It’s almost 22:00 ( 10 o’clock ) and I’ve just arrived home from a long day out. I’ve popped in and out until 1800 , stopping to get my notebook. I decided to go to the cafe in the park. It’s just around the block and it is a very cool place to eat , drink kava and be outside. Thankfully the cafe has broad umbrellas that cover nearly all of the 2 dozen tables ; it started to drizzle as I ordered dinner. I found a New York Times today at a newsstand in the north of the Old Town , and I brought it along as well. It is a luxury. I really haven’t seen much of the news , as I have been engulfed in reading , writing and developing my ear for Slovak.
I ordered a small mushroom pizza , yeah – comfort food , after all the sauerkraut and schnitzel. I started reading the paper as I sipped my Kofola and noticed how crowded the cafe was. I had to remind myself that it was Monday and not Friday. It seemed packed. I was sitting at one of the few tables that had open chairs. I was just enjoying the fact that Trump hasn’t let me down ; even in my absence , he’s still an idiot. The rest of the news in the paper was predictable , Turkey and Erdogan , the Papacy in Rome starting to show a rift , and the coming ( maybe ) crackdown on illegals in the US. Chuckling as I turned the page , I looked up to see a young man looking around the cafe. I really didn’t pay much mind to it , until he walked straight to me and asked if I wouldn’t mind sharing my table. I shook my head no , apologized for not being able to answer entirely in Slovak. ” American ” ? , was his first question , in nearly perfect English . I nodded assent and said yes. He introduced himself , ” Gabor Jasenich , thank you for the seat “. I introduced myself and asked if he was Slovensko. ” Actually , I’m half Slovensko , half Magyar ” ; I though to myself that this guy was one hell of an anomaly. I asked him how it came about and he gave a little of his family history , interspersed with geography and the history of the Empire. I gave him my story and asked how he could be settled with both backgrounds owing to the treatment of the Slovaks by Hungary…for 1,ooo years. I tried to keep it light and it wasn’t his fault that half of his ancestors were Magyars.
I explained my position and we had a very interesting discussion about the two halves and the fact that he doesn’t forget who he is on either side. His father’s family came from Orava , so we had common ground and talked at length about the region’s beauty. Gabor is 32 and looking for work here in Bratislava , with a degree in accounting. I thought , wow – this kid has a pretty good head on is shoulders. His food arrived and I ate cool pizza , not wanting to eat in front of him. I bought him another beer and myself another Kofola and we kept talking as we ate. I shared my experience here , and he got a kick out of me calling it ” home”. I laid out why I want to leave the US , and he nearly jumped off his seat ; ” yes !..Orban is an idiot too “. We both laughed and mock-argued over who has the worse leader. He was very smart and well-traveled.
We began to talk about the world at large and it was here that I began to feel a pit in my stomach. I had asked what he’d been doing since university , and he described a story out of Hollywood. ” When I graduated from university , the job market in Budapest or here was still very thin. I decided to join the UN Security Force and they sent me to the Congo ” , his voice had a strange timbre to it. I let him talk and he seemed interested to share and at times not so. He shared the things he saw , how it felt , and what it still does to him. I expressed my thanks , and let him know that we could change the subject any time he liked.
We had gotten to our kava by now , it was around 20:30 ( 8:30 ) , and Gabor wanted to know what the US was like. I kept changing the subject , I wanted to hear more about his experience in Africa. “I’m trying to let all of that go away ; I saw a lot of good , but I also saw the harsher side of human beings. I saw young children so deeply affected by the warfare in the East , that I don’t think they will ever be de-programmed……” His eyes were cast down as his voice trailed off. After dinner, we talked some more as we were headed in the same direction. We took a walk through the Old Town and I invited him to come to the US , he politely declined , but hoped we could stay in touch. I said by all means, and we agreed to meet for lunch on Saturday as I am leaving for Vienna on Sunday.
I caught the tram back to Grosslingova and just couldn’t shake the images in my head , as Gabor laid out in graphic description , what is happening in mid-continental Africa. I was hearing also , the need to let it go and carve out a life here , with his girlfriend , and attempt to find some change from another angle. When we parted , we exchanged phone numbers , and as I was typing his name in he corrected me and had me put in Alexander , instead of Gabor. I asked why and he said it was his middle name and he liked it better. I promised to address him by this and I look forward to his telling of Slovak history from the other side of the fence. Our facts are nearly the same , the perspective changes a bit and that is the oddity of it all.
As we waited for our trams , his was going in the opposite direction, we made a short agenda for discussion. He was still aghast at how much an American could possibly know about his history , and I promised not to indict him or attack him with it. Hopefully we will meet before Saturday , maybe Friday night , he says there is a great pub near his place in the north of Old Town. They have a band or two on Fridays. I would like that , I haven’t been near much music since I left home in May. I am writing this now and have Gabor/Alexander’s visions of war dancing in front of me , imprinted on my irises and at this moment – sincerely hoping I can fall asleep. I’m not a big fan of human suffering. I realize that it happens , but not to 4 million people over almost 4 years in The Congo. The Native Americans , The Uighurs and Tibetans in China , The Aborigines in Australia , and the list goes on and on…. It gets me angry enough to want just go to these places on this planet and get into the people that propagate the suffering and derision and just shake the shit out of them and ask them , “who the fuck do you think you are?”
I move tomorrow for the last time. I have only to go a few blocks north and my current host is going to give me a ride. We are going to dismantle the big cabinet in my studio as he is selling it , and then we will go to Soltesovej apartman. I’ve made many connections here and I just can’t say enough about the quality of character in those that I have been fortunate to come across. Tomorrow is another new day and who knows what it will bring…..