The soul of the lifeless: adventures in Gdańsk

“The water’s not very clean,” I tell him while mentally visualising the semi-fluid soup of chemicals and goo that I just moments ago rejected for a dip. He looks at me, like he always does, challenged and ignited, and says he’s going to go in anyway. Defeated, not willing to be any less, I strip down to my bikini and am the first to enter the water.

and I are in the middle of the industrial harbour area in Gdańsk as part of our home-office/mini holiday escaping the reality of our ticking existence in Bremen. The area is right at the edge of being gentrified, building sites in the near distance, pubs and artists collectives along the river that face the industrial sites on the other shore. We’re there to explore, to have picnic and to refresh ourselves in the water after a day of temperatures above the average. Yet as I enter the water it does not provide me with any refreshment. Instead, it sends a repulsed shiver down my spine as I see a headless, half-rotten corpse of a fish just beneath me. Despite it all, I stubbornly wade out into the water, refusing to be the chicken in the presence of a dog.

It’s really quite rare that water smells, one only realise this when presented with such an intense odour. Yet with Johnny just behind me, we both go deeper into the water, bravely, stupidly, regrettingly. Eventually, I step on something that grosses me out so completely, that I just can’t bear it any more. I hurry back to the shore and, with smelly legs, get dressed. I lost, Johnny remains in the water for another few minutes – doing nothing but staring into the distance. Bastard.

It was an odd turn of events, as life is, being in Gdańsk, being there with Johnny and being in such an alien state of mind. Not quite a holiday, it still contained the relaxation of postponing decisions and difficult conversations through the pleasure of being elsewhere, yet due to home-office life continued surprisingly a lot like usually.

But life is never just ordinary, and so just before I let myself be marinated in the sump of a city growing, I had a spiritual connection to that which technically wasn’t alive which reminded me of life’s complexity. The “beach” was covered in artsy scrap metal robots. As though they were walking out of the water, they appeared ready for their next stage of evolution: consciousness, emotions, decisions, responsibilities, regrets. Each one filled with so much personality and struggle depicted in their parts, pose and position. They were awe-inspiring, and I spend time getting to know them, asking them who they were, what they felt, why they were, yet answering the questions as though they were the ones asking. Searching and finding, I identified the one that closest felt like me, the one that was Johnny, the most beautiful one, the one burdened with grief, responsibility, the one in most pain, and the one that led the charge towards their independence.

Everything has a soul. Sometimes it just manifests as a reflection of our own…

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