Warsaw. Almost eleven p.m., when trams make their last runs. I enter a car of backpackers in blond good health. They look German. At the next stop, two drunks get on. One takes the seat in front of me, asks me something. Nie rozumiem (I don't understand). He tries again. This time I make out Wyscigi?, the end of the line and a notorious grove of drunks. Tak. He nods, gets up to cadge a cigarette despite the prohibition.
A sudden stop sends him pirouetting down the row of sobers on the other side of the tram from me. He ends up on one of the backpacker's lap. Przepraszam, he apologizes. She scowls. We sit in silence not quite into the next stop. The doors open. "Out of service," they would say in New York. Here they don't say anything. The driver gets out, and most of us follow. It's warm, misty. Spring.
The victim looks a bit raggedy, but then he's just been hit by a tram. Is he a drunk? Should we hope so, for everybody's sake? The two living drunks are still on the tram, smoking with impunity. I cross the street to the bus stop. The backpacker girl isn't German after all but Polish. She helps an American girl read the bus times on the sign. A night bus pulls up. It costs an extra ticket but it runs express. I get home before I would have on the tram.
(Photos are actually not from Warsaw but smaller cities in Silesia. Tomasz "Zyx" Jędrzejewski, www.zyxist.com. Used by permission.)