and chill or some shit.
I said, ‘One shot vodka. And a vodka Red Bull.’
The guy repeated my order. Perhaps it’s a peculiar one.
He turned around and got one of my favorite vodka. Zubrowka. Polish. The bison logo proudly embellishing the bottle. Legend says the bison pisses on the grass that’s used to make the vodka, which gives it some kind of magical juju. Believe what you want.
He poured the shot, with panache, like sleight of hand, but not with a deck of cards, but a bottle. The shot glass was fat and tall. Polish style. Been to lots of places. In England for example, shots are fifty milliliters. They have signs in certain bars saying that. All shots are served at fifty milliliters. But nowhere are the shots as fat and tall as in Poland. It’s around sixty or up to eight mill a pop. Groovy.
Then the vodka Red Bull. Guy took a small thin glass. Filled it up nicely, with the same kind of flourish of the bottle, and the smile still on his face. Then he did something cool. He opened the can of Red Bull, click, and wedged it inside the opening glass, denting the red and blue can a bit, making it stick, balancing it on top of the glass, all the while the yellow energy drink flowed. He let go of the can, and it was stuck, balanced and dented and slanted. The can emptied itself, into the vodka. And a vodka Red Bull was born. And the glass was filled almost exactly to the brim. Spilling maybe a drop or two. I took the can away and sipped the glass, to prevent future leakage.
Then I paid up. The damage? Goddamn twenty-two zlotti. And if you wonder what that is, it’s around five bucks. Holy moly. I love Poland. Cheap drinks, beautiful women, with an edge of danger roaming in the air when the streets are empty.
I talked with the bartender a bit.
‘When does this place get going?’ I asked.
He said two things.
‘The place gets more crowded near one.’
This meant I had to stroll to the other joints. On one hand. Shit. On the other. Kinda exciting.
‘This place is open until late, and is open the last from all the other places. Most of the people come here.’
Good to know. This is like a last call, last man standing kinda joint. It had that vibe, and I always single those places out. Odds were in my favor though. There were only three or four bars.
I went upstairs and talked to a Polish girl, who had made eye contact, but her English wasn’t so good, and she thought better, wasn’t into it after all. Some girls have that. They look. You can tell it’s game. But when you talk, they aren’t. Too close for comfort. Too real. The fantasy of looking was better. Real talk.
It was getting kinda boring upstairs, so I left the place. Crossed the yard to the beer and vodka joint. I could hear music playing, and through the window, see people singing. I entered. The theme the place was going for was something of the past. All the walls were covered with old newspapers. The rest of the place was category brown bar. Wood, earthy tones. To my left in the corner hanging from the ceiling was a big screen. Playing a song, displaying lyrics. Just beside me, facing the screen, a group of young Polish girls were screaming their lungs out. Karaoke. They put a smile on my face. And trust me this doesn’t happen that easily. At least not then. I had a stern face on my mug, more than that even. Dangerous. Violent. Furyous. Some people say it gives me an arrogant look. If you’ve ever seen a shot of my mug you know. I don’t believe in smiling for no damn reason. It’s weak and stupid and holds zero meaning. If something could hold a minus number meaning, smiling for no reason would take the cake.
The girls were full of life force, and it bled over. Hence, the smile. They were cute, and I looked for eye contact, but they were too busy in their literal circle, so I hit the bar. I ordered some vodka and some cigarettes. The vodka was cheap as fuck, the cigarettes too. But I kid you not, the smokes were the most disgusting things I’ve ever tasted. Brand. Paul Mart. I never forget this name, as it sounded like Paul Blart. You know the mall cop. And of course cos of the vile godforsaken taste. It tasted like cardboard. Smoking kills. But at least let it be delicious, man. Camel is mellow and fragrant and smooth. Turkish. This Paul Mart shit was like smoking paper. Wow.
Just when the karaoke ended, I went to the bathroom. I came back and leaned against the counter, and that’s when I saw M. making eye contact with me. Sitting in the corner. Her look was so piercing, like a lighthouse in the dark. A beacon. Drawing you near, amidst the fog, while adrift at sea. I knew it was on. I looked back. She looked away. Coy. I should’ve approached her then and there, but lately I’ve been out of the game, and frankly a bit nervous in approaching women.
I walked past the table where she sat, and thought whatever, and sat at a table right in front of the joint. The table had a white and red checkered cover. I put the disgusting pack of Paul Mart on the table and started smoking.
I kid you not, minutes later, M. comes out with a friend. I don’t speak Polish but they were having a small debate about where to sit. M. gestured to sit at my table and her friend didn’t mind. They sat down, across from me. M made eye contact, coy, and looked away, and she returned to talk to her friend. Time flew by. And her friend went inside and came back with two shots. Dark liquor. They are about to shot it, when I said, ‘Na zdrowie.’
Cheers, in Polish.
I know all kinds of cheers in multiple languages, and it’s quite nifty.
They turned their bodies to me, and cheered back with a smile, and they shotted, as I smoked. I didn’t think much of the interaction, until minutes later, M. turned to me, fully, and said something in Polish.
I said I didn’t understand and instantly she switched to English. Now it was really on and we got to talking. We talked about the shot she took. Chupa Chups, like the lollipop. It was her favorite at this bar, and she recommend I’d have it. I said maybe later and I didn’t like sweets. I like Vodka, and she made a face.
We talked about this and that. She played the violin, for a living, and I talked about my engineering. The topics of the talk weren’t that hot, but you could tell there was a spark. The tonality of her voice, the smile, the eyes. When there’s a connection you just know. She had to leave, cos she needed to get up early for work. She was playing in Germany with her band. We exchanged contacts, after we let a girl take our photo.
‘Send the picture to me,’ M. said.
I said sure, and thought nothing of it, as most people flake, even if they give you their number.
The interaction was fun and I already missed her as soon as she left. We would have had a great time. Drinking, dancing, more. Oh well. I left for one of these dodgy clubs, underground. And that’s when some issues started arising. First, I had started drinking more and more, and the alcohol was getting to me. Let’s factor that in. Second, I had to leave my jacket, at the coat check room, when I bought a ticket for the club. Which was fine and all, but all my stuff was inside. Bankcards, cash, passport. I didn’t bring a bum bag, so that was nice. I had to transfer all my shit, to my pockets, which turned into thick bulges. Clunky as hell, but very unhandy. If I had to pay for a drink or something, I had to get out my cardholder, without letting anything fall out. Plus the alcohol was making my small motor skills suffer.
My confidence said it was gonna be fine but my gut begged to differ. That alarm going off again. But I wasn’t listening. Too busy drinking and having fun and trying to make the night a legendary evening. I silenced the alarm.
The club was dead. It was a Thursday and apparently student night wasn’t a big thing in this city. Other than that it was still pretty early. Around twelve. I had to wait it out but it wasn’t looking good for this evening.
The bar was on the right side, and one big dance floor on the left. There were some lounge and smoke areas behind the dance floor. The dance floor was a shlong fest, with three girls or something, all taken.
I had another drink. And went to the smoking lounge. I sat down and chatted with some guys I’d spotted earlier at the cash machine in the city. They recognized me too, and I found out they were Dutch.
We took a photo and after a smoke went outside for another smoke and to meet up with some other boys. Their gang was pretty big. Football team, balling out in Poland. They were pretty surprised I was travelling alone, and why to this small shithole, third city of Poland. I told them why. Adventure, growth, stories. They laughed and still didn’t get it. But they respected it.
