Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Budapest

Across from Hungarian Parliament.
Budapest, October 2011

He wore a black coat, and he covered his shaved head with a beanie winter hat. Wrapped around his gaunt neck was the scarf made for him by his stepmother the day his father nearly died from a freak nose bleed. His skinny body looked even moreso with the belt tightly fastened to his waist, and the legs covered in plum pants.

Minutes ago, he had excused himself from the company of friends, claiming he was tired. Not unlike a ghost, he walked through the streets of Budapest alone. Yes, he was tired, but not in need of sleep. Rather, he was exhausted from being sad. It's interesting that he was so sad. In the retrospective, perhaps nothing had been done cruelly to him at all. But he believed his assumptions, and suffered nonetheless. That was the reality.

His footsteps echoed off the walls of the filthy, blackened city. Silence surrounded him, and the large iron doors in the darkness suggested menace. However, he felt safe. It was as if the city was a place where the not-so-certain could tread, because the city itself felt not-so-certain about its own identity. After all, earlier that evening, he and his two travel companions had seen bullet holes in the building across the street from Parliament, remnants of the squashing of a failed uprising nearly five decades prior from that very same night. While gazing upon the memorial candles in the grass, he theorized over the quietness of the denizens on the street. This silence was partnered with their very forwardly curious, prolonged eye contact. These could both be remnants of the hushed lives the Budapest denizens had lived through only until two decades ago. The past and the present lived side by side.

 Not much in architecture or culture seemed completely destroyed. At the same time, not much was completely in its original form or function, either. The building on (he couldn't remember if it was Andrassy?) where the Soviet-backed government tortured people still stood, but now as a museum to record the atrocities of its former function. It was, but wasn't, the same place. Statues stood all over the city, once completely relevant, now sometimes just echoes.

 He thought of his life in America, where so much architecture is destroyed to make supposedly better buildings. But this total destruction of the past to create something new can never allow a city to be cohesive, to bridge its past and its present and its future. Mysteries and potential shared experiences across time will be stripped away, as a result.

 This thought sealed itself calmly into his nervous, self-hating mind with assuredness. This thought would eventually save his life. Save him from not necessarily a deliberate act of suicide, but from, at the very least, the continuance of inactivity. And while it would still take several years to regain his strength, his determination to begin the process of an active life would begin shortly thereafter.