We walked to the quarry and had our first talk of the end.
She’d come to visit from Budapest and was staying for a long weekend. We’d last seen each other five weeks before and spent the ensuing time apart on separate continents. We left on good turns.
Now we were back in Krakow and a lot had changed. I hadn’t realized how much. She had no idea.
We were feeling claustrophobic in the apartment, and in our own heads.
We needed to get out.
Krakow contains several parks. We sought refuge in nature.
The Zakrzówek quarry is rumored to contain black magic. Pan Twardowski, a sorcerer from the 16th century, made a deal with the devil for great knowledge and supernatural power. He allegedly practiced his dark art among the rocks.
Pan is said to still be alive: He lives on the moon and keeps tabs on Krakovian gossip via a spider’s thread spun down to the city center.
Today, we were trying to disentangle our own web.
We walked from the apartment to the quarry, 4km west from Kazimierez. We strode along the Vistula and atop hard concrete sidewalks desperate for fresh air.
The weather was cold, clouds hung heavy and damp. It smelled of decaying leaves, slightly sweet. Like stale black tea. Oranges, reds, yellows and dark grays were sprayed along paths and dusted the windshields of parked cars.
At the conclusion of a few sharp turns, the quarry strode open and evoked an antediluvian fortress or a secret garden. Sheer limestone walls enclose old apple trees and a shrunken deciduous forest. The trees were lithe and thin. We walked in. I had to piss. She kept on.
To our right, chalky stains ran along the wall. It’s the closest outdoor climbing in Krakow and the cues are all over.
There were signs marking our relationship too: Difficulty fully committing to each other, a chasing of narratives and expectations across cities, countries, continents. In the process we ended up in different places and at different conclusions.
We moved to the long crack in the rock face and played on the limestone in street clothes and inappropriate shoes. We scaled a short traverse, the stone was slick. Climbing had been a way for us to bond. I had learned to lead climb with her.
All around it was quiet. The winter breeze rushed into the valley and swirled around the posthole quarry. It felt like a day for endings.
We made our way to the top of the rock and peered about. We sat at the edge and observed the pastel colors of fall and a sunken sky.
We talked about us and the future.
It was the first of several conversations we would have that week.
I moved away and became cold and despondent. We walked on and spoke in terse tones.
Tension was strung between us, the spider’s line might snap at any moment. I wasn’t being compassionate.
We walked around the lake. The vibrancy of the fall palette and crisp air remained fixed in view. I was moving down a hole.
“You don’t have to wait here for me,” she urged as she sat staring out glassy-eyed over the water. “I need some time to myself, since I’m not getting any empathy from you.”
I was being a jerk, detached. I was falling into old patterns. Needs were met with ice. A stonewalled heart. My gut tightened with regret. Past car crash moments flashed by. My shoulders and back tensed, the breath became shallow and rapid. It’s fight or flight.
I tried to get out of my own head, to stop the record and listen. There she was, right there, you could reach out and touch her, offer support. You could throw a lifeline.
You’re iced through.
Cold to the touch, prickly.
Why? Why do this? You ask yourself often over the coming days.