The whole night was turning out to be a bore, but I wasn’t giving up so I went back inside. Danced a bit. Drank some more. Smoked some more. Boring shit. I’m by no means a game expert, but if there’s like only five girls or so in the whole goddamn club, you can bet your ass I’m going to dance with them, next to them, or talk to them. Try to game them.
That didn’t work out and then the club was played out. I went and got my jacket without a hassle and went upstairs and outside. The courtyard again. I walked straight ahead all to the end, to the archway, and this Polish drunk dude flashed by me. Stopped.
He said, ‘You got a cigarette for me, friend?’
I said sure man whatever and gave him a nice carton tasting disgusting Paul Mart.
He was wasted but he had good intentions. I’ve been out so many times, and I can feel the vibes. Energy. He was with another friend. Dark short cropped hair. Very muscled, but not bodybuilder style. Toned somehow. Bruiser nose. Squinting dark eyes. Menacing. He looked not to be trifled with. Mean. But fair somehow. As if don’t mess with me, and I won’t mess with you. I know the look. I’ve lived the look.
But that guy was a trip. Very friendly and open and crazy. Both of them invited me to walk along with them. My alarm tingled again. We left the tunnel, which meant I left the courtyard, and the ‘party’ zone. I was now completely alone with these two drunk polish dudes, in the dark, in a back street. Sure there were some people walking, here and there, but bad shit happens fast.
Bruiser made it worse.
He started shadowboxing in the air. Hooks, body hooks. Uppercuts, straights. Crisp and with good form. I was right. Bruiser look. He was drunk as fuck, and lethal. Not a good combination. Especially when walking alone in the dark in a backstreet with no backup.
Bruiser said, ‘I don’t like to fight.’
And continued to shadow box. I was having an out of body experience. Like, right, dude, why you drunk as fuck then, and shadowboxing?
‘I always get into fights,’ he continued. ‘And then I get into fight, with security.’
No shit dude. Put your hands down then, man. What the fuck.
‘I don’t like fight. But when I fight, boom-boom, it is over.’
I bet. He timed his booms with crisp straights. I wouldn’t want to be at the end of those fists. I was constantly on edge. Cos the leader was leading me to somewhere. Some party. Somewhere down the street. I knew there was nothing. And I was getting further, and further away from the main zone. There was no one in sight now. Just us two. This is when you get shanked. No seriously. I expect to get shanked. A completely unrelated story taught me I can get shanked by anyone. Once, I was out in Amsterdam making out with a Latina, Mexican. Grinding and shit. We were going home. You know. Then in our drunken haze, she stabbed me with a dull blade to the forearm. Crazy story. My life. My paranoia. Anyone can shank me.
I kept talking to the dudes. Trying to extract information from their liquor infused skulls. The one kept shadowboxing and telling stories about how he did not like fights, but kept ending them, and for the life of him did not understand why he got in so many fights.
The leader kept saying, ‘X Daemon. Yes. We go to club X Daemon.’
I had done ample research, and knew some of the main clubs, but hadn’t heard about any club X Daemon. And usually an X means it’s a X-rated joint, with strippers, and bad dudes, who strip you clean of all your cash and cards.
I was not game. At all. Ejecto-time.
Finally, at the end of the street, the leader hailed a cab, and the bruiser jumped in. I was safe now. The creepy weird funny charming dude out of sight now. I missed him already. I like a good danger story, and he seemed full of trouble. The leader stopped in front of the cab, wobbly, and said, ‘Come with me, brother. Club X Daemon. We go together. Best club, in town. Stays open, till late.’
I wanted to believe him. But I had no cell reception. No way to verify his story. His friend didn’t seem like good company. I was all alone, and had no back up. No way I was jumping in that cab, going to some dodgy ass club called X whatever.
I stood my ground. Firm.
I said, ‘Thank you, brother, for the company. But I’m going back, man. Have fun.’
The guy was seriously disappointed. And then I knew he had good intentions. Or bad, depending on what he was gonna do that night, given his crazy ass wingman. But from the look on his face, I could tell he was just a bloke, trying to have a ball, and I seemed crazy enough to join him. Just for a second. I let him down. That was that look. I felt it.
I shrugged, and we said goodbye with a smile, and the cab darted off into the dark, and I pounded pavement back to the ‘party’ zone. On return, the courtyard was just as dead, but the main joint where I started was beginning to show some life. I returned.
There were some people sitting on an elevated curb, beside the entrance. Some people smoking. I entered the joint and the dance floor was packed. Well, kinda. The dance floor was small and there were some people. Men and women. Finally, a little party never hurt no one. I got reinvigorated and start dancing and chatting people up, approaching women.
Then I go and get some more drinks. A random guy by the bar offers me his beer. I am usually on a no beer diet. It makes you bloated. It’s not my favorite drink, and it’s just empty carbs. And the buzz you get from it is way more draggier and not as fast a hit as strong liquor. And the hangover symptoms are of a different variety. But the guy was insistent.
He raised his half liter glass, gesturing towards me. I put my hands up, patting the air. I’m good. He insisted. I shrugged and took the glass and took a huge gulp. The guy looked at the glass, pointed, and laughed. Is that all you got? I took the glass again and chugged the beer till almost nothing was left and gave it back and the guy finished it. We chatted a bit and shared some laughter.
Beer. Mistake number one.
I go to the bar for more drinks. Mistake number two.
After the drinks I go back and forth between the dancefloor and the bar. Not that often but too much. In fact, I lost count how much I drank by then. I had no spectacular interactions with the women, and M. was still on my mind, for some reason. We had a vibe. It was getting late and the night was turning out to be a bust. Then I did what any sane man does. Okay now that’s a lie. I think I’m the only one stupid enough to do it.
I walked to the bar. I looked at the same cool Polish dude from before. His eyes recognized me. He nodded.
I said, ‘Four vodka shots.’
He didn’t even flinch. He just turned around and went straight to the bottle of bison vodka. Where I’m from, or any sane place for that matter, the bartender hesitates. Flinches. Just for a beat. Thinking, hey maybe this guy’s had enough. Not here, not in Poland, not in Wroclaw. Not in this dodgy joint. He didn’t give a hoot.
He lined up the shot glasses. Mind you these are not your regular 0.02L shot glasses. These were slightly taller. And fat. These fat little bad boys, rounded up, got you at around 0.04L. To self-mythologize a bit here. Make the story fatter. Therefore, four times 0.04L makes 1.6L of pure vodka. And I had already at least 0.4L in my system. Maybe I’d already crossed the 1L barrier. Fuck. But one thing’s for sure. I was gonna cross the 2L barrier now. Which was bad. And there was a chance I was gonna cross the 3L barrier. Which meant I was fucked.
With perfect technique the bartender fills the fat square glasses with the crystal clear liquor. I took a photo. To jog the memory next day. I’m only human. I paid the guy, cash. Then I took the shots to the mouth, and hits to the brain. Just like that. One-two-three-four. Didn’t flinch. And it hit me good.
Everything after that was a rollercoaster. Don’t remember much. But like I once said. Once you do four shots like that, you lit a fuse. The second your tongue touches a drop of vodka from that first shot. You got lit up. You’re a ticking timebomb. The spike of energy and volatility needs to be put to good use. And that’s exactly what I did.
