The Flight of the Crimson Angel
The Crimson Angel (Karminowy anioł) was the title of a blog dedicated to eroticism that I used to have many years ago, when such things were still thinkable in Poland. But my predominantly historical discourse, referring alternately to Abbasid mujun and the noble shades of Andalusian love was, in spite of considerable popularity, without a real audience. There was a time when Polish women discovered Arabian eros, although reduced, most unfortunately, to special services for which certain Egyptian and Tunisian hotels were reputed. But the real adventure remained more than elitist, improbable and incredible. And in the age in which pornography was commonly seen in high resolution, it was the Tawq al-hamama that used to put fire in my veins. Certainly, that would be regarded as a perversion, if it was not held, first of all, for improbable and utterly incredible. I prefer to keep it that way.
My lovers distinguish themselves chiefly by their absence; as I have already said, I defend the rule of "a room of my own". This is why many intrusive people who felt any curiosity about my private life were drawn to the conclusion that they were mere literary creations, fictional characters appearing in my spare internet writings. It was easier to believe this than the contrary, since in my everyday life I often tended to neglect severely both my clothes and the bodily appearance. Since the manifold traumas of my teenage years, I carefully avoided Polish male as a category; they also avoided me, especially when I came out of my very first youth. Unexpectedly, episodic problems returned much later in my life, when some colleagues, usually with professorial titles, apparently took into their heads that it might boost their image, social stance or whatever, if they had me as their lover. The very idea that I possibly might... was traumatic, yet they usually interpreted my refusal as the sign that I was already engaged in a relationship with another professor, probably someone higher up in the academic hierarchy than themselves. Truly a mind-boggling delusion!... But for many years in between, I could live a perfectly tranquil and undisturbed existence, entirely forgotten in a world of my private angels.
My solitude is easy to grasp if I say what categories of men I see as absolutely non eligible. Firstly, I have never admitted building a family with any man from my country of origin, not even as a remote possibility. The traumas of my childhood and early youth explain it partially, but not entirely. As I grew up, I developed extremely smooth, accommodating disposition towards my partners; any verbal exchange of such a nature, content and emotional amplitude as I hear them every summer through the open windows of my Polish apartment would simply blow the veins of my heart and brain. Although from the religious point of view I am an extremely reckless person, it is curious enough that at a given point I developed a powerful, even if, as I myself recognise, quite misplaced prejudice against making love to an unbeliever; moreover, I have also developed a strong persuasion that any act of love-making should always be preceded by some sort of marriage. Certainly, it introduces further difficulties into my private life, but very little of it is actually related to God, morality or even ethics. First of all, I see it as a duty to my concept of eroticism; eroticism that requires at least the faintest guarantee of commitment and continuity.
Yet my unquenchable appetite of the earthly world also involved men. Men of all epidermic shades, better be circumcised than otherwise, Semitic as well as Aryan, Asian as well as African. I came to clear and well-defined preferences and persuasions. I claim that there is no more constant, dedicated and reliable companion but in Arabia; that, I would say with Paul, who is circumcised in his heart. On the opposite pole, my opinion about the Moroccan men largely coincides with the analysis of Fatema Mernissi; I mention them here, since they might be possibly considered as the direct successors of my Andalusian homeland. Unfortunately, they are not, and I agree with the Moroccan sociologist that the colonial fact might have been a major factor of destruction in this domain. Such a hypothesis brings the discussion back home, to Poland; an elderly scholar, Ewa Thompson, had once shared with me an interesting comment about this; she pointed to the exhaustion of masculinity caused by recruitment to colonial and imperial armies. Poles and Moroccans had been in fact recruited by the Russians and the French. Is this the reason why my own hunting grounds had to reach beyond imperial zones of influence, toward the fragile purity of uncolonised deserts? Who knows.
