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Sunday, February 1, 2009

on a train to Dresden

On a train to Dresden I met a man from Budapest. He told me his mother was ill and he was rushing home as fast as he could. He would have flown, he said, but couldn't afford to now. Then he offered me a piece of meat from a long, dry sausage, like a beef-jerky, and said he was glad we were sitting together. His name was Nando. He was fat with gray stubble on his cheeks and he often got up to smoke a cigarette (in the toilets, I suppose). Earlier that same day I received a phone call from a friend I hadn't spoken to in fifteen years - fifteen years - an estranged friend and - at the time in Zagreb - my closest friend. He called me to apologize for something he had done, something I could scarcely remember. Between each word seconds elapsed; I could tell it weighed heavily on his heart. Now he lives in Vienna and I am on my way to see him. The day he called me, earlier that morning, I'd been sucked out of this universe through a wormhole or some such thing somewhere between Hamburg and Berlin, some aperture I knew not of that landed me neither here nor there, in a place both palatial and squalid like Caucescu's Bucarest. This is where I was when that phone call jerked me like a rope across space and hurdled me back. I think I felt my feet scramble to cover ground that wasn't there and my body adjust itself to a distance so enormous, so disproportionate...

I got your number from your mother, my friend said. I hope you don't mind.

A few hours later I was sitting next to Nando eating beef-jerky with a smile on my face as big as the distance I traveled. He told me about his work - he's a trumpet maker - and he showed me his hands and the results of working brass for so many years. But the yellow stains, I knew, were from the cigarettes, and the bitten-down nails from his mother ill in bed.

Sitting still, going hundred-ten, hundred-twenty miles an hours, with Nando playing a bit of trumpet for me with his lips, I thought briefly of the past, my lost love Goni, my dear friend Brendan, my comrade Fer, my illusion Anna, and also that wet and narrow city of Amsterdam. But only briefly, and then, the rope still firmly in my hands, I thought of everything else... of everything yet to come.