I've been looking for you everywhere.
It’s been months since we last saw each other, but then I had one sighting. You were standing on a pier in Venice, of all places, your head high, your back straight as it has not been in years, just about to step on to a boat.
Safta was with you, a paisley scarlet-blue bow in her dark hair. You held her hand.
I was able to hold on to that image for a good few weeks. Freeze it in my brain. One foot of yours still on the pier, the other in the air.
And then a few weeks later, another sighting: I was just coming back from your resting place beneath the cypress and pine trees and a car passed by. Unlike me, you always drove so fast. Once, in your eighties, you were brought in front of a judge with a speeding ticket. You said: “Your honor, I’m an old man. Why would I drive quickly, where would I be rushing to?” and he believed you and let you off. Soon after, you quit driving – until I saw you the other day, back on the road, driving at full speed again! You were going so fast I was only able to see you for a split second.
I’ve been looking for you and was sure you would come to me in my dreams, or that perhaps I would see you in passing in the street that someone for a moment will resemble you, you peering from within them. But I think you were busy travelling these past few months. It would make sense since you haven’t been able to travel in recent years.
A few years back, we were sitting in the living room and rain started pouring outside all at once. You and Safta were sitting on your raised couches and we were all there with you in a conversation so intense with its warmth, we failed to notice the water that was filling the living room quickly, soaking the carpets, seeping into the wooden legs of the tables and chairs.
It was up to our ankles when we realized we were surrounded by water, and there began hours of trying to soak it all up, weeks of trying to dry the carpets with a fan, so they would not mold. How did we manage to get you both out of there when you could hardly walk by then? I can't remember. I think of those long minutes when we didn't notice the water, each of us safe in our raised seat, too engrossed in the conversation to notice anything else.
Every time I have a sighting of you I’m able to hold on to it for a few more days.
There’s a rectangular cave I’ve been working on, carved in chalk stone, crispy cool gray walls, but every few weeks it comes crumbling down and I’m not sure if I can carve it or find it again.
Too many metaphors.
You always loved travelling and when I began to resemble you, you would give me much-needed travel advice. You would say “Munich's airport is small and efficient. You can make it to the next flight in a one-hour layover.” I would ask you what to bring back from the trip and you would say Brandy, Kahlua, Cherry Heering Liqueur, and write the names down on a square note with the word “ZIM” on top.
The refrigerator repairman told me on a recent visit that you used to have a drink together every time he came over for a repair.
But again, I’m digressing.
And you, Reader, are you here, visiting the festival in Krakow?
It is your first time? Or do you come every year?
And now you’re reading this letter, which isn't very festive...
What does it have to do with the festival?
I walk into room 101 on the ground floor of the Eden Hotel after a long, belated flight, only to find another sighting:
My grandparents at midnight sitting by the kitchen table, eating.
They have just arrived from a flight and the house is still dark, with only a couple of lights on. The small blue Pyrex dish with the lid, a piece of cheese being taken out of the refrigerator. They’re drinking their slightly differently made coffees for sure. I can see the metal kettle with its black button raised.
Welcome to Krakow.