“Vitas, do you like Christmas?”
“What is Christmas?”
“A celebration of the birth of Jesus.”
“We are not on good terms with Jesus.”
“Are you spending Christmas and the New Year's Eve on your own?”
“I usually sleep through the New Year's Eve.”
The journalist from “15min” met Vitas, who calls himself the original of Vilnius, a year and a half ago. You are welcome to meet him too.
A different kind of prince
Vitas Jonas Marcinkevičius. Alias – the Prince. A man whose lifestyle is legend-like. Some have heard that he is exceptionally bright. Others – that he is loaded. Yet others say that he puts a jar into his towering hairdo – to keep it well-shaped.
My former classmate claims he once lit a cigarette for Vitas. A friend has seen him numerous times drinking coffee next to a posh restaurant “Sant Valentino.” A colleague says he heard, not so long ago, Vitas shouting at passers-by. My sister hinted that he often speaks to himself. Several acquaintances have met Vitas, in the middle of the night, getting ready to go to sleep on a bench in Lukiškių square.
Vitas has spent almost a quarter of his life on benches. And he is now in his forties. For two years, he slept “here and there.” After that he made Lukiškių square his home and it has been so for the last eight years. He picked a bench further away from the noisy street. At some night Vitas can been seen curled up on one of the Vokiečių street benches.
Vitas is different – and not merely because he spends his summers, autumns, winters, and springs sleeping on benches. Vitas does not work. Vitas does not comb his hair. It has been a long while since he showered or changed clothes. He has no plans on his schedule. He spends his days wandering around downtown Vilnius that he never leaves.
“So you're just walking around all day, with no purpose?” I try to understand.
“What do you mean, with no purpose? The purpose is to survive.”
Vitas is striking in his appearance. Especially if one happens to pass him in summer. Everyone else is scarcely-clad, hiding from the sun and refreshing themselves with water. Vitas, as if challenging the heat, refuses to take off the very coat that keeps him warm in winter frost. Underneath, he is wearing a knee-length knit mossy-coloured sweater and black worn-out tracksuit trousers.
“Are you not ashamed with me?”
Vitas is an inseparable element of Vilnius city. He is an integral part of its street network that would seem lacking something if he were not there. The man always walks alone – he says he does not have any friends. He shuns the company of others because he is unlike other people on the streets. Vitas assures me his story is different. It has a justification.
Long brown and curly tangle of a beard and mustache make Vitas look older. Yet his clear gaze, his sky-blue eyes and red smooth skin betray him being a man in his prime.
Vitas' gaze is another thing that makes him different. It is not at all dim-witted. It is surprisingly lively, assertive and somewhat mysterious. Making it impossible to guess what exactly the man is thinking. He looks directly into one's eyes – sometimes rather cheekily, which does not seem to suit his appearance. Other times, he looks as if he is facing an audience that no one else can see. Sometimes he gazes inquisitively, but never angrily. Even when he bursts into swearing – caused by and addressed to God-knows-whom – his gaze remains perfectly calm.
Stench is a constant companion of Vitas'. A mixture of sweat, cigarettes, and all the misfortune that befell him. These are not only odours of a tired body – he seems to have absorbed all the hardship of his environment: that of a rat that died at his bench, an old companionable drunkard who wouldn't leave him alone, plumbing accidents that still happen in central Vilnius now and then.
“Are you not ashamed being with me? I stink.”
“Why do you not wash yourself then?”
“I will have to hang my liver afterwards.”
“Don't, why would you?”
“Right, what will people say.”
Vitas laughs. Loudly and merrily, like a child. Especially at his one jokes that only he can understand. And then he flashes a wide unashamed grin, bursting into uncontrollable laughter.
An intrusive sunray pulled Vitas out of sleep and made him open one eye. It was morning – Vitas shut his eyes again. But then a deafening sound woke him once more. “Katsapies,” he mumbled at two cars that crashed into each other several meters away. Two young drivers stepped out, emotionally expounding their claims. It was clear to Vitas that sleeping was over.
Very slowly, he turned on his back. His sides, hurting from the hard bench, needed a relief.
He cautiously lowered his right foot and put it on the ground. After a moment's rest, he did the same with his left. Supporting himself with one arm, he slowly rose and sat up. A terrible headache punched his temples and Vitas cursed. He lowered his head, pressing it on both sides, and froze for a moment. Then he took a deep breath and looked around.
Vokiečių street was bustling with life. The commotion indicated it was noon. Vitas drew everyone's attention, but he himself paid little thought to them. Over the years, he learned not to notice the poking, sometimes judging stares directed at him.
The man rubbed his eye. He spotted a black hat on the edge of the bench that fell off his head while asleep. The hat that Vitas wears on top of his huge stack of hair. It was a gift from an acquaintance, a taxi driver, he got last winter. It is supposed to keep Vitas' head warm, but his bun is so big that the hat barely covers part of the hair.
He grabbed the hat and put it back on. Even though the weather was blazing hot, he wouldn't take of the coat. Only unbuttoned it a little more and, brushing sweat off the forehead, moved to a shadow.
Dryness in the mouth reminded Vitas of coffee that he likes very much. Black, two spoons of sugar, well stirred. He opened a bag he carried on his neck and shook whatever was inside onto his palm. Then counted slowly – 3 litas and 46 cents.
Thirst took its toll – Vitas decided to start out on his daily trip. He was about to stand up, but his glance stumbled upon a toe that was sticking out of a dirty black sock. Vitas looked at his other foot – it did not have a shoe on it either. A thick swearword.
Vitas mood was ruined. During the night, while he was sleeping, someone took his pair of “Crocs.” Now he would have to walk in his old synthetic boots, even in hot weather.
|15min.lt/L.Balsytės nuotr./Vitas Jonas Marcinkevičius|