After a short visit to Stockholm I brought back with me a surprising notebook. I found it in an old antique store that would sell old rotten books among the normal antiques you find in such stores. I examined this brown tarnished chest which contained books on numerous subjects but since I completely lack an understanding of the Swedish language little was of use for me. I found a couple of English books but none that actually caught my attention. Not until I found on the bottom this hard cover notebook which at first I thought it was an ordinary book. It turned out to be a diary. From long ago, the exact dates are not made evident in the writings I’ve been perusing so far. The diary belongs to a woman named Valerie Woolstand. I purchased this item for a mere 18 Krona ($2.50US). The diary itself was not very interesting but I found something in it that was quite striking. In the middle pages of this notebook I found a series of papers that seemed to be part of a confession. But this confession was not written by Valerie. It was written by some eerie individual named Mr. Poland. I was completely entranced when I read his words. He seemed to be endowed with a very insightful nature. His confession had been lying undisclosed in this chest since time immemorial and it is likely that it had only been read until now by Valerie. How this diary reached this chest in Stockholm still baffles my imagination. I have taken the liberty to transcribe of what’s left of his confession and post it here so that it reaches a wider audience, a larger ear in the words of Mr. Poland. And without further ado, I most candidly present what I have personally titled, The irrelevant story of Mr. Poland.
Dear unknown reader,
My name is Alan Edward Poland. I’m an ordinary bank clerk in an average bank called T.A.Bank. I have been employed for the last seven years, to be precise since February 9th, 19** (Mr. Poland seems to have voluntarily crossed out the last two digits). I come into work every morning at 8:45 wearing my humdrum long-sleeved white shirt and an opaque red tie. I leave the bank at 5:07 in the afternoon, as I walk out I buy a small bag of almonds which I thoroughly enjoy on my short walk home. I live alone, I am always alone. The monotony that rules my weekdays is not worth mentioning. The only way that I can sustain the strain of these dull repetitions is by practicing an internal hobby I haven’t confessed to anyone until now.
I have decided to write down a sort of confession. I’ve been trapped for so long in my mind that I desperately was requiring a route of escape. I must confess to someone, anyone the weird habits that take place in my mind. In these papers I intend to provide a fossilized record of the mental wanderings that tear apart the delicate fabric of a static reality. I have realised that on the external level I am an absolutely normal individual. Yet, when it comes to the games I play inside my head I am a monster, an undefinable ***** as the Russians say. But first I want to tell you a little about myself, of what I do, of what I am. For some day, I hope, my story won’t be buried in the depths of time’s oblivion and in this hope I long for a larger ear to carefully listen to these delusions that befog my soul. I want to be more than this trite echo inside the walls of my isolation. I want to be known before the impervious shadow of death takes hold of me. And I am afraid this confession have to begin now before it is too late.
I am a banker. I came to this business as a result of extreme need. A friend of my deceased father worked here as a manager and offered me the humble position of a clerk. I had no difficulty in learning all that was pertinent to this business and have worked since the first day with a kind of conformity, performing what is necessary in the most efficient manner without exceeding my colleagues. I didn’t want to rise in this business. I just needed the monetary income for personal survival. I earn enough to live in a small flat downtown and manage the minimal luxuries of a low-middle class subsistence. I have been in charge of making certain that people’s money go into their accounts and withdrawals are delivered to rightful owners. The work is so easy I can do it without the aid of thought which gave this faculty enough leisure to travel other lands.
During the weekends I spend my time quietly at home. I spend most mornings and afternoons reading Russian novels which have with fascinating power defeated all intrusion of boredom on my Saturdays and Sundays. On Sunday nights I share a couple of hours with Mr. Rometley next door, an old and friendly man. We play chess together and don’t communicate more than a handful of words when we are engaged in this activity. I have never been able to defeat him in this game but the illusion that I will win next time makes me return to his flat flawlessly every Sunday evening. We got into this habit about four years ago. As I was walking out one afternoon to the bookstore I held open the downstairs main door for him as he came in carrying a number of items from the store. He shyly asked me for help and I thoughtlessly consented in helping him with some paper bags that were filled with vegetables and bottles of milk. As we entered his flat I surveyed his living room’s walls and found nothing but Oriental paintings that to this day I have not inquired of their meaning or origin. I settled the bags on the table and the kind old man offered a glass of brandy as a reward for my ‘laborious efforts’. I naturally accepted this gentle gesture and sat with Mr. Rometley at first in absolute silence but then we engaged in a conventional conversation. I lend my ear to this aging man and he went endlessly on subjects which now have left no trace in my memory. When my drink was finished I was offered another one but turned down the offer. I am of a delicate stomach and was already feeling unrestrained by the brandy. As I walked towards the door I collided with a small table knocking down a pawn and a knight from his chess board. I immediately apologized for such a careless accident and with intention to return the pieces to their corresponding position. However I noticed the pieces on the board were not in their original starting position, they were in the middle of a game. Mr. Rometley let go an audible sigh and told me not to mind the incident. As it turns out he had been playing that game by himself for over two months. The only way I could repay him was by offering him a real breathing opponent. He cheerfully consented and my short visits have not stopped since that long gone Sunday.
