The sound of faraway sirens seemed to hollow out the wind. I felt safer underneath the quivering shadow of a tree. This was a different silence than the one I often called home.
I sat on a bench next to the lookout tower. I could hear the rusty wind vane creaking above. All I needed to do was climb up a set of steps to reach the highest point in Budapest. No one could say I was smiling.
A small bird flew into a nearby window. It made two thuds: one as it hit the glass and another when it reached the ground. I waited for what seemed like hours until it took off once more, asking the poor creature to carry me away.
It is times like this when I say exactly what I mean. I close my eyes and summon different people just to have someone listen to my monologues. Most of them happen to be women. Most of them have seen me walk away in shame.
I believe it takes a certain kind of charm to disappear with grace. Your warnings must be subtle, almost presented as abstractions. Maybe you can even give unrelated examples like how you have the bad habit of leaving movie theatres only twenty minutes into a film.
There is always a catch to these things. Leaving is easy if you can readily come back and also simple if you are being kicked out. But to really leave without properly saying goodbye, to depart in such a manner that is both cowardly and brave; that is a cruel art form worth mastering.
The problem is that any departure involves a destination. This idea that each of us belongs somewhere is problematic, especially when we are led to believe that this somewhere also happens to be a direct consequence of our choices. By this logic, I chose a long time ago not to have a home.
It seems much simpler to envision yourself as a place others can visit, though it helps to have a specific person in mind. This approximation must be performed coldly and designed using your most recent social interactions. Feel free to round up to the nearest month. Let’s begin:
You stand before the ashes of a forgotten casino. The floor is covered with moldy cards and broken chips. All that remains is an unlit sign which reads: the beginning of the world…
Not a bad start, but who in their right mind would frequent such a place? I am not denying the anthropological value of ruins. I’ve just never met an anthropologist.
Maybe the sun has gone down though the sky is too cloudy to tell. I’m not quite sure why I still choose to sit under a tree. I shouldn’t say it, but I want to run into someone, preferably you.
Stephen Malkmus is right in singing everybody wants a shady lane. Could I really stand it though? The knowledge that people recur to you under certain weather conditions and leave you stranded during gloomy days such as this one…Perhaps it is best to be a place that is of some use to others.
For example, next to Parliament there is a bronze statue of a man sitting down on a few steps overlooking the Danube. Tourists visit the statue every day and take pictures next to it. Some locals also sit on the steps and wait for sunset. The statue’s convenient location also draws crowds during winter.
The problem is that a statue feels too definite. Meaning is literally inscribed to you. I also wouldn’t like having people dangling from my neck while taking a picture. Solidity and being static have also never been any of my qualities.
“What about a nice little book café?”
“Little and nice?” I would like to hear her reply.
“An attic room in an old building overlooking the city?”
“You don’t like attics.”
“A lighthouse built at the edge of a glacial lake, serving no purpose but to help you swim in the evenings?”
“The water would be too cold and that’s creepy.”
“Maybe a secret hotel room by an old port, where there’s no room service and you can stay as long as you’d like.”
“Have you ever even been to a port?”
“Please remember me…Is that something people even say?”
The roads to solitary souls are insufferably winding. Now it is dark and I’ve tired myself with this latest summoning. A bird has joined me at the bench in search of cookie crumbs. Maybe it is the same survivor from earlier on, ready to carry me away, though I still don’t know where I’m heading off to next.
Perhaps that’s it. I can stay here a bit longer. This bench has been good to me. I’d like to offer the same to someone else: a place to wait, to think, to catch your breath, to get yourself prepared for the rest of the climb or wherever else you intend on going. I can only hope I’ve already done so.
Roberto Carcache Flores is a Salvadoran writer currently working on his first novel. He likes to write about his silences, travel, and those rare encounters which make a journey worthwhile.