Now fully in love with Poland, Matador Goods Editor Lola Akinmade remembers her very first date with the country.
September 2003. We cross the border into Poland from Slovakia. Our party bus is pulled aside and a control officer hops on. He glides down the aisle, sucking air and grabbing passports. He must love his job.
He reaches me and pauses, peering down and pinning me to the leather seat with a glassy blue stare. I slip that worn out forest green passport into his long, lean hand. He flips through green tinted pages and studies the unfamiliar document.
“It’s a passport!” my inner voice yells back. It had already screamed twice that day.
Grabbing the foreign item from me, he slides it beneath the stack of blue and red already in hand. For easier access, I tell my seatmate. He grabs her blue passport and places it atop the pile.
He hops off the bus and summons his colleague. Draws his attention to that forest green book. Ten noses press against glass windows like school kids, observing their interaction below.
“Ooh ooh! Lola is in trouble again!” they chant. I smile. They pull me back into the fold but the officers win the tug of war. He signals up to me to get off. This means arriving into Krakow later than anticipated. I need to explain that green book in person.
Krakow is quite sexy beneath the veil of night. I wasn’t expecting her to be. She senses my dejection and steers us underground to Fusion with its labyrinth of lounges carved from rock, its magenta, cyan, and yellow strobe lights.
Hip hop night. I check out the dancing Poles. I feel out their vibe. I proceed to a corner to dance…and dance and dance until he approaches me, covered in black.
Tall. Head shaven. Eyes similar to those that had pinned me to my seat earlier that evening, demanding I explain what I wanted in his country…from his country.
We dance silently for fifteen minutes.
“Mikael,” he finally introduces. I nod weakly. I want nothing to do with him. We dance some more. He studies my face. I turn away.
“Where are you from?” he asks. I tell him about my green passport.
Blue eyes now dyed red from the strobes light up in recognition. He grabs my hand and pulls me forcefully. We sail through masses of sweaty people.
He plants me squarely in front of a group leaning against a wall.
I study their faces. My countrymen. “These are my friends!” he introduces. I turn to Mikael. The words never come but he hears them anyway.
He grabs my hand and gives it a kiss.