As we climb towards the north, towards the Alps, feeling our way along the Grenoble road to get to Lyon and then up again, to get to Dijon, around Paris and not too far from Calais, I think that I might be tired.
My uncle always begins sentences mid-way. This makes it difficult even to follow the landscape, because information comes in from different levels and thoughts and points of view and he often refers to those of others; and then, as I try to distract myself from the boredom and the fragmented conversations (his friend, who is sitting in the passenger seat, merely nods or clears his voice to acknowledge the chatter) – then I think about Pomerania.
The other night I was talking with a friend of mine and I said that my uncle asked me to accompany him to England to sell two purple-tongued dogs.
Chow chows?, she asked me. No, pom pom dogs, I said.
And the conversation ended there.
We saw Isere, grey in a grey valley surrounded by mountains as solid as their reputation – grey, in fact, and cold; even the river’s froth was grey.
So I started thinking about Pomerania on a sunny day. About the monumental rose-colored brick churches and castles and the bridges that dot the bare plains, and about the idea in my head that in Pomerania there is a particular light, a somewhat Baltic light which shows no mercy on the body’s temperature. I look at the puppies, sleeping fur balls; you can only spot the head when they are eating.
Unfortunately, my uncle does not stay silent for long, so I swing from thoughts of the motorway junctions – where even his friend makes comments to prevent us from getting lost – to thoughts of my more or less idealized view of Pomerania.
The French motorways are just as noisy as the German ones and noisy for long stretches. This muffles some of the conversation and the occasional yelps of the dogs, allowing me to fall asleep, and when I wake up from my short naps, I always find myself somewhere else: in the north of Poland. I see the medieval and monumental granite castles; I see the testamentary remnants of the war and the bold new glass structures; I see the sun caressing the surface of the lagoons and water canals, thick and shiny. It looks like the Netherlands. In very clear and cold water these Polish villages can be reflected as both harsh and pretty. I don’t see the bypass around Dijon, nor around Lille. We never stop, and I have no idea what our route has been so far. To save time, I travel to Pomerania while France accompanies me north, on board a vehicle. Any stop we make is more for us than for the dogs; I have given them water and have fed them during the journey. I would like to say a few words but I do not know what to say; then I make a few comments on the ferry boat which we will be boarding in Calais. The sea will be calm, according to the weather forecast; but everything is still grey. Here as well.
When we arrive at our destination I will have less time, less room and less of a view of the familiar Polish region, because I will be called upon to be an interpreter.
But damn it what an outbound journey – at least that’s for sure: two destinations and two different trips all in the same time frame.
It’s very nice sometimes to have two.
Based on a story told by Anna Ettore
Translation edited by Ester Tossi