I remember the first time I met Misiu’s ex.
And she wasn’t his ex at the time.
There was the first time I was supposed to meet her. She had invited me through Misiu to go to the swimming pool with them but got called for a job interview at the last minute and had to cancel. Not long after that, I was off for the seaside and had forgotten all about her existence. When I returned from the seaside, she was (conveniently for me) abroad working. For the first 2 months of school, I would have Misiu all to myself. Of course, this “all to myself” business was purely in my head, but so what.
I met Misiu often as we worked together and shared groups of students. It was unavoidable. I was even invited to their (his and his girlfriend’s) apartment which was for me the epitome of what a “European” apartment should look like – white walls, white tiled floors, a lot of glass and black leather. Sexy, huh?
After a short time, the invitations became more frequent and had less and less to do with working together. So with the confidence of an American girl abroad, I indicated that I was interested, and Misiu (surprise, surprise) indicated that he was interested, too. I thought, What the heck. Let’s have an interesting 2 months till his girlfriend gets back.
I know that for some people (especially women) I had broken some secret code of conduct – You don’t go after a taken man and you don’t try to break up a happy home. But in my own defense, they were not married and I wasn’t taking, only borrowing. I had no intention of keeping him and anyway - Chłop nie mydło. Nie wymydli się. I would return him in one piece.
But as the 2 months of Misiu all to myself dwindled down to 1 month and then to 1 week, I started to feel sad that it’d all be over before it even had a chance to start. But oh well, there are more Polish boys in the sea, right?
On the day of her return from working abroad, some friends of theirs were invited to their place, somehow with me included. I was a little excited to meet her and hoped that she wouldn’t be able to read the shame on my face for having so brazenly borrowed her boyfriend. But then something happened. I met her. And I didn’t feel ashamed at all, even though I should have felt ashamed and maybe should still feel ashamed today. I didn’t feel ashamed, not even one iota, for the simple fact that she was beautiful. And I was not. I knew that as one of the beautiful people, she would somehow be alright in the end.
It also helped that I didn’t like her. I didn’t like how she pushed and pulled on Misiu trying to straighten him up when he slouched or prod him on when he didn’t laugh enough. I didn’t like how she flirted with one particular guest when Misiu was out of the room. I didn’t like how long her legs were or how blonde her hair was. You get the picture - I didn’t like her.
It wasn’t enough that she was beautiful, could speak a couple of languages and had Misiu, but how could she, in this room full of friends who were teachers, insult the teaching profession – as translated to me by an English teacher guest. I asked, “But she knows we are all teachers, right?” Anita replied with a sigh, “Yes, she does.” We all weren’t teachers though. There was one young friend, Maciek, who worked in his father’s company and there was one doctor, a very good friend of all, of course.
The conversation turned, and I could see the plan developing by the others to match me with the Doctor. Not that he wasn’t attractive or anything, but he was about as interested in me as I was in him. After a while, everyone let me alone and their conversations started to flow freely again. No one even bothered to translate, but that was alright by me. It gave me a chance to observe. I may not have understood a word of Polish, but through keen observation I was able to pick up some vital information that evening.
With Polish conversations swirling and buzzing around me, I slouched down deeper and deeper into the big, black leather armchair wishing it could somehow swallow me up and deposit outside on the sidewalk with the rest of the guests being none the wiser. Supposing that this was impossible, I waited a respectable amount of time and then excused myself, explaining that I wanted to turn in early. I was heading to the City to visit some friends the next morning, and I had an appointment to call them that evening. Misiu walked me out to the pay phone.
I made my phone call and as we parted, I think I surprised Misiu by telling him matter-of-factly that his Doctor friend was in love with his girlfriend. From the look on his face, I knew that it must be true. “That’s what they tell me,” Misiu said. “Whatever,” I said and walked myself home. And that was that.
Observant as I was, I couldn’t figure out how she felt. She flirted with the Doctor, but she also showed off Misiu like a mannequin she had dressed up for the occasion. From what I could gather, she wanted them both – the doctor part of the Doctor (money, social standing, etc.) and the Misiu part of Misiu (funny, likeable, handsome). It seemed to me that she wanted Dr. Misiu. But Dr. Misiu didn’t exist.
PS1 “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” is a country music song made famous by George Strait. In my hometown (not in Texas), there is a diner with little jukeboxes at each table, and this song has been on the playlist as long as I can remember. I’m not a country music fan, but I’ll always remember this one.
PS2 There is something which Misiu calls Kryśka’s Morality. I guess you could call it my code of conduct, but maybe my code of misconduct would be a better name. In this post you have learned some of the finer points, such as:
- Chłop nie mydło. Nie wymydli się. -A man is not soap. You cannot use him up.
- Beautiful people are always somehow alright in the end.
Not included in this post but crucial elements of Kryśka’s Morality are:
- When I am driving, I am king of the road. Pedestrians look out!
- When I am a pedestrian, I am king of the road. Drivers look out!
- As a teacher, your success is my success. Your failure, however, is all your own.
- Living in America for 10 years and not learning English is totally unacceptable. Living in Poland for 10 years and not learning Polish is absolutely understandable ;)
I could go on and on…