Yesterday (9/11) my laptop crashed. For the second time in a month, and since last time I lost all data from it - and most of the programs, and busy with moving to Puerto Rico, I barely started uploading everything again, I think it might be time to buy a new one. :-((
But back to crashes. For most Americans 9/11 is about crashes into World Trade Center Towers in New York, about crashes of vastly different ideas of what a desirable civilization, a desirable society is or should be, and about different ways of trying to impose your idea - and/or will - on everybody else.
I had my own personal crash of ideas and wills on September 11…. some 40 years ago.
I was 17 and in seventh heaven, since everything seemed to turn up roses for me that year. At the beginning of June, even before I managed to take my final high school exam ( In Poland, my home country,we called the final exam”matura” - a symbol of maturity? - and the high school - lyceum), I already went through a grueling week -long entry exam to Polish Film, TV and Theatre Academy in Lodz, Wajda’s, Polanski’s and Skolimowski’s alma mater - to name just a few famous Polish film directors.
Now I was accepted there, to study film, to become a film director myself in the future. I hardly believed my good luck, since I was one of only 22 accepted as students that year out of over 240 candidates! In addition, I was also the youngest (by three years) and the only female!
No wonder I was proud as a peacock and had a feeling of floating over the earth…. :-).
I was so totally self-absorbed that I must have missed any and all signals from my boyfriend Jacek (Jack) of how he felt about the situation. I accepted as the most natural thing in the world that he proposed marriage ( a day after I got the acceptance letter), despite the fact that we have only dated since February of that year, that I was only 17 ( he was 20), and about to leave town for at least four years (I lived and he studied in Poznan, while my school to be was in Lodz, 240 km away) and we got officially engaged on the day of my high school graduation.
My mother let me spend summer vacations with him (after all we were engaged), and we spent one month at the seaside, and another in the Bieszczady mountains, where he was born and his parents lived. I had a time of my life and did not pay the slightest attention to the fact that all through the summer he made frequent mentions of our future marital bliss - hey, I liked him, I liked being with him, being adored and having all the sex I wanted without too much restrictions (Poland was a communist country, true, but also a staunchly, conservatively catholic one, and even in the era of flower children in the West, in Poland premarital sex was not considered acceptable… unless you were engaged to be married, which made the society give you somewhat of a blind eye - and a pretty wide berth), I loved spending a summer vacation with him and feeling aah, so grown up.
But my dreamy next step was to study film directing, not being married, scrambling financially and having to do without a maid - because as students we would not be able to afford one, while I had neither experience in - or the slightest inclination towards housekeeping, and the thought of possibly having a baby (brrr) caused me considerable nightmares. So marriage - other than as a years away possibility - had no allure for me.
Yes, I would miss him, I answered his inquiries, but I would be busy learning, experiencing the world I so far only dreamt about, and, anyway, we could see each other twice a months on weekends, alternating my trips to Poznan and his to Lodz (train tickets in Poland at that time were cheap and trains frequent), and he, too, could concentrate on his studies ( he studied engineering and his grades weren’t as stellar as in my opinion they should be, if he truly wanted to be worthy of me… well, yes, I already admitted that at 17 I was not yet a woman, but already a peacock). He countered that he would try to transfer to a technical university in Lodz, which was fine with me. Alas, he did not get a permission to transfer.
September 11 was his nameday (for uninitiated: a birthday of his patron saint or el dia de su santo, which in the catholic Poland - and not only Poland - was celebrated instead of the person’s own birthday. Please don’t ask me why you would get presents and a party on your poor patron saint’s birthday - I grew up in this culture and never gave it a thought at that time - only now it strikes me as ridiculous).
So Jacek had his nameday party on that September 11 and when he walked me home after the party ( it was communist Poland, we had no cars, nor dared to dream of them - but, influenced by Italian movies we dreamed of scooters, Lambrettas, when we dared to dream big) he suddenly gave me an ultimatum: either I stayed in Poznan (he “generously” offered that I could study visual arts, instead of film directing, since I was studying both visual and performing arts during the last three years of high school on a customized gifted and talented program and did not even have to take entry exams to the Visual Arts Academy in Poznan) and we got married right away or the engagement was off - right there and then.
I was stunned, walked in silence not really believing that he said what he did and waiting for him to recant, to laugh and said it was a - bad - joke. He did not, so finally, in front of my house I asked him if he really meant what he said. He said yes. I took off my engagement ring and gave it to him - and he took it, turned around and left, without a word, a hug, a kiss.
I waited a week, thinking that surely he must come to his senses, he can’t expect me to forgo my exhilarating dream for the sake of something so bland and mundane as a premature marriage, but he did not call, did not drop by. Nothing. I was devastated and only the thought of film school kept me going. So I packed my bags and left for Lodz two weeks before the school started in October. My first school ID picture shows not only how very young I was, but also how dreadfully sad.
Yet, with time, the school worked its magic and before I went home to Poznan for Christmas I once again was a happy-go-lucky myself and …. already had a new boyfriend. In Poznan, after holidays I met Jacek when I was visiting my best friend. ( She later admitted that she arranged the meeting on his request). He offered to walk me home and I agreed. He begged me to forgive him and take him back, offered to wait patiently until I was good and ready to marry him on my terms and asked me to a New Year’s Eve ball, so that all our friends could see that we were back together again.
I was tempted, but decided that it would not be fair to my new boyfriend and declined. Jacek called every day hoping he could persuade me, but when my new boyfriend showed up on New Year’s Eve and I went to a ball with him, Jacek - as I learned the next day - attempted to commit suicide. He was lucky, though -his roommate returned early from the celebration after a quarrel with his girlfriend, found Jacek and called an ambulance. I decided not to visit him in the hospital and left with my new boyfriend to visit his parents instead.
There are large and tragic crashes - like New York’s 9/11 - and there are small, tragicomically silly ones - like my personal one all those years ago. …. Yet I still remember it well….. and a few years after that crash, when I heard about Jacek getting married - I cried all night.