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High · Spirits


Wednesday, December 10, 1941

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When I woke up this morning, it was still dark. For maybe the first time ever, I could see stars through my bedroom window. There's no electricity and the streetlights are out--that's why. I wish the electricity had gone out once or twice when I was a kid. I had this telescope that Papa bought me in Paris--you could actually see stars from our villa in Verneuil-sur-Avre--and I would have liked to have been able to use it to see the stars over my own home city.

Papa and I were amateur astronomers then; at least, that's what we said. It was nice to be able to do something with just him and not the girls. None of my sisters were really interested, so it was just the two of us. He taught me the star patterns over most of Europe and how to tell the date and location from the sky. I remember watching eclipses with him. We used to spend the nights before my birthdays stargazing--there's always a big meteor shower leading up to that date: the Perseids. They've been visible for thousands of years, and used to be called the Tears of St. Lawrence. I always tried to see the meteors Papa pointed out, but they go so fast... Anyway, during the Perseids, there are so many that I saw plenty on my own. I used to imagine what it would feel like to be a shooting star, to blaze through the sky so fast... even after I understood what they really are and how they really move.

I got up and dressed in the dark. Kaja still has some of my clothes here. It is so nice to be able to wear something besides the same button-down shirt and khaki trousers. All the sweaters Mama and Odeta made me were folded up in a trunk at the end of my bed. It amazes me that Kaja's gone to the trouble of keeping all this stuff. She's been using my room for storage, since it's still in decent shape.

She hasn't been heating this part of the house. She's managed to rig up some sort of wood-burning stove in the kitchen (I'm amazed; I didn't know she was so handy), so that half of the apartment is warm enough. She's been burning wood she finds in the rubble. I feel somewhat better, knowing she's been able to take care of herself. It was worrying in Moscow, to not know--but now I know, and I can take care of what's mine. I think that I'll just take Kaja back to Saratov to stay with Yong and Kseniya Borisovna. Odeta likes it there, and, more importantly, it's safe. I don't think Yong will mind another pair of capable hands. Kaja might object--she's been acting so oddly--but I'm sure she'll come 'round once she's made to see the truth of the situation. At any rate, I figure, I'll just do whatever I think is best, and everybody else will fall in line. That's pretty much how it always works.

Anyway... sweaters. Yeah. It's really cold where I slept, so I pulled out all of the quilts and layered myself in about four of the sweaters. And I wore mittens. I'm getting really sick of being cold all the time. I thought that I'd be glad to be home, and that I wouldn't miss Moscow, but... there it is.

Kaja was already up and dressed, which didn't surprise me. She's always been so practical and driven. She had to get to work, but she gave me the key so I could come and go. We didn't say much to each other. I told her what I'd decided--about Kseniya Borisovna's, I mean--and she just sighed.

I didn't want to spend the entire day in the house, so I thought I'd go see the rest of the city--I mean the parts that I care about. The first place I went was St. Jan's Cathedral, since it was still early enough to get there before mass. I hadn't been to mass or confession since I left Moscow, and that was over a week ago.

The cathedral has been a little damaged by the bombs, but, much like our apartment building, it still stands. The Gothic façade (of which we are so proud) is all right. It's comforting to see that it's standing when everything else around here has been blasted to bits. It's so much taller than anything else around... though it's shorter than I remember. Maybe I'm just taller now. Ha ha ha.  (You have to imagine that you just heard dry, cynical almost-laughing.) 

I'd forgotten it was Advent until I walked in and saw all of the purple--the banners, the curtains, the wall hangings... only two weeks now until Christmas Day. There's a little crèche in the north transept under the watching eyes of our patron Saint Jan.

The things I've done automatically so many times...  I did not have to try to make them meaningful.  I dipped my fingers in the holy water, crossed myself; then I walked halfway down the nave, chose a pew, crossed myself again, genuflected, and knelt to pray.  I prayed the Rosary--the creed, the Our Fathers, the Hail Marys...  I lingered over those.  It seems a little silly, but there's nothing the world could use more of than the faith, hope, and love the prayer asks for.  Then the Glory Be, and that little prayer Papa taught me.  I completed the decades, meditating:  I desire a strong faith, I desire the virtue of hope, I desire zeal for the glory of God... the grace of a holy death... a greater love for the Blessed Virgin.  Then I said the Hail Holy Queen and finished with the final prayer.

I tried not to be distracted by the other worshipers.  There were maybe twenty or twenty-five people there.  (It was still early.)  Nobody was making too much noise--other than a girl crying in the third row--but I kept looking at them and wondering if I'd see anyone I had known.

After a while I rose and crossed myself, making my way to the confessionals.  There wasn't a line.  (I could think of some apt and sardonic commentary, but I'll leave it at that.)

