The conscious part of my mind indeed would rebel, and almost every day I thought of how I should quit the job immediately (though of course the problem of what else to do.) I would drag myself in, really feeling miserable, almost with a sense of offending nearly everything important. But, from time to time I would remember I was in a city, and that lots of things can happen in a city. Art, culture, music, dance, the tango, and perhaps things that might inspire a kind of mysticism, the chance meeting of another person that made one wonder about the deeper significance. Call it an education, peering into the souls of those who came to the bar in every sort of circumstance. It made me think of all the souls who had wandered into Washington, DC.
There are the musicians, of course, people who've come to an ease from knowing through music the order of Heaven and Earth, people of unexpected generosity and a reference of wisdom. That state of being touched the life of more people than one might have expected. Madam Korbonski had started out adult life as a Chopinist before the Nazis came to the academy and put an end to that, and then she became what she became, a wife, a heroine of incredible wartime bravery, of Radio Free Europe, and as I knew her, a generous salon in a simple flat next to mine that had served as a gathering place for those of nations taken by Soviet occupation. (I have her old Zenith turntable, along with a few other artifacts of Polonia, and a rare English translation of Pan Tadeusz, a gracious bow to my own literary effort, and her calling me Tadzio.)
How to explain a meeting like that? And wine, as much as I had my difficulties with handling it, the diligent manual work it inspired in me, like food, like music, like sexual attraction, like the love of conversation, was a part of it all. "Relax," one could say to himself. "You've ended up alright, and haven't, as you might think, have tossed your education out the window. Rather, to the contrary, have you used the noble wisdom passed on to you." Not everything is easy to put into terms, easy to understand from the rational logical concrete achievement point of view.
Now and again, an old soul would come in, and then, by the light of a deeper understanding, it was okay to be a barman in Washington, DC, part of a reaction to a deeper mystical sense of order, of the consciousness we all bear, awakening.
Really, how else could one have faced such a task for so long, without attributing to it deeper meaning, random perhaps, but with a point to it, seen some times better than other times. And I would imagine someone like Lincoln might have nodded at that.
My sports commentary from the front lines.
She told me once a story of meeting a German boy on a lake, before that time she met her husband Stefan (in an elevator), a flirtation, a hint at courtship, and then seeing him again in officer's uniform in occupied Warsaw, recognizing each other, then turning away, the encounter between enemies remembering the summer lake and sunlight. She told me a ghost story, a blood stain on a rug at the bottom of the grand stairs of a house the Nazi officers had taken over that would come back after the rug was cleaned. She would sit back, looking through her glasses, content with finding a repository for her meanings, and even chuckle a little bit sometimes. "Oh, Tadzio, Tadzio..."