I danced, and approached, and talked, and eventually stumbled outside. It was getting darker. My vision blurred. Harder to concentrate. I smoked outside, and the bar lights made my hands look pretty. I knew a girl once who said I have very pretty hands, like a hand model even. I stared at my hand holding a cigarette, as the lights colored it from green to pink to yellow, slowly. I looked to the right and a couple of girls were dancing outside and thirsting men and no one was approaching them. They were having a ball. These scenarios often happen in isolated cities were there ain’t much to do.
Then I blinked.
Pure utter darkness. I am freefalling now. Not literally, I think. It feels like I teleported to another dimension. Into oblivion. And stayed in slumber there, for eons.
I blink. And I wake up at the same cross roads from before. Standing.
I look around, and it’s pitch dark, and no one is in sight. I am afraid. I’m never afraid. It’s cold. A small breeze blows through my jacket. I don’t know where I have been for the last few hours. It’s still night. Or morning. It feels like I’ve been gone, for days. Hours? Minutes? I don’t know. I am in full survival mode now. I am still trying to keep my balance.
Pain. My hand is bleeding. What the fuck? I can’t see straight. My vision is blurred. I can’t focus.
Home. Hotel. Pain. I go into autopilot. I know the way home. I try to keep my balance.
Market. Cobble stones. Trying to maintain my balance.
I know I’m on the right track, in my gut. My hand hurts like hell. And blood spills everywhere. On the metal zippers of my jackets. The pocket zippers, too. I try to tuck my hand inside the pockets, but my bleeding finger brushes past the small teeth of the zipper. It hurts like hell. I never feel pain. The wound is bad. Blood is gushing. I think I need stitches. No time for that.
Home. Need home. I feel like some of the hustlers from the gentlemen clubs were there with me, and I walk faster. I am in bad shape, man. I make a fist of my right hand. Keeping the scarlet finger safe. It hurts. The intoxication numbs the pain.
I make it to the hotel. I always make it home. I always do. I walk up the steps, through the glass door which slides open automatically, and then to the elevator on the right. I need my hotel room card, to activate the elevator.
I reach for my pockets. Shit, it’s not there. Fuck. I am not freaking out. I don’t freak out easily, and plus, the booze has control over all my feelings. I am numb. I am floating. I know only survival. And I’m bleeding out. Fast. I don’t know. I think. I think I need stitches.
I walk to the front desk, just across the elevator.
I said, ‘I lost my hotel room card.’
A woman looks at me. I know the look. It is how people look at people who’ve gone too far. I know the look. It is not good. I am not ashamed. I just want my bed. I don’t know if she got me, cos the words came out slurred and slow and maybe incomprehensible.
The woman gives me a card. I go to the elevator.
I am in my room.
I am undressed. I throw all my clothes on the ground.
I pass out.
Into a big sleep.
I wake up in full terror, as if someone brought me back to life, ripping me back from the void. I feel the pull from an invisible hand. I am in pain. My hand is bleeding, and I’m confused. I think, Good I’m in my room, I’m safe.
A knock on the door.
I sit upright, still naked, the sheets covering me slightly.
Foreign speak. The maids, room cleaning.
I say something. A tad too loud, or maybe too soft. I don’t know. It sounded like an atavistic roar. The maids go away.
I get up. And the buzz of the copious amounts of drinking of the day before hits me like sledge hammer. A hangover. I recalibrate and try to focus, and the symptoms lessens. It’s just a mental fog and my will takes over. My hand is still bleeding, and small red drops drip on the carpet. I think, Shit, fuck. I flashback to Thailand. There, if you pulled a stunt like this, you’d get a massive fine. But the pain and thick red liquid pumping from the hole in my finger centers me back to reality. I think I need stitches but where the fuck am I gonna find that. I rush to the bathroom and wash my finger, clean it, and put a band aid around it.
One problem solved.
My gut started acting up, and the fear and the anxiety bubbled up. I went to my clothes. Searched my pockets. Pants, jacket, all of it. First slowly, then speeding up. I was scared shitless. I found my stuff, one by one.
Wallet. Check? Fuck. No, no, no, no. Where is it? No. This can’t be happening. Not to me. This can’t be happening. You got to be kidding me. No, no. No, no, no, no, no. No.
I searched the whole room, for minutes on end. Corner to corner. Maybe I hid it somewhere, as my instinct kicked in. Hiding it from the bad guys, or some weird ass shit. I don’t know. But alas, it was nowhere.
My wallet had everything. All the cards. The cards gave me money. Without it I was lost. I search my jacket pocket, and I found one zlotti bill, a twenty. It has blood stains all over it. And as I pull it from the pocket, I rip the bill in two.
Fuck. That was my last bill. My last piece of money I had in Poland. Now I was really fucked. I am pissed. Not scared anymore. But really ashamed and anxious and I was stiff from the adrenaline. My mind started racing. Looking for answers. Solutions. The problems all stacked up and it was up to me now, to knock ‘em down.
I focused. Zen. Breathed in, and out. I sat on the floor, back against a closet, looking into a mirror across from. Game time. Get your shit together. What are the problems? Line ‘em up, and knock ‘em down, one by one.
I took a shower.
The hot water blasted off all the filth of the day before, and zenned out my thoughts a bit. It was still hard focusing on a single thought, cos of the after effects of the vodka from the night before. When in this state, you forget every single thing you need to do. Thing is when your survival is on the line, your brain tends to snap things into crystal clear focus. Vivid.
My finger hurt like hell, and the whole while showering, I was careful not to get it wet. This awkward way of showering would go on for a month, or more. Funny thing about the band aids. I only had a few. I didn’t pack more, cos I thought I wouldn’t need more. My mum gave me just a few. And the sad shit was, I needed a lotta them, and the utter tragic shit was, I had no money. I was broke. Except for the ripped twenty zlotti bill. Fuck me.
I got dressed. Sat down again at the same spot. Back against the wall, looking into the mirror. I checked my phone and charged it for potential storms I had to weather. I was on full tilt. You got that right.
I had time to kill and my brain was looking for distractions, running wild, so I texted M. the photo we shot the night before. I expected her not to respond, but she texted back almost immediately, and the same spark we had was reignited and we would go on to talk long after Poland.
I put my phone away and went into thinking mode. Hard. I was angry as fuck. Don’t get me wrong. And the fierce fire red hot rage fueled my thinking and pushed away the vodka haze. Priorities.
First. I need to get home, to the Netherlands. Now, it was a Friday. I think. Which meant I had to survive Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Which was four damn days. With zero cash. I had to fly home on Monday. Fly. Which meant I had to be at the airport. I had my plane ticket, already printed out before at home, so that was good. No issue there. I had my passport. Check. But the fucked up thing was I had to get to the airport. How?
The twenty zlotti bill. Ripped. Fuck. So that was priority number one. Had to get that fixed ASAP.
Second, I had to block my bankcards. I went out and downstairs at the reception and saw a woman again. I wasn’t sure if it was the woman of the night before. Who gave me the new hotel room card.
I asked her. She retorted very vaguely, as if to not take any blame for all the shit that happened, and all the shit I lost. Which made me think it was her in fact who saw me in my drunken stupor after the massive Quadka, all lost and confused and dazed.
I asked to use the phone. Thank God she let me. Thank God she didn’t charge me on the spot. I was dead broke.
The whole ordeal that followed next probably took an hour or more. Or hours, on end. I had multiple bankcards to block. Which meant multiple calls, which meant multiple times on hold. That infamous jingle when waiting, that awkward look to the desk lady. Grateful, but ashamed, and trying to hold it together somehow. A lack of energy, fatigued without sleep, and angry, and trying to fight the vodka symptoms. Barely standing upright.
