The best way to get to know someone is to take a trip together. Babies are made on vacations, new passions are found and old rekindled. But what happens when that first trip with a new person becomes a painful emotional remembrance of old love, and you become aware that the story of ex is no longer over? On that trip, Elizabeth Gandhi bangs her head against a wall.
Breathe in three times. Ten times. I breathe like a maniac, through my nose, from the belly, I sit for a little while on a bench in front of Gerbeau in Budapest. I’m here again, after a few years, in the most beautiful city Mittel-Europe, a little for business, more for pleasure. With a new person in my life. It’s one thing when you’re dating, but you get to know each other best when you go away together, before you even start planning your life as a couple.
I look at the way he’s driving. Do I feel safe, or am I constantly pressing my foot against the imaginary brake sitting in the passenger seat, or do I get pissed off and want to drive myself? Is he fun to talk to in the long run? How does he get by on foreign territory? Do we function well, me as a navigator, him as a pilot?
Do I have to organize the whole trip, or can he, too, find a good hotel, sniff out the good places? How well does he orient himself? What kind of a hunter would that be if he couldn’t find his way around? I have to admit that I always carry a compass in my purse, because it helps me to not get lost, even though I find my way pretty well in unknown territory. I’m always accompanied by a feeling of having been there before. But then again, I love storming into a new place where I can momentarily perform small feng shui interventions. Meaning, and read between the lines – I am the hunter. Never hunted.
Budapest is a grandiose city where, judging by the size of its buildings and boulevards, giants used to live. I know the city pretty well, since I used to live here once. Apartments with high ceilings and cities with the serious culture of living are my weakness. Budapest seems unreal at certain times, as there is so much more to it than shopping malls, supermarkets and Ikea. In those years, Budapest was the secret meeting place of a secret affair between Mr. Giant and I. Twists and turns, organizing, at the time undeveloped cellphone industry, both of us involved with someone else, trying to figure out how to get away for a lustful weekend. Hot, unbearable summer, nothing bothered us. I remember like it was yesterday the butterflies in my stomach while I waited for him in the renowned Gerbeau confectionery, hidden behind a pot of flowers. Not knowing what tomorrow would bring. Existing only at that moment. My ears buzz, and I am drunk just from looking at the lemonade. When something like that happens to you, a day consisting of its 24 hours is too short, even on a trip where you do nothing else but enjoy each other. Day and night. Night and day.
Even after all that we had been through in the seven years we were together, in that last year we were broken up, and along with a bunch of problems and bad things we had done to one another, there still existed untamed passion between us. That passion would have appeared with someone else as well, but it would evaporate so quickly that it couldn’t really be compared to this magnificent feeling. Sex is unpredictable. You are unable to control that unbelievable mix of emotions, frustration, excitement, fear, exhilaration, panic and utter surrender. Sex is emotion in motion, said Mae West. That was why we had to get away for a three-day rendezvous kilometers away from home, even though we had been seeing each other secretly at our own and other people’s apartments. “I wanted to wake up next to you” – he told me.
What goes around… comes around. All of Budapest was spinning now, all memories coming back to me, each part of that city reminding me of him. And I had come with someone new to check our compatibility.
It’s another secret affair, only this time we are both single, with me as the obstacle. I have a hard time accepting someone new as a permanent partner. I cannot even imagine holding someone else by the hand, as there is a special, our way to do it. Sometimes I sleep next to another man, but each of us lay on our own side. There is a special way of tucking in too, he knows how I fall asleep in his arms, he watches me in the morning before I open my eyes. He is the one who wakes me up by kissing my toes, before he goes off to work. And, that’s his favorite part of the day. He is the one who claims that I am the most beautiful in the morning because I’ve not yet put up all of my defenses. He is the one with whom I wanted children, but he is the one who said it loud and clear, that he would want a girl like me.
I think the new man has just been assigned a supporting role in the movie, and he is on the way from disappearing entirely from the script once we get home. The homeopathic remedy has kicked in, my emotions are back. Indeed, I’m a terrible person, using men as dough, that is, as material for my texts. I use and discard them. I tried and I tried, but love doesn’t end just because you don’t see someone, said Julian Moore to Ralph Fiennes, whose films I forbid myself to watch because they shake me up to the core and make me cry. A person simply gets under your skin and becomes a part of you.
We pay for the things we believe in. But a longing for passion is a form of a virus circulating among people. Wherever we are, we are able to grab a moment of privacy. Even hip-hop artists like Ice-T say that passion makes the world go round, but love makes it safer. Rarely anyone understands, but even though we are at opposite sides of the globe at the moment, each of us in our own film, with someone else, our phones are full of texts. A combination of poetic infatuation and decadence. I’ve always been the best playing a mistress, formalities never excited me. “In all honesty… I enjoy only with you” – that’s what he tells me now.
I am seeing my ex-husband. Life is too short for perfection. Take everything that you can. Clearly, the past asks for the present to have the future. It’s a shame it won’t last, but then again, who does.
And someone told me sex was overrated.