I comfortably sit on my chair as I assist our customers with their several transactions. I provoke on my lips a courteous smile as they approach the counter. There are many clients I deal with throughout the week. But there are a few that regularly come and I recognise and remember them. There is the case of Mr. A*****, who comes every Monday at noon with ?150 to be deposited ‘straight into my account Mr. Poland.’ He wears a full business suit and the only noticeable difference on him each Monday is his necktie colour. He is of a very confident character and speaks with a tone of superb authority. All his moves are carefully calculated and leaves nothing to chance. He does not always come up to my window. He consciously selects a different clerk each week so I only get to attend him once a month. But I immediately notice when he comes into the bank each Monday at the same time. He has wide eyebrows, a handsome pointed nose and silky black hair. He must be married but still does not have children. He is too involved in his financial business and his wife most suffer from anguishing solitude in their house. He provides every material good to her but he has not the ability to show her some tenderness. Her affection is lost, evaporating daily as she tortures herself with the thought that she married the wrong man. Mr. A***** has no clue that his wife has eyes for other men. They utterly enjoy the great pleasures of higher culture, the theater, fine dinners while attending to the marvels of the opera. His wife is needy and enjoys courting with her husband’s business associates. She wants a child soon to fill up the hollowness of her amorous life. It will come to a point when Mr. A***** will be on his way to becoming a father or maltreating his wife for her irreversible lust. This is, I imagine, Mr. A’s life.
I remember not too long ago I set myself to visit the outsides of this city. There is a nice park called Lingering Heights for it has a nice hill that allows the viewer to have a breathtaking view of the sunset. This initiative was born out of a few lines I read out of a novel by Kraskowsky. I remember the lines perfectly, “There in the tremendous heights of her wretched soul, Natasha powerlessly saw the sun setting in the distance, gliding down on the canvas of the sky both the star and her dreams faded slowly like so many other times; but this time she knew, better than anyone, if she ever was again to see the sun rise from its daily grave she will then have become a woman.” These words had so much meaning to me, they pointed to the power of change and the dispiriting law that we must let go in order to grow. I sat there reading; through the clouds the round disk of fire that consumed Natasha started slowly receding. But it did not consume me, it sunk rather quickly and the enveloping darkness soon took over. I returned home in a dejected state. I couldn’t see more in that motion. It was merely a sunset, beautiful as it was, only a sunset.
There is naturally the case of Mr. R*******. He is of a highly nervous disposition. He dresses casually whenever he makes a stop at the bank. In his case it is more fortuity than choice which brings him to my window for more than half of his visits. He is always withdrawing different amounts of money. His bank account balance is considerable which makes me think he has inherited a great fortune from a close relative. He comes up to my window and hardly notices who he is dealing with. He presents the withdrawal form and his identification. He is continuously pressing and covering his pustular blisters that enigmatically cover his face at such a late age of his life. His evident embarrassment for these natural malformations of the skin makes them the more conspicuous, he is unaware that the best way to hide a thing is to not hide it at all. There is always a mild stink of alcohol in his breath. He must drink on a daily basis in one of those wooden pubs uptown. He is careless about his money and therefore leads a life of debauchery. He must have been an orphan from a very early age. His education was an uncle’s responsibility and he was given nothing but the best available in our day. His crooked lip suggests to me he battled with Greek and Latin in his early days of childhood. He seems very intelligent but does not see a valuable application to put it into use. He finds comfort in his familiar festive environment. There he can display his wit without any reserve and his companions of lower education venerate him and treat him with respect. I fancy he must have a very light conscience and this will be his life-style to the last of his days. He has already left several women pregnant but rejects all sense of duty because he has no family values. After abandoning school his life lost all trace of demand and he indulged himself in activities which require no serious purpose. He lives in a sloppy but luxurious flat and has little concerns about its appearance. The only thing that really disturbs his mind is the thought of a painful death. He worries incessantly of having a heart seizure one of these days. He prays every night to a god he does not firmly believe in to yield him a tranquil death.
I own a dark brown velvety couch. It belonged to my parents when they were both alive. I sit here patiently during the weekends. It serves as a good place to sit and read for long hours at a time. And when the reading is interrupted by some thinking it serves equally as a good place to do that. My fantastic imaginations take place every day but they usually take place only when I’m at work. When I return home I prepare dinner and read the newspaper and my mind is as blank as my bathtub. But there has been one person that keeps coming to my mind recently. One client’s life I cannot fancy thoroughly. I have created more than a hundred versions of her history but I cannot be satisfied with any one of them…
A new client came in today. He was of an ardent temperament. He rushed in with over ?1,500 and literary commanded me to deposit them as fast as humanly it is possible. I started wondering about this life but suddenly Ms. W******** came into the bank. She seemed distressed but waited patiently in queue until she came up to my window. She came with her usual ?25 to be deposited in her account. She always brought that amount with her but she sometimes comes twice a day, once I recall she came four times in a single day. Her visits were very spontaneous. I could not delineate any particular order or coherence to her visits. This puzzled me to a great extent. I imagined she was a nurse at first. Then I thought she was a drug dealer. But why always the same amount? She is in her mid-thirties. She’s sufficiently attractive to draw attention from my male colleagues every time she comes in, even one of my female associates seems to be infatuated with her. Personally I find her not to be in the least my type of woman but I admire her physical beauty. She is immoderately polite and has the rare gift of looking straight into people’s eyes when she speaks. Her tone of voice is sweet and her long undulated hair reminds me of Botticelli’s Venus. She handed her twenty five pounds and I assured her they will invariably end up in her account in a matter of minutes. She seemed pleased and as she was leaving I felt an unstoppable urge to ask her… what? I returned home today troubled by Ms. W’s unfathomable identity. I feel drained in my attempt to satisfy my imagination with a reasonable account of her life. What is it that confounds me each week even more? I get to see her sometimes three times a week, sometimes as much as ten times a week. Every time she comes in I examine her from head to toes in hope of finding some minuscule clue to deduce her business in life.