Just another day at the office for Fury.
One of the banks I called had a very beautiful sounding woman. I could tell she was gorgeous just from her voice. She showed compassion for my situation, and wished me luck. I said yeah thanks man, will do. Still no idea how I was gonna get outta the shit.
In between calls, the desk lady had to re-dial some numbers cos I was making calls outside of the country, and the calls kept declining or something. She also had to use the phone for he own work. Which dragged the whole ritual longer than was necessary.
After God knows how many calls, and hours of talking, and saying the same shit over and over again, Yes, I lost my cards. Yes, I am in Poland. Yes, can you block the card? I finally was done and all my cards were blocked. I found the fact that I had to get new ones when I get back home very tedious and annoying. But worries for the future.
After that, I asked the desk lady two things.
‘You have a band aid?’
She saw my finger. Her face was stoic but I could tell she was shaking her head, in her mind. She gave me an emergency band aid, but it had no wrapping. It didn’t stick. So she gave me tape. I wrapped it around, and it was the most ghetto looking ugly thing on my finger.
‘I have a banknote. It’s ripped. Can you tape this for me?’
She said, ‘No, I don’t think that’s smart. There is a bank around the corner, which might exchange it for a new one.’
I saw my chances slim but had to try anyway. I headed outside and the day was already in progress and beautiful. The weather was nice and it was sunny. Everybody was bustling about as if nothing had happened. Of course not. Not for them. Their lives were without impediments similar to mine. They were not fucked. Sigh.
Any given day, any normal person would’ve charged the day with glee but I was very somber, given the situation I put myself in. I walked towards some buildings I spotted, following the directions the desk lady had given me. I couldn’t find the bank. Then I saw an orange sign. ING. I was a member of that bank, in the Netherlands. I thought maybe they could give me a card, or something, or access to my account. I walked in but no-go. They said they were totally unconnected to any international offices. Fuck me. I walked out. Walked down the street and saw something with a sign that said exchange.
I took a deep breath, and thought here goes something. Opened the door, and saw two very attractive women. Mature, and a tad older, but attractive. I said, ‘You exchange notes?’
One of them didn’t speak good English, or she just didn’t get me, or didn’t want to.
I whipped out the two halves of the twenty, ripped.
A bit of surprise, with shame perhaps, mingled with amusement appeared on the face of the woman on the left. She smiled.
‘Ah yes, you want a new one?’
She didn’t smell the desperation on me or she did. Mind you, my black Nike Airmax and black leather jacket were still caked with blood. My hair disheveled. My eyes savage and I was lost as fuck. She must’ve smelled something was up.
We exchanged the bills without much hassle and she stored away the two halves. I looked at the fresh bill as I walked out eternally grateful and wished the ladies well. I had to thank them, for they had just given me my only life line, without them knowing that. I was broke, but now not anymore. I had twenty zlotti. This is absolutely nothing. I had to safeguard this bill for the next four days. Or I was not going home. That bill was for the bus ride back to the airport. Remember the airport express was ten zlotti. So I had two shots, for two tickets. I was not taking any chances. I was not going to spend one single dime of this.
Okay that was that. What now?
I had no money, which meant no food. I was thirsty, so I went back to the hotel room and just drank some tap water. I had checked with the desk lady, if I didn’t have any unknown outstanding costs on my hotel room. Just in case. I don’t know, man. I was paranoid. After my experience in Thailand, where they suddenly charge you for random shit, I was on edge. She could’ve given me slack and trouble and maybe she would call the cops, and I wouldn’t be able to leave. I was paranoid as fuck. I had to get home. That was all that mattered.
She said, everything is paid for. Which was another thing taken care of. This just meant that I had to be sure not to wreck anything in the hotel for four days. Easy.
I had nothing but time to kill, so I walked about town and noticed the scenery and people. I felt very alone. Ever since Thailand, I’d tried to get the travel magic back, the mystical life force in the air, and in my life. After Thailand I’d only travelled to London and Brussels, but those were a bust. They didn’t feed me with incomprehensible vitality. Now here, Wroclaw, no cash, lost and broken by my own doing, I was stuck in a foreign country, with no one but myself to blame.
The small little cabins on Rynek market square were beautiful. The sun was in full swing. It was a beaut of a day. I saw kids playing and running and people eating. There was a smith. Forging stuff. Little axes and trinkets which were stunning but I couldn’t afford. Fuck me. I never forget how broke how was and even couldn’t buy a souvenir I wanted badly. I sat and smoked a cigarette on a made-up beach. A guard came and shoo-ed me away. No smoking allowed.
I kept walking from the square, down the main road, showered with rays of sunshine. Life seemed to be smiling at me. I didn’t smile back. I met a little accordion girl, sitting and playing. I sat down. She had brown hair, braided in a tail. A fierce intense look as she played, but a beautiful smile. She made me so happy. She played so passionately and probably didn’t even needed the cash. I’ll never forget her intense gaze. An attractive woman stopped and stood still for a long time, dropped some coins in the basket of the girl, and gazed at the beauty transcribing.
I left. I walked around and noticed all the foods. I ended up at the cigar shop again. But I had zero cash. Couldn’t buy a thing. I walked to a park and saw a monument of cavalry captain Witoli Pilecki, a WWII hero. It said, For even if I were to lose my life, I prefer it to living with a wounded heart.
I walked, and ended up where the clubs were. The place where I lost all my shit. I wasn’t feeling all too good. I just went home after walking, and was tired. I am quite used to fasting and wasn’t that hungry, but the deadly fact that I was not able to buy food struck me to the bone. I got home made some black tea, which was on the house, which I’d verified with the check-in lady. You never know. Broke as fuck? Gotta stay sharp.
The day before I used the pool, and the weights, and the sauna, just before heading out. Now I was unable to use the pool, given the gash in my finger. I hated that. I paid for a pool I couldn’t use anymore. Fuck. Me.
I didn’t feel like lifting or sauna so I just stayed in my room. I talked to M, but not to anyone else. Not my friends or family. I was too ashamed, and people would start asking question, and I wasn’t feeling that. No point in giving them answers, since they’d just make the situation worse, and give me more headache.
I did talk to Duke and Avtoritet. I can always talk to them. I can share with them anything. Personal, relationships, money, women, fitness. Anything. First I only talked to Avtoritet, since I’ve actually met him coupla times in Brussels, and we have a good click. He’s like a guarding angel, towering over you.
I told him what happened.
He didn’t freak out, of course. Chill, and just gave me some basic tips, and support. Like artillery in the military, they’re just there. But then, Avtoritet told Duke, and he hit me up. He does business online, and travels often, and I think he was in Poland too. I asked if he could help me, but he said he was too far away. No way to get to me. Not until Monday or something. He also didn’t have much money, so he wasn’t going to be able to help me. Not until Monday. But by then my vacation would be over and all my days were fucked anyways.
However, he mentioned a golden tip.
‘You know, you could try Western Union,’ Duke said.
That was the solution and hit me like an arrow. It was already too late now, and all the shops were closed, but the next morning, I’d wire myself some money. Then all my problems would be fixed.
I knew today was a Friday, which meant it was a going out night, but I was absolutely not feeling it. I took a nap, thinking I’d be recovered from the fatigue and booze and shame, and I’d even set an alarm, but thought better and just rested.
Fully dressed, I just laid in my bed, alone, anxious to go out. Scared for what might happen again. The unknown. The lack of self-control. The fear. Avtoritet had said, You know just go out. You have loads of stories. You’ll make friends easily. They’ll buy you drinks.
