Károly Ross: Constellations

We arranged the meeting on the plaza in front of the old hardware store, in the village where I was born, and he was a guest in the summer. We rummaged a lot among the piles of iron and metal brought to his yard at the time, but never sold, to see if we could find valuable treasures, sometimes we had to shed the anger of the wandering gypsies and Aunt Rozi. “Nothing has changed,” my friend poked at the crumbling building. – Exactly, that hasn’t changed. I wouldn’t have known much about it. “And is the same old witch still driving today?” Who once cut a carpenter’s clip for me? – I’m bound. Or if so, he must be one hundred and twenty years old. – He’s even out of it. To forget to die. – Why are you talking so badly about him? He was one of the defining personalities of our childhood. We met after a good twenty years because we were both invited to a ceremony at which a memorial plaque was unveiled in honor of the native of the village, a certain regime change hero. None of us knew who this regime-changing hero was and where he fought, we suspected it might be a figure dusted off a shelf, with the heroization of which the settlement wants to go. – Are you sure we care? My friend asked. – Not really. In our childhood, if we weren’t interested in something, we cut it out to the mine and threw ourselves into the frog-leaching water, slipped on the ice in the winter, or if we were quite a few, we played hockey. But where do we go now? – There’s a restaurant around the corner, the Palace or whatever it’s called. “I think everyone’s going to eat stew after the initiation.” “Um,” my friend said. – And it bothers you? – Yes, it bothers me. You don’t understand that. How could he have understood! He only spoiled the air in the village in the summer, all year round. His name was only remembered after his relatives, me after my own actions. Though I tried to be good, but somehow things always went wrong. Who would have thought, for example, that you shouldn’t jump from the lower branch of an old sycamore tree in front of the girls going to school with a white sheet on your shoulder that looks like a cloak? Or hiding in a raincoat with a burning kerosene lamp running around at dawn under the window of a student apartment? I meant it as a joke, but they took it seriously. The fact that I was able to stay afloat was due to my drawing talent inherited from my grandfather: I won the village, county and then national drawing competitions in a row. My name appeared in the papers more times than the whole village combined. – So what? My friend took ten steps on the sidewalk, then made a backward face. He was the kind of person who, when he got somewhere, remembers that he had come to the wrong place and would go on. – Do you remember the Star Girls? – I asked. – To whom? – Beara and Leara. – Don’t you just want to set them up? – Not set, but we could look them up like they used to. The Star Girls lived at the very edge of the village, their orchard, where they often lay out in the summer in a pair of panties, accessible from the back, from the back of the road. We have somehow always had our way on this road this summer, riding bikes or looking for pheasant eggs on the ditches. They were four to five years older than us, and we, young teenagers, stared at them with complete peace of mind, and they showed themselves with the sophisticated tendency of women to carve healthy adults out of green-eared boys. – Kilesni? Where are they already! Do you think so? – I think at home. “Let’s see: they may be about forty years old, do you think they still play nymph under the fruit trees?” By the way, those fruit trees may have fallen out a long time ago, they did not bear fruit even then. But I felt that the Star Girls could not move out of the village, not even under the fruit trees, their place there, they had grown up with them. – We could give it a try. For lack of a better one, we were soon dusting down the road under the overgrown acacia bushes. A lot had changed, but the Stargaze remained the same: the trees were badly aged, and under them the grass cover was bent into a withered meadow, but everything was old anyway. We didn’t see Béa and Leah anywhere. – So? So, that’s it? My friend asked after a short look. – I see them. They’re still there. Jonathan under the apple tree. – Tell them to wave. Then maybe I would see them too. I shouted their names, and to the miracle of miracles, as in the fairy tale, a woman stepped behind the hedge that served as a fence, with a hoe in her hand. It was their mother, Aunt Star, I recognized it at first sight. He’s me too. – Are you looking for my daughters? – asked. – Uh, that’s just what we went for… I’m kissing! – You can’t find