My Hidden Lives // Prose / The Art Of Leaving

170. the beautiful ugliness of becoming

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It’s been a while, old friend; lover, confidante. Stranger. It’s been a while since I’ve sat down with pen and paper to mull over the insignificant details of everday life. I’d like to write about myself, but I get stuck on the what-of. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t know whom-to, either.

Step after step, and up to the bastion. There’s a great view from the rear of the old town, I’ll write you – a view not for the faint of heart. You’d like the ugliness, I think. I don’t know for sure anymore.

Perhaps, as most people do, you’d prefer to look over to the other side, to Pest – the turrets of the Parliament piercing the summer vanilla clouds like a hundred little needles, the old Jewish quarter stretching out to the right in all its splendid decrepitness, and the glorious Danube seperating you from the burden of history at your feet. You could see the Chain bridge connecting the past and somewhat-present from there, and Margit island if you cock your head enough to the left, where families gather on this Sunday that is decidedly anything but gloomy. A rare sunny day, neither unbearably hot nor inconveniently rainy, a treat in the year’s womb.

I’ve gotten accustomed to not being understood, here. It would be a shame to feel the same with you. When you come, I’d like to take you over to the other side where we can look up to the hills and the unpretty modern buildings, and say – „Doesn’t this remind you of home?“

You don’t have to reply. We don’t have to talk much at all, only sit on the ledge as we used to do. I’ll write my words, you’ll write yours, and sometimes, if our hands meet on the cold stone, we’ll laugh at the happy coincidence, then move on and move away.

„How we’ve grown,“ I’ll shout at you from the foot of the steps as you tower over me with your shadow, large and cool.

It was the in-between bits that mattered, that nobody warned us about. It wasn’t the leaving, the coming back or coming to – it was the staying that made us older, and found us ill-prepared for this contingency. How queer it is, to grow in the midst of things and not with them now, to pay less heed to grand rites of passage and more to the trivial ticking of time.

„Where are you off to now,“ I’ll whisper in the night from the right side of the bed. „Off to sleep,“ you’ll jest, trapped in that too honest space between wake- and wist-fulness. „In the morning, who knows. Maybe I’ll linger for a while.“

But lingering, as everything with us, had the aftertaste of leaving, too. We never seemed to get the balance in the cooking quite right, our final scores ended being forever anchored to loss.

„Catch me if you can –“ as I swirl through the crowd on the promenade or creep through the narrow streets of the old city like a ghost; try to keep up with the pace of me swimming through the world, the open sea of indecision and possibility. Or don’t. Stay put. I won’t resent or revile you if you do.

Today, I am thinking of us, and I thought it might please you to know that however beautiful the ugliness here is, it is nothing compared to ours. The years, the awkward history, the pure joy that comes out of glorious imperfection. The time we’ve spent staying, in the dark patches of our lives, in the in-between bits of what we’d thought then life was supposed to be.

With step after pained step toward the citadel, I miss you more, and I grow with the memory of what was and the hope of what might still be. That you might take this walk with me.

Come soon. Budapest is eagerly waiting.

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