That was exactly what I was afraid of. That I’d lose control again. Also, the people were not that friendly and I’d seen better, and I’d have to spend copious amounts of energy, which I lacked. It’s hard to describe how I was feeling. But in a sense, something in me broke the night before, and stayed with me. I just laid in my bed, safe, but alone and closed my eyes. I slumbered.
Saturday. The next morning I was going to take some control over my vacation again. Western Union. Cash. Fury somewhat back in the game. I checked the time, and had time to kill before the shops opened, so I hit the sauna. After, I chatted with Avtoritet a bit and told him about Duke’s plan, to use Western Union, to wire myself some money. I told him the details, just in case there were some unforeseen things going wrong. In that case, he’d have to wire me the money. He was cool with it. He knew I was good for it. I wasn’t actually broke. I just had no access to my accounts.
At one point in the conversation Avtoritet, worried, said something, to which I responded, ‘You know me. Rule number one. Always survive.’
Avtoritet said, ‘Fuck survive. Thrive.’
I just smirked, and knew I had done the right thing in telling him what happened. Through him, the situation got much better.
Then I said, ‘Surviving is bestial. Thriving is royal.’
At our most base condition we are animals. We aim to survive. It’s what we do. It’s what we’ll always do. Given I’m a human last time I checked, I will survive. I need to. It’s in my genetics. It’s do or die. And it don’t matter what you throw at me. I always survive. But above that, there’s a certain human excellence only found in civilization. A certain grace. A desire to create, and find purpose and meaning, under the covering of the dark skies, peppered with silver stars. A mystical gleam in the eyes, exposing our souls tucked deep within us. The electricity of a touch of a lover. The look of a worried mother. Or father. The squeeze on the shoulder. Everything will be alright. All these small things make the human experience royal.
I got up and left for the Western Union. I walked in the blazing sun and found the place. The woman behind the counter spoke pristine English, but had a hard look about her. Stern. Suspicious, even. I needed the money, and was nervous as fuck, and perhaps it leaked from me. For some reason I couldn’t wire myself the money and I was fucked. Then I asked her where is wi-fi, and she said go to the mall you just passed.
I walked back, to the mall I walked by. A beautiful mall, full of expensive luxury items I couldn’t afford even if I’d have money. I walked around and scoped the place and took it all in and went to the top floor and sat down. Contacted Avtoritet.
Told him he needed to make a Western Union account and wire me the money. And oh yeah, hurry up bro. The place closes in fifteen minutes. He went about his bizz and I looked around me and waited. I was nervous, since if he didn’t come through, it’d be another day for me being broke. Which would mean another day of wasting, drinking tap water, and black tea on the house. Which was all fine, but it would mean no partying, and no enjoying my vacation. I mean I didn’t want to have the money. I was fine.
But I wanted to enjoy myself. You know, human being here. Wanna have fun.
Fuck survive. Thrive.
I sat on a pink lounge couch and people were buying cupcakes and I was hungry as fuck and had been fasting for a whole day. To my right children were playing, and jumping up and down the couch. No care in the world. I love kids. I learn loads from them. The sheer glee in their smallest actions makes me come alive. Makes me appreciate life.
I felt the time ticking. Fifteen minutes turned into ten. Ten into five.
Three minutes left. If Avtoritet didn’t come true, I’d be broke. I was fine with it, on one level, but on another, I was scared shitless. It’s a truly crippling sensation to have. I can tell you that.
Then I get a message from Avtoritet.
He said, ‘Your transaction number is 7625623. You can pick up your money, bro. I could only manage to wire ninety. Which means, minus fee, it’s around seventy-five euros. Enjoy your day, bro.’
I didn’t even have time to respond, and read the text while I dashed back to the closing Western Union. Sweaty and phone in hand I arrived. Same woman, same stern look. Suspicious, surely.
She waved to the same seat in front of the counter again.
I sat down and she said, ‘What’s the number?’
I gave it to her.
She typed on the keyboard. Some minutes passed.
She said, ‘You didn’t wire it. Who did?’
I said, ‘A friend.’
‘Where did he wire it from?’
She nodded. And tapped some more on her keyboard.
I was getting nervous and the adrenaline from before still hadn’t run out.
She said, ‘What’s your name?’
I gave her my first and last name, and my passport for verification. She observed the document.
‘That’s not your full name.’
‘Well, it is. Avtoritet just didn’t write down my middle names.’
I have two. The second is a Chinese name, with a hyphen.
She said, ‘Mm.’
She frowned. Tapped some more keys.
I waited, and my heart was racing. I really wanted the money now. I was fine being broke. But if you wave something like this in front of me. Cash, food, fun. Then I want it. Bad.
She got up.
She said, ‘Next time, write your full name.’
She waved me to the left, to another counter. Where the piggy bank was. Some bars separated the two of us, with a opening, to vault over the cash. She opened the register. Counted the money out loud, professionally, brisk.
I counted every penny.
I said, ‘Thank you very much.’
I thought, You don’t know how much I needed this goddamn money.
Or maybe she did.
I walked back from the Western Union, past the stunning mall, all the way back to Rynek market square. I remember seeing pierogis being sold. Polish pastries, filled with meat and vegetables and cheese. I remember wanting it badly, and not being able to afford it.
I ordered pierogi. I waited like a hungry wolf. The lady lobbed some sour cream on the plate beside the pastries.
I sat down. Put the white plate before me. The table was blue. I will never forget this dish. The sun shone, and small rays of light made the beige skin of the soft oily pastries glisten. There is art in food. There is art in the smaller things in life. I could already taste the meal. The gratefulness of having some cash in hand. I took a pic for Avtoritet. I sent it to him, and said, ‘I owe you man.’
He said, ‘That’s the second time. Remember Brussels.’
I smirked and put my phone away.
I dug into my delicious meal. One of the best meals I’ve ever had in my entire existence.
After pierogi, I had Polish stew. Bigos according to M. After the stew, I walked to the panorama in town, which was about an hour walking. The panorama was too expensive and I decided to save the money.
I kept walking and made a few detours and ended up on an enclave, an island thing. And crossed a lover’s bridge. You know, a bridge where the railings are covered with locks. Like in Paris or Venice or Ljubljana. I looked at the locks, and felt a pang in my heart. A void. Rather, the void. They say one should be happy by oneself. Not needing another. But trust me, if you’re broke and have no one in a foreign country, the smallest things can get to you.
I saw a sax player, an old man. He clutched the brace instrument with vigor. Fighting for breath and trying to reach the notes the whole time he was playing. He played Careless Whisper, and its serene sober solitude rang through the song. I felt as alone as the song and the old man. I had saved up some coins. I had made sure to save the twenty zlotti bill. For the bus ride to the airport. In my head, compared to the money I usually have, I was a broke fucker. Yet, I gave the old sax player the last of my coins. He gave me a moment which cannot be bought. Which has no value. Yet, has the most value.
I walked and got lost until I found a big suspension bridge. With blue cables. Wroclaw has impressive architecture and engineering. I went back to the market again for food. There was an international food market going on, with dishes from the whole Balkan area. I’m far from a foodie. But if one turns broke, and suddenly gets cash, trust me, food becomes life. It becomes vital. I decided my cash was only going to be spend on food and drinks, and one more thing.
