Night, somewhere on the periphery of the city. I have finished my lesson with Sad Beautiful Iza (not her real name) and am cutting across the suburbs to Jarek and Lucynka’s place in Ursynów. The buses out here on the edge of everything are ancient beasts and I wonder if they are relics from the bad old PRL days. They have brown vinyl seats with a surprising amount of padding that soaks up some of the shock from the lack of suspension, and comfortingly analogue special effects. The warning bell which rings when the doors are closing reminds me of our old school bell- a little hammer beating madly inside an iron cup. No timid electronic beeping here. The doors close with a great roaring wheeze, and there is a smell of petrol. You can hear the engine grinding away under the floor.
Marcin and Jarek are waiting for me at the bus stop with a bottle of wine. It is snowing and the snowflakes swarm in the light from the streetlamps as we walk home. There is food, more wine, an excursion to the pond on the back of their block which I haven’t actually been to before. We throw things at the ice forming on the surface (one of my favourite activities). At midnight Jarek informs us that the conditions are right for building a snowman- since he has a degree in physics, we have to believe him. He gives a short lecture explaining that the snow sticks together best when the temperature is around zero and we get to work.
It’s my first snowman. I have only seen them before in pictures and and I am shocked by the weight of the snow- it takes two of us to lift the head onto the body. It’s also surprisingly hard to make round balls of that size, so our snowman has a blocky angularity about him. When we give him a face, I suddenly understand why “bałwan” means some sort of moron. He has a long droopy nose made of a pine stick, a pair of crooked eyes, a slack gaping mouth, a hairless dome. He also lacks the sense to escape from the elements so in the morning he’s still there, edges smoothed by rain.