09. 11. 2012. 14:18

László Végel: Memoirs of a pimp (excerpt)

Born in 1941 in Srbobran (Vojvodina), and living in Novi Sad, László Végel is an important figure in Hungarian literature, as well as one of the few minority writers who entered the bloodstream of Serbian literature.

CHAPTER ONE
FOR GOD’S SAKE PEOPLE, WHERE ARE YOU RUSHING OFF TO?
WEDNESDAY

Today I finally managed to find the time to check out checkered shirts for a whole afternoon. I love roaming around through the city in the afternoons. In front of the Catholic church I ran into Hajdú and his wife. With a malicious grin he let me know that old Sík made a note of it; he resented the fact that I had missed an important lecture. Screw the university, I told Hajdú. He didn’t care, so he mumbled; it was just his good intentions talking. He kept saying stuff like that. Finally he invited me over to his apartment, or something like that. ”Sík is certainly going to give us hell on the exam. As he said, this isn’t just any old university.” The part about the exam scared me, too. After a couple of rounds of cognac, Hajdú’s wife started bragging about the new albums she’d acquired the other day. Real art, she said. But we still hadn’t listened to them by the time we somehow forgot about them. As far as albums went, the phenomenal popularity of Sylvie Vartan came to mind. In unison they responded: they only listened to serious music. Whatever. Then Hajdú’s wife dug some poems out of a black crate and read them out at full volume. Both of them wrote poetry; they were forever inviting people over for it. The poems are quite passable, I said. Then I smugly started going on and on about what beautiful shirts I had seen downtown. Hajdú interrupted me, saying I should not have blown off classes on account of a few shirts. “Doesn’t matter,” I said back to him. “Tomorrow I’ll swing it somehow. I’ll show up, and catch up on what I missed.” Meanwhile I realized that I had arranged to meet Tornadosz at the club; he had pledged to get his hands on some money so we could do some drinking.

I said I’d had a rip-roaring good time and so on and so forth. The drinks had gone to their heads and they kept me from leaving. I was thinking that if I stayed they’d bore me out of my gourd with their versifications all the way till morning. I preferred to tell them I’d come back another time. Outside the club I got sick. That always happens to me when I am about to go in. Afterwards I pushed down the door-handle; I had nowhere else to go anyway. I asked Tornadosz if everything was all right. “Just let me escort this little brunette home first, and then we’ll go.” “Where?” “We’ll see. We can go wherever.”

So here at the club everyone knows everyone else, like a bunch of small-town whores. I can take a seat at any table at all, and the folks know me everywhere. I picked out a large-ish group, squeezed in at one of the corners of the table, and waited for Tornadosz. “Branko took Acisol pills,” one of the girls said. All I knew about her was that she drove a cool car and her mom got her kicks with VIPs, and nobody else. I nodded my head to her and asked why he had done it. “For kicks. To see the effects. He’s been running around the club all evening reporting on his fantastic experiences to everyone. Olga, sitting next to me, whom I knew to be a most unpredictable creature, gave me an exasperated look. “He had a more serious reason. I know it.” She was awfully pale. “Are you feeling ill?” I asked. “No,” she answered. Paleness made her beautiful. That much had caught my eye right away. Yep. Nice dress you have on, I said. “Why do you always come at me with such crap?” ”Well, one has to say something, you know?” “One has to say something…You all are a bunch of total degenerates.” I let the sarcastic comment slide. I was accustomed to her whining. She leaned over closer to me, and from her jumbled purse she fished out a piece of paper. And she wrote something on it: “You guys are degenerates.” She pressed it into my hand. So I stuck the note into my pocket, thinking I might need it later. “The two of them whispering like that is very suspicious. We’re going to tell on them,” someone called out. The folks at the table roared with laughter. I was afraid for Olga. “Did something bad happen to you?” “I was at the doctor’s, but it’s already too late.” “And?” “Marriage is not an option. He’s still a student, and his father would turn him out of the house immediately.” Her face was white as a sheet. “I’ll take you home. On the way you can tell me all about it.” “I’d appreciate that. I can barely put one foot in front of the other.” On the way to her house I was serious and told her I was her best friend. “I’ve always been your best friend,” I repeated. Then we stopped talking. When we got to her door I was encouraging her to look around for a suitable husband. “You’re talking nonsense.” “There are good candidates for that around. It should work.” Yeah, why not? I thought to myself. Better an idiot of a husband than bleeding to death any day. It would be dumb to wait and wait and act all pig-headed about it. “We’ll organize one for you,” I announced resolutely. ”You are afraid.” Finally I blurted out that I did actually care what happened to her. “You are always afraid. You are way too jumpy. That’s why you are always wanting to drum up somebody new.” “We should do something,” I said. She rooted around nervously in her purse but she couldn’t find the key to the gate. I proposed that she dump out all the contents, and then look for the key. “Something pretty important needs to be done. Something decisive.”

By now I was fed up with her stubbornness, and I decided that I would no longer so much as lift a finger to help her. Whatever happens, happens. But she kept on saying what she needed to say. “If I were to do something, then it would be the kind of thing that I wouldn’t have dreamt of even thinking of. If I had some conception of what to do, I wouldn’t dare do it. I deserve this abortion.” All I said was: we should talk this over some other time when you’re not so stressed. I turned my back and left her in front of the door to her house.

Tornadosz was waiting for me at the club. Let’s roll, I said. Whenever we want to drink a lot, we go creeping out of the pub like thieves. We dropped in at a cafe that was half-empty. Only a few of the tables were occupied. I ordered cognac. Then came my report to Tornadosz about Olga’s inscrutable behavior, and I commented that it was no wonder she’d gone and perpetuated some idiocy or other. “She’s up to something. I’m sure of it. The ground is completely shifting beneath her feet,” I maintained amidst constant cognac-drinking.”She should do what she considers right. Don’t stick your nose into her business, because then things will end up even worse,” Tornadosz reasoned. We drank copiously. “My new girlfriend is rich as all get-out,” he boasted. “Why don’t you get yourself a rich woman, too?” I didn’t like this arrogance of his. “I don’t give a rat’s ass,” I replied. Then he started in on me with his lecture. “In today’s world only a rich woman is worth anything. Nothing else matters at all.” That’s exactly what he said. Yep. I accused him of being a big fat optimist. A wife who’s loaded solves everything. That very thought turns one’s stomach. Tornadosz is pretty much full of shit. “You have to believe. You just have to believe,” he repeated tenaciously. I snickered and sneered at him—in vain. I was unable to sway him. He said he would even believe in God if it brought him some kind of advantage. So it is.

Végel László: Egy makró emlékiratai

Pécs: Jelenkor, 2009

 

László Végel's website

Previously on HLO: Tim Wilkinson on László Végel

Translated by: John K. Cox

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