I first had Bulgarian goulash with olives. Which was tasty, but sparse. The food was cheap as hell. That helped me. I decided I could splurge on another dish. I had Slovenian goulash with cheese and pork ribs. Delicious. After the two types of goulash, I went back to the hotel, to the sauna again. On the way home I saw the little accordion girl again. She didn’t smile this time.
In the pool area, as I walked to the sauna, by the Jacuzzi, I saw a kid play with bubbles and his mother and he was so happy. It pains me in my heart that I look at children and see people so happy. I wish I could capture that sheer glee.
The sauna zenned me out, and I fought the heat, the bad emotions, and tried to clear my mind. It somewhat helped. I decided to go back to my room, for some tap water, and the complimentary black tea.
I took a shower and got dressed and sat down facing the mirror again. I had been ruminating on bad thoughts, moping in my head. Now I simply decided I was gonna take ownership of the situation I was in. I had created. I opened the notes app on my phone and wrote down how much cash I had.
I have 230 zlotti.
For three days. Saturday, Sunday, Monday.
I can spend 77 zlotti a day.
This simple calculation. This budget I had set for myself. This small way of taking control of the utter shit I put myself in put me back in the running. Put a smile on my face. I was happy. Just for a few seconds. When you’re happy you celebrate. I got up and went out to buy that one thing which isn’t food or drinks.
It had gotten darker and the nightlife for what it was had come alive, and I sat outside the club waiting for it to get popping. This was another part of town. Not where I lost all my shit, but close by. It was actually a small street, almost an alley, leading away from the market square. Where the hustlers had been asking to join gentleman clubs again.
The alley was illuminated, and the lights gave a orange hue to the brownish cobblestones and buildings. I sat alone, and had bought Red Bull, which still counts as drinks, and I sipped it, getting some energy before I went into the club.
I looked at the Cuban, a Ramon Allones especial. Not food, not drinks. That one thing. That one thing I buy when I’m happy. A celebratory cigar. Look, I smoke a lot of cigars. Think I had forty or more this whole year, as of writing. But I had only smoked one, Hoyo de Monterrey, Epicure no.2, on the airport, right before lift-off. And then after landing, I had the Bolivar Corona when I had my steak. My only steak. Now I had acquired some cash. I had gone from a joke to broke, and now I was back. You know damn right I was gonna buy a cigar and celebrate my life, my resurrection. My survival. This was gonna be my second but last cigar in Poland and I knew it.
I looked at the Cuban. The red and golden wrapper, brown skin, phallic shape. Sensual. The lights in the air was magical and provided an ambience. I was utter alone. I sipped my Red Bull. Took it easy. No hurry, no worry. No care in the world. I wasn’t going anywhere. I cut the back end of the cigar, and put it in my mouth. Nothing sensual there. The taste is something I’ll never forget. Like any Cuban, grassy and fresh, and almost like hay. With flavors of wood. But this Cuban had some kind of buttery finish. Very mellow on the tongue. Like eating a caramel candy.
I whipped out the pink lighter M. had given me. I lit up the Cuban and inhaled the smoke and I was alive as fuck. I put the Cuban on my can of Red Bull and looked at it. Snapped a pic for Avtoritet as a tribute to him.
Fuck it. Thrive.
Surviving is bestial. Thriving is royal.
I took my time. I smoked. And with each puff of the cigar, with each buttery aftertaste, as the goddess Nicotine entered me, I became more attuned with the present. I became fully focused on the now and the place I was at. Nicotine danced with my brain, as some people looked my way, as smoking cigars is always a novelty. I didn’t mind them, and they were specters in the night.
Every dance has its ending. The smoke was wonderful, and the nicotine stayed in my system for a while, vibrant. I was pumped up. I put the butt out on the table, the crumbling ashes I wiped off. I got up and finished my second can of Red Bull and the lovely aftertaste of the Cuban vanished for good, and I entered the club.
Sunday. I sat and smoked some cheap ass disgusting Paul Mart carton tasting motherfuckers, in the cold light in the dead of morning.
I was alone, again. No women, no friends. I wasn’t hungover. I didn’t have the cash to go all out and fuck my system up. I think I did five approaches. I did my job.
The club was a let-down. It had seemed a good idea. The busiest of whole Wroclaw on a Saturday. Café Mañana. The name suggested it would stay open all night, which was fact. But just cos a club stays open long doesn’t mean it’s a good time.
First off, it was busy as fuck. Okay, that was cool. I like a good crowd. You can chat with people, approach women, and dance. But the clincher was. The crowd wasn’t good. Not chatty, not high on life, not open. Tough time getting a good click with strangers. Women approaching went fine, in the quantitative sense. But not qualitive. Women would stare at me the whole night. Not in the good sense. They would giggle to their friends, and come closer. In my proximity. I would think she looks cute, and came close, let me talk to her. I’d tap her on the shoulder and she would give a look of disgust and look at her friends and laugh it off. Might’ve been shit tests, but my energy wasn’t up to it, to diffuse them.
My whole energy was off, that was for sure.
The whole club had two area, down and upstairs. Downstairs you had a huge dance floor but it was so packed I got squashed the whole time I was there. So I went upstairs where they had Latin music playing. There the lights were red and drenched the whole area like in a prostitution district. It wasn’t as crowded, which was good, but also meant the vibe was low-key. There were loads of old people there. I went outside and had a smoke. From the balcony, you could overlook the dancefloor downstairs, and across was another balcony from another club.
My game was basically going down and upstairs, seeing where the life of the party was and trying get some vibe going on. Upstairs I had sat down and a Polish girl in a little black dress looked at me. I said something to her, and opened her up. She wasn’t very attractive, but her dress was tight, and she had something sensual about her, and I was alone.
We got to talking, and she said, ‘Buy me drinks.’
I said, ‘No, I’m broke. Usually, I’d consider, but now you’re gonna have to buy me drinks.’
She didn’t get it. Her English. Bad.
I convinced her to dance with me. And she left her friend sitting where we were. We enter the dancefloor and dance some kind of Latin club raunchy shit. I try to get her close, go for the kiss, but she doesn’t go for it. We grind a lot. I go for the kiss, and after a while she just puts her hand on my mouth and leaves.
At one point, as the club was closing, a drunk as fuck chick bounces around from guy to guy, and to me. But two white boys snatched here away. And then it hit me. I’m just as bad as them. The last two hours were devastating. I got squashed like an ant, and the music was horrible. They didn’t play any mainstream stuff. Only Polish shit. Maybe it was good, but I didn’t get the lyrics and the beat and melody was just utter garbage.
So in my head, sitting outside, in the morning, smoking, I had wasted a night. Sure I had one tall beer. Danced some. Lived some. But the night was a bust. Stupidly enough, people were all around me, sitting on the curb, in front of the club. Some sat down at the tables. Other stayed standing. They were just wasting their morning. I had no idea what they were doing, but it was stupid and I was stupid enough to be there and observe it. I got up and walked home and fell asleep.
I woke up and asked M. for advice.
I asked, ‘What does one do on a Sunday, in Wroclaw?’
She said, ‘It’s gonna be really hot. I’d go to the beach bar.’
‘What? You have beaches. With bars?’
I googled and she was right and headed that way. I went to Forma Planna. But I got lost for a bit, and couldn’t find the bridge, which would take me to the other side. I ended up at the train station. Wroclaw Glowny. It was built like a beautiful castle. With the whole shebang. Towers and all. Sand colored yellow and a bit of orange. I went inside, and inquired about the bus to the airport at the tourist information. I found the bus stop for the regular bus and not the airport express. At the ticket machine the bus ticket was only 3.40 zlotti.
