I was invited to a party by a friend called Michal Stangel and if I ever had an idea of myself as an intelligent individual, vibrating with sparkling wit and an ability to inspire others with valuable and cognizant insights, well, it died a fucking dog’s death at this party.
Not from any malicious activity arising from Michal’s guests. Let’s be clear on that. The University’s new Vice-Dean gathered a cheery, good-hearted bunch around him, some of whom I knew, others I got to know in that great way that only half a bottle of brandy and miniature cream cheese vol-au-vents can actualise.
But meeting them, one after another, this concentration of talented Silesians, left me gibbering in a viscous pool of my own dull-as-dirt deficiencies.
To be honest it started long before the party. My PRACTICAL SILESIAN WIFE’S sister called around with cake, a delicious chocolate confection and I got to thinking how in a million years I could never create anything as appetizing. I don’t have the ability to make things, you know, with my hands. Basically, I’m as self-sufficient as one of those horror-movie brains floating in a jar of formaldehyde.
The Wrodarczyks came to take me to the party and this only compounded my despair. Marcin has a complex job, but still finds time to make bikes. His wife is an architect who designs and makes toys and interiors. With her hands. Jesus, what’s wrong with me? Once in school, I tried to make a matchstick house, but I ended up supergluing my nose to the floor and my friend Baz pissed on me because he read somewhere that’s how you free a person from superglue. Somehow it worked, one of those rare cases where urine triumphs over intellect.
The party was a parade of erudite and entertaining Silesians, architects, urban planners, the people who shape the world we live in and who are trying to make Silesia friendly and functional. There was one lady, Agata I think, but it’s hard to remember because I was knocking back brandy like a medieval drunkard, my go-to place when I’m intellectually out of my depth. Agata had a tattoo of a bicycle (a Dutch bike according to M. Wrodarczyk) and she was passionate about turning Gliwice into a two-wheeled wonderland and not the giant lung-cancer factory it currently is. Fuck. She’s actually trying to change things. Not just writing about stuff, but doing it, like my other sister-in-law Ewa, chosen to be one of the last five women in the running for the Diana Award.
It wasn’t all elfish architects and urban planning wizards. There was a surgeon there, and not just your regular surgeon but an emergency surgeon, as rare as Dutch Mountain dogs. This is the guy they call when there’s a ten-car pile up on the motorway – he saves lives and what am I doing? Writing a few chuckles for the paper? His wife was a landscape gardener, and in that quiet, polite way of people who know things, she explained the difference between a slug and a snail and how the former are alien to Poland’s ecology. Oh to be clever just once, to know things, to be good at something, anything…!
Some of you will say, ‘oh, but you write…’ So what. Because deep down, each writer believes they’re a fraud. We believe the nail of ineptitude has been hammered into us since we could crawl and we have arrived at the occupation of letters because it’s a refuge for bunglers. We move words around a page, which is another way of saying we shovel shit from a sitting down position.
Is there a point to today’s column? Not really, but let’s find one. We all have our doubts. We all feel inadequate. Everyday is a fight to believe in yourself and what you are meant to do. Some days it drags you down. But if you keep getting back up, and take the example of those you meet at Silesian parties, those who persisted with their passions, then there will be days when you’re king of the world.
I left the party at 2am and went home, stumbling across a review from some portal giving my column book five and a half stars out of six. I celebrated by eating the rest of Mary’s cake and passing out on the sofa.