Zsuzsa Bruria: “But where are the men?”

Fresno seemed to be the nearest town where we could rent a car to go up into the Sequoia forest, among the nearly hundred-foot-long, three-thousand-year-old ancient mammoth trees. We had already traveled with Lenka for the third week in a row for five weeks with our Greyhound bus pass to do the big ride in America, and we usually rented cars for wandering around the national parks. Fresno seemed like an innocent dot on the map, and I only learned long after we returned to NYC that all the horror that happened to us there was no accident, according to reliable American surveys, we managed to mingle with the most uninhabitable and dangerous city of the 1990s. The first thing that indicated that something was very wrong in this town was the behavior of the taxi drivers at the bus station. I wanted to be taken to a reliable motel, but they didn’t talk to us. They looked through us, we simply didn’t exist for them. That’s when I started calling motels from one of the train booths at the train station and I agreed on a $ 26 room. Then I also ordered a taxi, even though there were ten or more taxi drivers out there without a ride in the forty-degree heat. When we told the address to the taxi driver coming for us, he immediately stopped the engine. “No, you don’t want to go there,” he said. “But, but, we want to go there, I’ve already talked to the owner,” I repeated stubbornly. “No, believe me, you don’t want to go there, and that’s why I don’t take you there,” the taxi driver replied, not moving. Eventually, to a long conviction, he threw his arms to the sky and we set off anyway, but when we got there, he told us that only one of us thought he would get out, look at the place, and then decide. He’ll be waiting outside in his taxi anyway. As I began to get out with my unbreakable big backpack, in which I packed our tent in addition to my sleeping bag, the taxi driver turned back, looked deep into my eyes, and, as if talking to a mentally overwhelmed man, said firmly and syllably, “Miss, leave your bag here, then . ” There was so much silence and darkness out there that I stopped stubborn because a black bat born of some sly fear landed on my heart. I entered the yard. There was not a single star in the sky, and no street lamps were lit, only a single tiny lantern lit in a window at the very end of the courtyard. Surrounded by dark, ground-floor motel rooms with striking contours and silent silence. Then, as my eyes got used to the darkness, I suddenly realized that about three hundred pairs of eyes were watching from the rooftops. An amazing silent crowd sat on top of the motel bags in the humid, hot stuff and watched me. I didn’t go to the door anymore. I turned very slowly and carefully, I knew it was a bad move or a sudden birdwatch, and they jumped on me to tear it apart. – Who’s sitting on the rooftops? I asked the driver when I finally managed to get back in the car. – Illegal South American guest workers. “All right, then please take us to a safe motel.” “Okay,” said the taxi driver, “then I’ll take you back to the bus station, and they’ll find the motel right next to it, where they might not be hurt.” “But why didn’t you speak right away?” “I told you I wouldn’t take you to the address they gave you.” “He said,” he said, “he just didn’t say why, and he hadn’t mentioned the safe motel next to the train station.” Nah, this was our first trip to the devil, and it cost just as much as the motel room we didn’t end up taking out. But that was not the end of the trouble. At the motel next to the train station, the Indian porter was only offering the more expensive room, but I stubbornly insisted on the cheaper one again. “I’m not giving it, believe me, they’re better off with the more expensive one, here above the gate on the second floor.” – But we want the cheaper ones. – All right, it’s out there, but then there’s no complaint. – Why? What’s wrong with the cheaper room? “Nothing,” the Indian porter said grimly and handed the key. We were greeted by an unbearable smell of American motel rooms. He was imbued with everything, the unforgiving cigarette smell immersed himself in everything for this eternity. In the hot heat, we couldn’t keep any clothes on ourselves. We turned off the lamp and pulled back the curtain so we could open the window for some fresh air, but soon a threatening male chorus rang out, “Let’s fuck the naked white chicks!” Screaming, I jumped to the window and pulled back the curtain. We didn’t think the outside light would illuminate our bodies so much. But the chorus did not calm down. I started calling the reception by phone, but the Indian didn’t pick it up. It was well past midnight when someone put a key in the lock from the outside. Until then, I had no idea what hellish sounds lived in me, but now it tore out of me like the Titanic-sized ice cliff of a melting glacier and I