I had saved up at least two bills of ten zlotti, for the airport express. The ticket was ten zlotti. But I saved an extra bill. Just in case. But since the ticket was just three forty, I saved around seven zlotti in coins. It meant I could spend a bit more.
I kept walking and at one point I went through a tunnel and took a photo of the beautiful lighting and the people walking towards me. The dynamic lighting silhouetted them. Three black shadows in the light, flooding the tunnel. As I snapped the photo, one of the three made an enthusiastic noise. He raised his hands, backing up the sound with his body language.
He came closer. We got to talking. His name was Radek. He had said, where you from? That’s it. Just this simple little opener. Nothing fancy, very direct, but effective. But his openness was key. His whole vibe was that of an open spirit. Free.
He invited me to the main stadium of Wroclaw, to watch the no arm no leg motivational speaker, Nick Vujicic. A ticket was 400 zlotti. But it was free for him. He was some kind of engineer who organized these things. At first I smelt a scam, but I don’t think it was. The thing was the stadium was just so far away and it would take the whole day. I said no and thanked him and asked his wife if he’s like that to all strangers.
Radek smiled, and translated for his. Then he turned to me.
He said, ‘We need to grow together. And in China and Indonesia there are Polish like him.’
I got his drift. Someone is always an outsider somewhere. We all are different. We all stand out with something. We are all citizens of the world.
I said, ‘Send me a text. I’ll take you to dinner in Netherlands.’
We greeted goodbye and there was a pang in my heart.
At Forma Planna beach in the thirty degrees Celsius sun, I smoked a cigarette. I almost fell asleep drinking beer in the sun listening to live band music in the distance while I lay on a wooden bench. Beer was eight zlotti. Now I had one-hundred forty zlotti left. Plus some fifty extra. Plus seven zlotti in coins for the bus. I was being smart about my return home. Head constantly on a swivel.
The beach was pretty small, and the water was clear, and the people were chill. But I got bored really fast, and left after a total of two beers. I walked home in the blazing sun, wearing my Hawaiian shirt, black with red palm trees.
At the market I bought burek with mincemeat. Fifteen zlotti. Burek is just layers of dough, fried and with stuffing. It’s Balkanic or Slavic. Turkish people have their own variant of it. It was getting late, so I went to the bar next to Café Mañana, which wasn’t open on a Sunday. I had no desire to return to the party area where I lost all my shit, for obvious reasons, but it was a ghost town there anyways on a Sunday.
So I sit at the bar and had ordered a shot of vodka, which I shotted, and now I was sipping a beer. There was an older woman from Iceland in the bar who was the life of the party. Chatting everyone up, but the vibe of the bar was low.
I walked back to the main square, and enter this joint called Casa de la Musica. I sit behind the bar and drink some beer. An old guy enters the joint. He sees me and tickles me twice says, Girigirigiri. First I thought what the fuck just happened, but I let it go very fast as he meant well and tried to cheer me up. One can imagine the mood I was in, and the mug plastered on my face. The old guy called me Bruce Lee, with a smile. I smiled back. In the back there was a small dance area where people danced salsa, and bachata, and other Latin stuff. The women were old, and the men unattractive. But they could dance. There was one cute girl in a beautiful sunflower dress, who had moves. But after all the previous nights, all the negative experiences, I didn’t go up to her, and just nourished on my beer
I left the bar and went back to my hotel, and straight into the sauna, and put the baby to 105 degrees Celsuis. It was cosy and warm and you could breathe nicely. It was a good sweat and lasted fifteen minutes. Then I went out, and did pullups, and came back and cranked that shit up to 110 degrees. It was hot man. Nostrils burning. Hard to breathe. I threw scoops of water on the grill. And the steam rose and it felt like I was on fire. My face burned. My limbs burned. My nose burned. My lungs.
This too shall pass.
It did and I came out cleansed after just a few minutes. I bought a beer at the market. 12 zlotti. 83 zlotti left. At the market I bought another Polish staple dish. Kielbasarna. 19 zlotti. 64 zlotti left. The kielbasara is a sausage, and it was good. Thick skin, thick girth. Each bite was a good mouthful. The ketchup was sweet and the mustard sour. The sausage was salty and fatty. Each bite a bit of juice came free. Lovely. The cold beer turned lukewarm, but together with the white bread slices were the perfect side dish.
I was gonna play Wroclaw out, like we say in Netherlands, and just spend money on drinks and food and cruise around the market. I entered Pijalnia wodki y piwa, the local beer and vodka franchise. I drank a shot vodka, and sipped beer. My go-to combo. 9 zlotti. 54 left.
I left. At the market a kid dropped a five coin as he entered the McDonald’s and I could’ve stolen it. But it was a kid. I gave it back. His friend said thank you. I spent 9 zlotti at the Mac on two small burgers. 45 left. I chatted with Duke and he said enjoy your meal, bro. He had no fucking idea. Well, he did. He, too, was often broke and without food.
After a while I was down to my last 24 zlotti, and I pass this bar on a corner. I forgot the name of the place, but in its name there was something which meant before the war in Polish. Outside there sat a girl with tattoos and piercings. She was overweight and had colored hair. Full of life though, and jovially. She drew me in. Said join us. She was sitting with some people. Random strange people. We got to talking and I felt this was gonna be the place to be, for the night. My last night.
I was melancholic. Sad to leave, but glad I was going home the next morning. I had made it. I had survived all those days. I tried to make the best of my final night.
I sat with the tattoo chick, and a comedian from San Fransisco, Bryce, and a black dude named Philip. He was from an African country, but had been living in Poland. Spoke Polish. At one point, to my left I saw a girl looking at us. I got up and opened.
I said, ‘Saw her looking, she must like me.’
Her tall blonde friend said, ‘She likes all boys.’
I thought, Ok. Her own friends calling her easy? I was tired and didn’t think much of it and just decided to go with the flow. I chatted with the cute dark haired small one who had given me the look, and to the tall one, and to the third girl with curly hair. Who wore a summer dress, with cleavage, and seemed very in control of what she wanted. Fierce eyes. Like a player.
I made Bryce and Philip join, so it was three-on-three. Perfect. The night went on, drinks were had, and the vibe was going good. The girls did some chair shuffle, and probably had talked amongst one another who liked whom more, and now the arrangement was Bryce sat with Easy Girl. I sat with the tall girl. Julia. And Philip with the most attractive one, Curly. There was an unspoken agreement that Bryce and I were gonna take one for the team, aka Philip, and would tag along for the ride, and entertain the other two.
I wasn’t attracted to Julia. But she had curves and beautiful eyes and she was sweet. She could hold her own in a conversation. Her father passed away, and she wanted to be a doctor like him. That was her mission. She opened up to me. Don’t know if it was the night, the drinks, me, or her, or everything. She opened up, so did I. We bonded. I felt that. I may or may not have been fully physically attracted to her. But I am a person who aims to bond with a person. Get a good connection. I always want that, you know. Sure, I love some weird drunk ass action on a beach in Thailand. But deep down, I want a spark. Magic.
Slowly, and surely, I was getting to Julia. I could see in her eyes she was into me. She had gotten closer. I dragged her chair closer.
On my left, the night had gone so far, that Philip and Curly, Olivia, had gotten handsy. No joke. He was rubbing her tummy, and groping her breasts, and she liked it, and he had gotten for the full make out. I was fine and focused on Julia.
