Tags: death, porn
I’d so been looking forward to not going anywhere that wasn’t in Berlin ever again, or at least not this summer, yet somehow the Russian managed to cajole me into going to Hungary.
I’m bored of travel. Firstly because my mother was ill from last summer to this Easter, when she finally died having run out of all other options. I can very thoroughly unrecommend the death of a mother and the toing and froing between Germany and the UK added nothing to the experience. As I got on the plane back to Berlin the day after her funeral, I resolved to have no truck with any public transport journey that cost more than €2.80 for at least the next eternity.
And secondly because travel means leaving Berlin and I am obsessively in love with the city at the moment. I’m still not sure what home and place should mean as I fumble towards forty, but I’m very grateful to Berlin for opening its arms, perhaps originally a little reluctantly, to me and the Russian. Russia couldn’t give us a home. And the UK would have been awkwarder than Germany. And as neither of us had even heard of any of the other countries either of us had ever visited, Germany it had to be. And now that Berlin has let me into its embrace, I’ve got as clingy as a drunken lover.
We headed for the Hauptbahnhof and the night train to Budapest. Czech, it turned out. And we had our own little hotel room. Bathroom. Room service. Bunk beds… And within about eleven nanoseconds of the train chugging out of the station, the realisation that this was the first journey in a year that had nothing to do with my mother lowered the mood, which wasn’t that much in need of lowering, quite considerably.
I drifted off on the top bunk and let the Russian compose poetry about his terrible fate in peace.
“Room service,” chirruped Pavel the train person. He showed us how everything worked. Told us which button we could press if we needed anything. Explained he’d wake us up half an hour before Budapest with breakfast. All in perfectly good German. Then he paused. And stepped right inside our little compartment and closed the door behind him. He then switched into Czech, which the Russian and I were preparing to work out how to make the basis for an argument, but as he spoke, subtitles dripped out of his mouth and floated along the bottom of both the Russian’s and my field of vision. “And have you seen the shower?” he said/we read. And began loosening his tie.
I juddered awake. Slapped myself about a bit for equating anything Czech with porn. And swigged at a bottle of beer to help me drift back off to the soothing accompaniment of the Russian tapping furiously on his typewriter and suppressing anguished sobs.
The literature lying around in our little compartment had explained we might be awoken in the night as we crossed national borders but easily might not be. So I thought nothing of it when a Slovak – Lukas – and Hungarian border guard – Árpád – came to check our passports together. And I love having my passport checked vaguely far from home, and then it’s even more fun seeing officials checking a Russian passport, fingers flicking fervidly through every page to make sure a foreigner they might quite enjoy hassling had obeyed all the rules. They began in German and then switched into English when they saw a UK passport.
“Thank you, Mr. Inberlin,” said Lukas the Slovak.
“Full name?” Árpád the Hungarian asked the Russian having got a sniff of Cyrillic. “Russian Russianovich Russianov,” answered the Russian, for that is his full name. The two border guards looked at each other and seemed to establish a tacit solidarity at one of the old enemy who seemed to have incomplete documentation. They closed the door behind them and began to speak in Slovak and Hungarian, again subtitles dripping out of their lips and floating along the bottom of our fields of vision although, vexatious neighbours as they are, the Slovak insisted his subtitles be placed before the Hungarian’s. Lukas took off his peaked cap. Árpád began undoing his belt. “This is very serious transgression of legislation of Hungarian Republic,” he said/we read, and the Russian and I agreed that we could probably both have done a better translation. “You very bad boy.”
I juddered awake in Budapest.
Now not that everything is about sex, of course, but I thought if we were to compare Prague and Budapest, as I couldn’t help doing with every porn-free step I took there, then they would make very different lovers. Prague had smothered me in kisses, sent me flowers and bought me huge boxes of chocolates. Budapest had stood in a club with its arms folded, refused my ever more desperate advances and then relented with a huff, taken me home, shagged the living daylights out of me and left without a word the next morning. I loved the city.
But Budapest’s downside is that it isn’t in Berlin and the time for the return journey came round with a pleasing speed. And again the journey became very motherful and the map of my internal world felt piercingly more shapeless and sparse than ever. I’m not sure I know what grieving and mourning are. Unless missing and being sad. But perhaps there is a method to them, one which I haven’t discovered, unless to think of her and remember her and wave to her photograph and wish that she’d never got sick in the first place.
The Russian and I discussed the pros and cons of bunk beds on the way home from the Hauptbahnhof.