Certainly, I do not pretend to know it all. And against this logic, the dream I cherish is to end my life by a chapter in Farsi; I saw some Iranian refugees in the Netherlands, ageing handsomely, with a touch of spirituality and sublime to render them interesting. But of course, for this I would have to divorce and marry, and overcome a series of prejudices, against Shia and several other things. Overall, when I say that I fancy to have a Persian in my old age, the reader is kindly requested to infer that I am partial to domestic cats. Well, privately speaking, I hate them; only if one day I could live somewhere in the Middle East with sufficient means, I would gladly keep a domestic cheetah, as some extravagant people used to do in my time.
I often think one day I might still become quite an elegant, even a charismatic old lady, perhaps to compensate a lifetime of abjection. As I repeated already once or twice in connection to diverse other topics, one of the things I deeply regret was to have spent most of my life rather unkempt and badly dressed. Certainly, much of it may be forgiven as a lasting consequence of my childhood; but for me it remains unforgiven as a constant betrayal of my Andalusian worldview. In this aspect, I have never managed to grow out of my youth; even my habit of wearing black has nothing to do - as one might eventually admit - with Arabia; it is simply the remnant of the fact that I had been punk as a teenager.
But as incredible as it might appear to those who eventually knew me in Poland, I always had a taste for luxury; not a very refined taste, I am afraid; the hotels of my choice, such as the Alchemist in Prague, were often frequented by unmistakably Russian clients; I also liked Venice. As the years passed by, my taste became more sober; and if my African masks still have for the background a golden flowery wallpaper in my Cracovian apartment, that is simply because in recent years I have travelled too much to refresh the design. Growing sober is a proof of my stylistic and cultural adaptability; I blend in the Netherlands. There is also something that makes me feel glad. I liked and adopted so many local styles; some of them had traditions behind, other were fostered by recent affluence; are the former naturally better than the latter? After all, I am a newcomer to this world; why should I squeeze into the stylistic choices of old aristocracies?
I have been married for twelve years; I suppose that is quite a long time as for the current standards. I lived many great travels with my husband, and for so long that the world had time to change and revolve under our feet. It is hard to rank them, since they were so different in style, purpose and content. I appreciate our trip to Iceland for its taste of adventure in a solitary landscape; but we also had a great time in Greece. Al-Andalus was a long desired travel in search of the roots. But it was also great to take a kayak and explore the Biebrza swamps in Poland. There were countries, like Italy and the Netherlands, that we visited over and over again, till they lost the taste of anything unusual whatsoever. In general, Europe became such an over-exploited place for me; this is why our Malaysian trip becomes such a high point, with a ride across the Cameron Highlands. But in fact it was just a short and simple trip out of Kuala Lumpur, where we walked at night and ate durians in a the street.
Could my life have been better? If I had a second youth, like Faust, to love all over again, would I make it differently? Certainly, there are things I missed. I could have paid more attention to myself; I could have been more attractive, better dressed, better looking, aspiring for more. More what? More money, more luxury, more social stance? More attractive males? Love itself has a beauty that is not in the person of the beloved. Only sometimes, one may feel a great sorrow discovering the disproportion between the inner beauty of love and the inner deformity of the beloved; it happened to me once, in West Africa. Perhaps I only regret one thing; none of those I knew was meeting my own intellectual standards. The Catalan guy with whom I was twenty years ago, in the beginnings of my academic career, was working at my university as well; but the fact did not make him the most remarkable of my lovers. My husband has the advantage of equanimity, stable and constant affections of a genuine desert mind, but certainly not intellectual or spiritual sophistication, nor a refined aesthetic sensitivity. We have listened to operas and philharmonic concerts together, but I suspect that he was just waiting me faithfully below while I was flying with my crimson angels. This is probably why I had the disloyal idea of substituting him with a Persian, without actually planning to put it into practice. For what would be different then? Would we discuss the stages of our tariqa at the breakfast table?
I suppose one might claim that the difference between men, as far as eroticism is taken into the account, is lesser than that of the shades of their skin. Very little of the heritage that means so much to me may be regarded as a living culture. Tawq al-hamama is mostly read by freaks like myself, and in western universities more often than in deserts. Global pornography, in high resolution, prevails universally, both in the West and in the East, while ancient verses fall into oblivion. The true adventure is so elitist that it becomes improbable, incredible, unreal.