them here anymore. Died. I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a dumpling in my throat, and if I don’t wipe my eyes right away, something will start. My friend stood beside me, still as motionless, with a flattened face like I had never seen before. – Here? I asked the question because I really felt the need to ask back. – Died. First Lea, then Bea. Bea was older, his face framed by a crown of hair, everything, his eyes, his mouth open as he laughed like a rose in the rising sun. We were interested in her tits, but many times we could barely lower our eyes from these pink dimples. Lea looked more ashamed, but once, when she was alone, she laid us down next to her and caressed our bodies, letting us caress her as well. I was in love with him, my friend Beba, and we had no doubt that they were both of us. – It can not be. – I said that too, for a long time. It is not possible for a man to lose his daughters two years apart. Daughters barely over thirty. And that’s what happened. Leah was called to London by a girlfriend to get her a job. It also came to an end because his job at home was lost after the change of regime and was blown away. I told him to stay, I was afraid, because he hadn’t even been abroad before, he didn’t know what it was like. But that he would try to see what could happen, he said, would at most come home if it didn’t work out. He was employed in a restaurant, he told us, bartender, but we thought he would rather do the dishes in the kitchen. At least once he came home, the skin on his palm was as dry as emery paper. He was a staff member at home, the boss’s right hand. I asked him if he had changed his mind at home. No, no, he said, it will take you even more, it’s only a matter of time before you have to wait. One of his girlfriends has also been appointed deputy leader, there are opportunities to calm down. I didn’t calm down, but I didn’t tell him. I could see in it that shame kept me from staying home, it wasn’t the running type anyway. But when he asked us twice for money, roughly a thousand pounds, we already knew the trouble was big. It is not usually young people who go out to the West to continue to live with their parents. Especially not if someone is past thirty. He fell silent, we listened too. A blackbird landed on a nearby apple tree, stared at us, then cut its head to the side and flew away. “Then one day, on the third of June, we got a phone call.” He was his roommate, Zita. He started with a very bad reputation. That Lea was hospitalized and in critical condition. I asked why, what happened. She said she had a fight with her boyfriend and had serious injuries. What injuries? He doesn’t want to go into detail, he said, but they’re serious. He knows… he knows he was stabbed. Multiple times. “Bea, poor, you wanted to book a flight right away, but you didn’t even get to see the next flight when the phone rang again.” At that time we were called from the hospital, a Hungarian nurse working there, Gabika. That Lea died after nine o’clock tonight. He wanted to cry, but he couldn’t. Air ran beneath the swollen wrinkles on her face, they hadn’t had any juice in them for a long time — at least I thought the tears were coming from our faces. “I don’t know how well you knew them, but they were very good brothers.” Their minds were growing, their hearts were growing. Bea was almost sick when his sister left, constantly morphing to go after him. But he didn’t want to leave us here either, there was a lot of work, he wanted to help, even though he had just enough trouble. Sometimes his blood pressure went over two hundred, we didn’t know why, when he wasn’t smoking, he wasn’t drinking, he was more in the open air than inside. The stress, the doctor said, is a lot for him. He studied to be an environmental engineer, but could not find a job near, he worked at home on the farm. She wasn’t lucky enough to find a couple either, she married a local boy, but just so she wouldn’t stay an old girl. They divorced soon. Many times I had the feeling that the biggest problem we were reporting to him. Me and my lord. That he can’t cope with us. With our love. What we gave him. He felt he didn’t know how to reciprocate. He reciprocated a thousand times, but he didn’t feel enough. He took too much medicine one night. Too much! The whole! That was the end of it. We could have buried him, too. We stood there even when the woman was nowhere to be seen. We didn’t see, we didn’t remember when and how he disappeared, he just wasn’t there. But I still saw the girls, lying on a blanket under the apple trees and waving at us. Bea and Lea. The Astronauts. (Open sentence)

Source: Népszava by nepszava.hu.

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