The priest greeted me.  He was one I didn't know.  We prayed together, and he invited me to share my sins.  I was surprised--and somewhat ashamed--to realize that it had been eleven days since my last confession.

I had a lot to confess.  Well, not more than usual, I guess.  I always have to confess pride and hatred and lying and envy, but this time I had to add controlling and manipulative behavior--which, yeah, I suppose I also do all the time, but usually it's not bad, and it has to be done, so I'm not sorry, and I don't confess it.  I was thinking of my new-found powers, though--forcing people to do what I want is probably not how I'm meant to use them.

The priest put his hands on my head to bless me, and I felt relief wash through me.  I really am sorry for the things I do, and I wish I could be better than I am.  My penance is to meditate on the love and mercy of God.  I infer that I'm supposed to emulate it.  I've been too busy--no, too distracted--to pray very much lately, so this will be incentive.

I returned to my pew to meditate until the service began.  It's a weekday, so the service was simple--just the usual prayers and the liturgy.  The music was only the organ and some congregational singing.  It was so good to hear Polish voices together that it didn't bother me that they were out of tune.  (Okay, I noticed that they were out of tune, but I wasn't annoyed.)

The petitions were all along similar lines:  end the war, bring back my son/father/husband, &c.  I'm so tired of feeling sorry for people, and I'm getting cynical.  Can't people at least be creative in their tragedies?  Well, that's probably another instance of pride.  I'm no better than they are even if I am more interesting.  (That doesn't sound quite right, but you understand.)  Anyhow, I mustn't forget the tragedy that exists in even the happiest of lives, and how even the smallest bad thing can hurt in the very depth of you.  And everyone here is in pain:  everyone in the entire world.  There's no escaping it until death takes us.  But I can heal some of it--I can ease some of it--I really should try to be more understanding and caring, especially toward my sisters.  I guess taking care of them includes treating them tenderly.  Especially since I'm the one in charge--noblesse oblige, no?

On a totally unrelated topic, there is no milk to be found in this whole city.  I went out looking for some after mass, only to discover that it doesn't exist and all I had in my pockets were rubles.  But darn it, my sister should have milk--and, okay, I want it, too.  I know, I know, it's weird for Slavs, but those crazy Ruszkowski kids love milk.  What can I say?  It's our mama's influence.

Tomorrow morning, I'll find someplace that will convert rubles into Reichsmarks.  I hope.  Otherwise I'll have to go to the bank and get money from Mama's account.  I have the pass code for it, which I haven't told Kaja--she's been supporting herself for the last while, and she'll be mad that she didn't have access to the money.  Never mind that I have no idea how much it's worth now, anyway, considering inflation and the general mess of things.

After my unsuccessful quest, I came home; I didn't feel much like going anywhere else.  I played the flute and meditated on the nature of God.  I do want to be more like him--not, you know, omnipotent or anything, but humble and unselfish.  Upon consideration, I do have some things that I don't have to worry about--I'm good at forgiving and admitting when I'm wrong and treating people kindly and gently.  Now, if only I could fix everything else about myself, then I'd be perfect!

The symbol on my shoulder appears now whenever I use my powers.  I've been practicing every day since I met Yong, and I've sort of started to see what I can do and how much energy it takes.  It's so much less tiring when I use the flute--or blow air through anything, really--it's like some kind of amplifier.  Anyway, the symbol is weird--I should find out what it means, because it's obviously something deliberate and meaningful--but I don't think I'll tell anyone about it just yet.  It's like I've been marked.  And it's obviously connected to the use of my powers, since they coincide, and they both glow with that faint blue light.  It's a pretty symbol, though--I like it.  If I have to have a mark on my body, I can't think of anything I'd rather choose.  It's more or less symmetrical, at least, so it looks very reposed and balanced.  I can't imagine that it means anything like a verb or a participle.  It has to be a noun or an adjective--something stable and self-controlled.  I've copied it down:  亢

Anyway, still no sign of Yong and Sasha, and I'm worried.  I'll check again tonight, and twice tomorrow, or however long it takes.  I'm sure Yong will come; he's the responsible type.

It was nice, for a while, to have a friend my own age.  I mean, not a child or someone as old as my parents.  I've been spending all my time with older colleagues and their sons and daughters.  I think I spent too much time with grown-ups even when I was a child.  But Yong made it so easy to be friends...  I forgot I'm shy.  Yong makes everyone so comfortable, like whatever you're already doing is exactly the right thing to do.  And Sasha was very easy for me to talk with, too.  I don't feel threatened at all by him any more.  Yong had better bring Sasha along; I still haven't had a chance to figure out him out.

Well, Kaja will be home soon, and this apartment is a mess, so...  I have things to do that are more pressing than is journaling.
Current Location:
Warsaw Apartment
Current Mood:
pensive pensive
Current Music:
Czese Maryi, hymn to the Blessed Mother
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