lawrence goeckel | budapest

In Budapest, you become the things
that are moving towards you.

Along the Danube, seagulls are
drinking from potholes. The 7:19 bullies a
crushed Lada down the tracks as a cleaning
crew calmly passes through high rise office
windows. In the apartment building next
door, a woman warms herself in front of the
kitchen stove.

The ticket windows are closed and
all the trains have left. A helpful man in a
jogging suit and gold chains, his voice in
need of a shave, asks me,

“Hey man, you like pretty ladies? Come on
man. It’s the best.” “I just need a ride,” I
tell him. “Okay, I’ll get you a ride,” he says,
and leads me into the parking lot.

The door of a badly damaged Lada
kicks open. A woman is lying across the
back seat without clothes on. Under the
short hairs, something winks at me. I hand
him 50 kroner from my wallet to get a better

I stop a cop and ask for directions.
He yawns, lights a cigarette, asks me for
drugs, and then points to a bus waiting at the
curb. It’s full of travelers without suitcases
going to the airport. A man is sleeping in
the luggage rack. I sit behind the driver.

“Thanks for stopping, but I’m out of
money,” I say. “That’s okay, I always stop
here. But, be careful,” he warns, with a jerk
of his head towards the back of the bus.
“These are not good people.” “Maybe
somebody better will get on,” I say. “Not
with them in here,” he says. “You look
familiar,” I tell him. “I gave you a ride last
week. Same place, same time of night. We
had the same conversation.”

I get off the bus, go upstairs to my
flat, and wake up on the couch with my hat
still on. My girlfriend comes home from her
cleaning job and leaves her clothes on the
kitchen floor. Her left hand holds her hair
back as she lights a cigarette from the burner
and then stands in front of the stove,
warming herself. She is more comfortable
without clothes on than any woman I’ve
ever seen.

She knows this is the reason I’m still
here. Her clairvoyance makes truth a
senseless limitation. “Do you want to take
the bed for a ride?” she asks. Looking at her,
I realize everything has actually happened. I
just don’t know to whom.

I go back over to the television: the
Danube has become so polluted, seagulls are
being filmed drinking from potholes. I turn
it off. From the bedroom window, I look
down on the parking lot, deserted now,
except for a crushed sedan and a man in a
jogging suit. I shut the blinds and leave it
for another day.

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