Julia had gotten quite close. There was a silence. We paused. Rather gasped, and the space in time which was created drew us in. I looked in her eyes, and she into mine. I put my fingers on her chin, cradling it. Drew her in, just like the moment did with us. We kissed. Her lips tasted sweet. Our connection was solidified and I felt good.
Julia wasn’t shy or anything and we continued to kiss as the night continued. But then came the annoying part. Logistics. I tried to bring Julia back to my place. She didn’t want to, didn’t want to leave her friends. Especially, not the Easy girl. Julia, in our talk, had given a full length overview of the girl’s history. Long story short. She had slept around too much, and was feeling the consequences now. Mentally.
The girl was cute, and I’ll never forget her eyes. So lost. Depressed. Hollow. The people on the internet call it a thousand-cock stare. I don’t wanna judge, but this girl may or may not have had this look. Her energy was off, that was for sure. So I understood why Julia didn’t want to leave her.
But then the night took a weird turn. Someone suggested, subtly, we all go back to Bryce his place, which was close. So basically, an orgy was suggested. Look, I love debauchery and all. But I was into Julia at that point, and I wanted her for myself. But I had no say in the matter and we slowly walked back to Bryce his four star hotel, which was diagonally across from Café Mañana.
In hindsight I should’ve led, and taken control of the situation. But there were too many people, and they weren’t listening to me. Philip wanted Olivia, Bryce the easy cute girl, and I Julia. But the logistics weren’t perfect. Julia didn’t want to leave her friends. The cute little girl was just being dragged around, no ownership. And Olivia was just playing around.
We had stopped at a supermarket, to buy some drinks, and cigarettes. I made out with Julia more, but I could tell she was losing interest, and she wanted to get her car, which was parked on the outskirts of town.
We all went into the hotel, past reception and I gave the two receptionist ladies a nod. Their look was like, Oh just another night, and people getting some. Upstairs, on the hallway, the easy girl was literally dragging her feet on the carpet. You could tell she was not into it. Inside my head, I knew this wasn’t going good. Inside the room, instantly, the three girls go in the bathroom. Usually this is the part where the girls freshen up. You know.
I was talking to Bryce, as I took of my shoes. I wasn’t wearing socks. I was barefooted. I said to Bryce, ‘Julia is mine.’
Bryce said, ‘Bro. This is going to be a sharing matter.’
I shrugged and thought I’ll just talk Julia to the bathroom and you guys can figure out what kinda game you were playing.
The girls come out.
Olivia raised her hands.
She said, ‘We are leaving!’
I shook my head. Nothing we can do. Nothing I can do. I just looked at Julia.
I said, ‘Julia.’
She left the room in a hurry, not listening to me.
Everything went so fast, but slow motion at the same time. Philip talked to Olivia. Tried to calm her down. Put her hands on her shoulders.
Olivia shouted, ‘Rape!’
I looked at Bryce. What the fuck. He shook his head.
Then the girls dashed away, around the corner, and down the stairs. I waited a few secs, and knew it was a lost cause, but then I thought about the connection Julia and I had, and how she had ruined the whole memory. I decided to pursue. It was me and Philip, following the girls. Philip was saying stuff in Polish. And the girls weren’t listening. Shouting shit back. I don’t know what. Everyone was shouting. I just called Julia’s name, but she was to far ahead, out of sight, and already downstairs, like Orpheus losing Eurydice in Hades.
Then the little easy girl stopped me. Hands on me.
She said, ‘No. Julia doesn’t even like you. She doesn’t want you.’
That hurt. But I could tell she was bullshitting. She was sabotaging the whole ordeal. It must’ve been her. I don’t know. Better not to think what went wrong. No use.
The girl let go and dashed to her friends.
Downstairs. In the lobby. The girls running away, Philip chasing them to the entrance.
The easy cute girl said, ‘Run!’
They ran away and I never saw Julia again. Philip stood by the entrance, shock on his face, and the night as the backdrop. The cold wind blew in. To my right, the two receptionist ladies had seen the whole thing. I gave them a nod again. Sorry, you had to see that, all good here. They didn’t say anything.
Then Bryce had appeared downstairs.
He said, ‘Yo man, where are your shoes?’
I looked at my bare feet on the hotel lobby’s carpet. Something I won’t forget easily. I shrugged and just shook my head as we all walked back to the room upstairs.
Bryce shook his head, too, and said, ‘I knew it. It was that broken toy. She must’ve sabotaged the whole thing.’
I said, ‘Let it go, man. No use in theorizing who did what, and what went wrong.’
In the room, I put on my shoes again. I was very disappointed. But that’s life. One time you’re alone. Then you meet random people. Then girls. Then you make out. Then you go to your room. Then they run away. That’s life, apparently. Right?
Sometimes I just shrug at the absurdities of life.
Philip was complaining as hell. Going over what we did right, and wrong. He would’ve made a great wingman in another life. I got his contacts, but not Bryce’s. We walked downstairs together and we went out again. I was smoking disgusting carton-tasting cigarettes. At one point, Bryce called it a night, and I never saw him again.
Philip and I found ourselves back at the party zone where I had lost all my shit. The place was not popping. And I looked inside and there were no girls and it was late, and I had plane to catch the next morning, mind you. I had already set multiple alarms on my phone. It was fine. I had not drunk so much. It was fine. But the night was over.
Philp wasn’t having it, and to his right he opened this very fat chick. He played her good, and it went fast, and they were handsy again. He was a pro. He said to me that he was gonna stay, and I said alright, man, and we said our goodbyes, and I never saw him again.
I walked back home in the tomb dark, smoking, following the same route when I was drunk as fuck and had lost all my shit and my hand was bleeding.
I woke up the next morning, with all my shit, and unscathed, and grabbed my bag which I had packed the day before. I left in a haste. I was done with the place. I greeted the receptionist lady. And I went to the market one last time. Ate my last pierogis. They tasted old but they were delicious anyways.
I left, and went to the bus stop. The ticket machine said it was 3.40 zlotti. And I had dumped in the coins. And I got the ticket. And I was glad. I looked at the ticket. To this day I have that ticket. I saved it somewhere. It’s a token of my survival, my stupidity, my story in Poland.
The bus ride was the same forty minutes to the airport. I had time to kill, so I spent all my money on Polish soup and more pierogis. What was funny is that before I was saving money, just so I had enough for the bus ride to the airport. Now that I was home free, I didn’t care anymore. I was done with it. And good riddance with all the zlotti. The whole stay left a bad taste in my mouth and I wanted to leave as fast as I could.
Back in the Netherlands, my parents picked me up, and they could tell something was off. I stayed quiet the whole ride home. At home I unpacked.
After Avtoritet wired me the money, the first thing I bought actually wasn’t pierogi, wasn’t food. I didn’t think about me. I always survive. I thought of someone else. My mother. My whole survival story made me think about the precious things in life. The things that matter. The whole survival long weekend in Poland was a meditation for me. It changed me.
So I thought of my mother, and she loves fridge magnets. You know, the touristy ones, you stick to the surface of the fridge. So the first thing I bought was a magnet, picturing Rynek Market Square. Beautiful little thing. Vibrant and full of pastel colors. Only after I had secured this gift for my mother, I bought food for myself.
After unpacking my bag, I was in a hurry and had grabbed the magnet. It had come a long way. I clutched the magnet hard, afraid to lose it, somehow. It was the most important thing to me at that moment.
I said, ‘Hey, ma. Bought you something.’
She looked at me. Something in her eyes. She smiled.
She said, ‘Thank you, son.’
I was happy.