WINTER

How seasons can serve as a contradiction when talking about love…

My fingers are numb again from this freezing cold. Just like they were last year. Shivering, we had set out into this freezing night to see if the floodlights illuminating the city’s landmarks along the Danube hadn’t been switched off for the evening yet. Because we didn’t have any better ideas. But the lights were dark. Secretly, though, I was happy. Because for the longest time I had just wanted to walk down the embankment with someone, as a classic date. Of course, I hadn’t been day-dreaming about such a bone-chilling walk. But as you can imagine, at that moment the cold didn’t matter at all.

I’ll tell you what I remember. I was enduring the cold valiantly. Or maybe I didn’t even feel it, even though we had been walking for a long time. That’s when you picked up some random paper cup, chewed on its rim, that was lying around on the ground at a bar’s door. I can clearly remember the face of the girl who was working at the bar lighting up with surprise — as mine did — from this unexpectedly nice gesture. “Thank you,” she said. And then: “It’s funny how polite you are.” (I don’t know… maybe she didn’t say that.) Well, she stayed there with the paper cup and her cigarette in her hands, and I resumed walking alongside you — that was the difference between me and her.

How we got across Liberty Bridge, I can’t remember at all. I don’t know what happened on those few hundred meters, but my brain has erased it. Irretrievably. I’ve tried to recall it many times. Tried hard. But I just can’t. There’s a tram. You’re speaking. I’m blowing my nose, because it’s cold, and apparently I’ve got a cold already. Clark Adam Square was a mess of reconstruction. It had been for months. But somehow we managed to stumble across. By that time I felt like icicles were clawing at my brain. But you were talking about the Northern Lights so passionately that I forgave you for not choosing some much more tropical experience of yours to relate. As I recollect it now, I was just listening to what you were saying and only dared — very occasionally — to add a cautious “Seriously?”. First of all, what did I know about the Northern Lights? Second, I was glad not to have to open my mouth. The little remaining heat inside of me would have escaped. By then you had figured out the perfect destination for our walk, and I was already painfully stiff from the icy temperature. But let those who would not have followed you wherever you said cast the first stone.

I wouldn’t have thought it was possible, but the next day I was a million times colder. By the end of it I was frozen to the core. In the morning, on Andrássy Avenue, you had tried to warm my hands up by tucking them into your coat.(Oh, how nice it felt to believe in these clichés…) And I was still just listening to your monologue, this time telling me all about DSLR cameras, Indian social shipping services, El Kazovsky and bio coffee — and now I think back and see myself with a frosty look of wonder in my eyes, trying to understand how the heck you can be a confident expert on everything. After a few of these topics, I swear it crossed my mind that you must have secretly been Googling what I wanted to hear. We said goodbye. When you came over to my place that night, I was in bed, under the covers, trying to melt myself out of that marble-cold state that I had never ever felt before. I remember lying there like a startled deer in the snow, stiffening at your warming embrace. Nerves taut. Dreading — maybe for an hour — its final moments.

BUDAPEST REMINDS ME OF YOU. Another way to say this: you have spoiled Budapest for me for a long time. I curse the obsession: even though I have wandered these streets a thousand times, on every corner my thoughts now turn only to those three freezing days. When we went up to the hills with the girls, there I felt free. I could literally breathe freely. Then we arrived back in the city, and the same crushing nostalgia weighed down heavily on me. That was the day when I learned the term “ghosting”. One couldn’t find a better expression for it. The word conveys a horrifying image of a sigh coming from my mouth. Breath visible, like frost.

— — — — — — —

Thinking about that summer night stoked by my exhaustion, the vapor of alcohol and steaming concrete, it seems like it was decades ago. THAT WAS THE POINT WHERE THINGS SHOULD HAVE ENDED. When hours had passed before I realized that those were palm trees on your shirt — simply because you were not so dangerously close to me until then, or maybe because my eyes needed my hesitating fingers to recognize a pattern that up to that point had been irrelevant. At dawn I was standing before you in my leather sandals, cheerfully tapping my naked toes, not believing for a second that you really wanted me “by all means” to call you later. Instead, with an indulgent smile on the corners of my mouth, I sauntered across the bridge that was floating in the liquid, smeary gold of the morning sunshine and — even though the night had been an altogether pleasing one — I swear I didn’t even remember your name the next day.