I am a sensible man and can recognise this is growing to be a compulsive obsession. I have seemed to lost all tranquility and stability of mind. My recent weekends have lost their stable routine, I can no longer read my books. I’ve even missed a couple of chess games with Mr. Rometley which makes him knock on my door as he is worried something has happened to me. The muscle under my right eyebrow is having involuntary spasms which are very disturbing. I only hope, my dear reader, that when this is read (if it will be read at all) it’d be known that I lead a normal and acceptable existence.
Dear reader, I am at the bottom of my pit. I was relieved from my duties two days ago because I mistreated a customer. I feel insecure, no longer can I trust my actions. I have become a threat to my fellow countrymen. My mind is flooded with thoughts of violence and revolt. I cannot give any justification for my behaviour two days ago. I saw Ms. W******** coming into the bank and was convinced that day I could figure out her background. An old gentleman cut into the queue which provoked Ms. W to switch to another window. I was immeasurably irritated and insulted the poor old gentlemen to such an audible extent that my employer jumped out of his leather seat. For the last forty hours I have been unable to sleep and feel incapable of going out to the streets. I may hurt someone. I might have become crazy but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost forethought. I’ve recognised how much danger I am to my fellow human being. And, yes, yes, yes, the unswerving wave of death will conquer me and will leave me sink to the bottom of its abyss.
I have read this letter so many times with unfettered fascination. I was unsure if I should take every word to be literal or if it was perhaps just a fictitious creation by Valerie. But in the process of transcribing the letter I was reading more through Valerie’s diary and found on the last written page the clarifying solution to the mysterious character of this dramatic confession and its uncanny connection with Valerie herself.
Valerie’s diary starts in the following manner:
” Dear diary,
This is an attempt to note down the random events of my life. I am 33 years old and have recently ended up in the most extraordinary of occupations. I initially started as a makeup artist for actors in theatrical performances but after failing to acquire a decent salary in this business I was presented with a stunning opportunity. My long lost cousin Charles works in a morgue. He sent me a letter two weeks ago inquiring whether I’d be interested in taking care of the corpses’ face makeup before they were taken for the funeral and burial processions. I was undoubtedly shocked to think I could do such an atrocious thing. But my career was leading nowhere so I ended accepting the job. Especially since it had such a high pay, I would get paid ?20 immediately after I finished with each corpse. At first the work was challenging, it was hard to handle the idle stare of these morbid bodies. But with time I became better at maintaining my poise and became quite able of bestowing a life-like appearance to these faces. My work has been tremendously appreciated to such a point that I received a 25 percent increase of salary that is helping me save up for the trip I have always fantasised of. ”
On the last written page the following words make this entire situation clear and yet heartbreaking. I quote:
It has been a long time since I write anything about the people I work with. It has become routine for the last two years and I am no longer surprised by what I see. But today something quite out of the ordinary happened. I was delivered the young body of a banker. He committed suicide by hanging himself, I was told. They needed to bury him in incredible haste since his body was beginning to rot. I began my work as fast as possible. It then dawned on me that I had known this person. I had seen him nearly seven days ago, on Monday I believe, at my bank and he had gotten into trouble because he offended a client. I remember this young quiet man. He was kind and of a calm disposition. There was something always about his eyes. He seemed to be so far away and yet he always assisted me without any problems. While experiencing these recollections I began to blush his cheeks. I had almost completed all of his face but something didn’t seem right. I knew how this person looked like while being alive and I could see where I had gone wrong. It was the eyes. I decided to paint the upper rim of his eyelids with a touch of light blue to bring some life into those pale lost eyes. I’ve always believed blue to be the colour of faded dreams and lonely hearts. The body was taken moments afterwards but I suddenly noticed something fell on the floor as he was taken away. I came closer to examine it and it was a series of papers tightly folded together. I opened them and they revealed a letter addressed to nobody. I felt an arresting curiosity and took these papers home. I still have them with me and will read them tomorrow after I get some rest. I’m too anxious for the day of my dreamed trip is drawing near.”
The diary ends abruptly here and reasons lack here to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion. However, it is clear how astonishing these events are and how fate has a humoristic method of linking the lives of people. And poor young Mr. Poland left life without ever solving the mystery of his enchanting Ms. Woolstand.