06. 03. 2004. 12:11

Lake Huron (Excerpt)

Gábor Németh

"She was astonished, continuously, astonished into the telephone, and up there in the castle when we met, what made you think of me, she asked, she was beautiful, her body an hourglass, measuring disappeared time..."

Gábor Németh was born in 1956. He has worked as editor for the Hungarian Radio and various magazines. The following piece is an excerpt from his collection of stories entitled A huron tó (Lake Huron, 1998). His new novel, Zsidó vagy? (Are You Jewish?) was published last month.

At the same desk we sat, B and I, age ten, her skin was white; her sleepy soft, black hair always fell onto her forehead; some sort of infinite sadness lay at the heart of her perpetual cheerfulness; sometimes I held her hand, sometimes I walked her home, carried her backpack - this is probably what grownups call puppy love. / But Z made me crazy. I woke up in the middle of the night smelling her skin. Ten times a day I would walk by their house and look up to the window behind which I imagined her room was. Innocent panther. She was blond, but her skin was brown, as if she secretly sunbathed in the winter; her smock two shades lighter than everyone else's, altered to her waist - counting as almost rebellious in sixty-seven - to her waist, which was slender and straight, and which was embraced by a little Indian belt weaved of beads; this made me crazy even more: Uncas and Magua at the same time, the noble savage, indeed, and the other one too, the dirty beast; they had a Volkswagen microbus, maybe that's what they took to Lake Huron, and took that haughty and noble and sweet face there. If she happened to glance at me, it was like she knew some kind of secret which would make me seem ridiculous in front of everyone. There was always some kind of impudence brewing behind her somewhat peevishly pursed lips; if she was angry, a slight blush spread over her cheeks. / Only once did I touch her; the class took a field trip to the castle district, we observed the Museum of Military History, casual summer experience, and on the way out she tripped, fell on the pebbled walkway, stood up, though her face had not awaken yet, and on her temple - I saw in horror - a bloodless little wound opened, and a small, bloody pebble protruded from it. / I supported her, with someone else, for a few meters. / Ten years later I called her. She was astonished, continuously, astonished into the telephone, and up there in the castle when we met, what made you think of me, she asked, she was beautiful, her body an hourglass, measuring disappeared time, indeed, some sort of red-white, implausibly tight dress, little red belt, we had lunch, endlessly astonished, I walked her home, into that certain house, she said, let's have another cup of tea, I went up, she slipped into a soft, yellow robe, climbed up on the bed, and I asked her, did she know I was madly in love with her. / She lied, no. / That I spat on her once, that's all she remembers. / That I spat on her. / Also, that I was very bad, and she envied me because I was allowed to walk to school by myself. / We drank some tea, I went home, and another ten or so years passed. / A skinny woman greeted me one muddy Christmas at Deák Square, in the bustle; a skinny, badly dressed, grey-faced woman, in bad pants, and holding the hand of four year-old girl, some unhappy jacket on her too, I looked at her eyes, it's me, she said, we were in someone else's dream. / I asked, how are you. / Her face was the same as twenty years ago, as if she had not awakened from her faint. / My sister is very ill, she said, but like she was talking about herself. / I didn't know what to say. / She took hold of the child's hand, started off, and clutched it, as if someone wanted to take that child away from her, as if they wanted to take it from her, but she knew some safe place. / As if there would be a place to return to.

Translated by Ildikó Noémi Nagy

Tags: Gábor Németh