yelled, “Get the fuck out of here! The key man dropped his key to the ground in fright and trampled away. The outdoor choir continued to whine about “fucking the naked white chicks”. In addition to the phone, the number of the local police was also displayed, and on my many attempts, a sleepy voice picked it up. I told you which motel we were in and asked for help because a bunch of men were threatening us with violence. “But haven’t they raped you yet?” – They’re threatening us. “Okay, and if there’s a problem, we’ll go out,” the sleepy voice said, hanging up. I redialed right away, but they didn’t pick up anymore. Lenke meanwhile turned in bed and told me to lie down already. “But don’t you understand that we have to go back to the reception and ask for another room?” There are several keys for this room, not secure. “I’m not going anywhere from here until morning,” Lenke said, pulling the sheet over his head. I continued to look out from behind the curtain to see if the screaming palik were coming for us. It was not clear where the sounds came from and where they were watching us. Then around two in the morning, the Indian porter picked up the phone anyway. I told him someone was trying to come to us with a key and I asked for a safe room. “I told you to take out the room above me, but you didn’t ask.” True, a little more expensive, but it’s an enclosed building. “Yeah, he told us to take out the more expensive room, he just didn’t tell me why.” And now please come for us because we dare not cut through the yard alone. “Excluded,” the Indian said. – What is it excluded? You didn’t tell us this wasn’t a safe motel. Come for us! “No, you have to come here yourself, I’m not leaving my legs out of the building at night.” I’m not crazy. I surrendered. I convinced Lenke to have to carry over, and when we’re ready from the backpacker, we’ll tear open the door and run out like Zrínyi and run, run as much as we can. By the time we moved into the closed part of the building, it was already four in the morning and we had ordered the car for six, so we only had two hours to sleep. The car, of course, was only brought to eight, in the meantime we sat on the torn sofa of the Indian porter in a precautionary setting, fully riding, trying to breathe a sigh of relief. The man delivering the car strictly explained that we had to bring it back within 24 hours, and if we were even just a minute late, they would charge another full day. This is how we set off into the realm of the world’s largest-bodied trees on the south side of the Sierra Nevada. Very soon after leaving Fresno, we found ourselves on another planet, with previously unimaginable landscapes and plants, cacti of four to five feet. We seemed to be gliding, floating in the desert, as if the wheels of the car didn’t even touch the concrete of the road. I thought the giant trees would be scary, scary, oppressive, but instead, on the contrary, they reassured and uplifted the human soul into eternity. The giant trees generously, graciously raised us, little ants, and made us equal members of the universe. I have never heard such an infinite Buddhist silence anywhere as in the forest of giant mammoth pines. When I stepped out of our tent at night, the huge full moon gleamed silvery white among the trees. I squatted down and immersed my face in the blinding light. I don’t think squirting has caused me so much pleasure in my life. Then at dawn we could hurry because our alarm clock broke down and we had two hours left to take the rented car back to the city of terrible men, Fresno. I wasn’t afraid Lenke was driving insanely well, I don’t even understand why he didn’t go as a car racer, I would feel safe in his car even at a speed of 300 kilometers. Before we got back with our pass on the Greyhoundbus, my eyes caught one of the headlines at the train station newsstand: “The serial killer struck again in Sequoia National Park”. I couldn’t stop myself from holding the card and running through the story. Tourists found the carcasses of an entire family slaughtered the night before. Essentially where we camped. I cursed the day I learned English. Returning to New York, our third roommate was just about to set off with her mother and her girlfriend for the big circle. I was bound to escape the city of Fresno by far. A week later, my mom called to try to reassure her daughter because she can’t stop sobbing. – Why? What happened? “We can’t get accommodation, we’ve been circulating for more than half a day, we’re asked in every motel, but where are the men?” – What kind of men? – We don’t know that either. – Why, do you look like a prostitute? “Well, but you have no advice on where to get accommodation?” – But where are you? – Where are we? My mum asked my roaring roommate, but the answer was suppressed from a distance by some crack in the line. Then Mom repeated on the phone, “In Fresno.” (Open sentence)

Source: Népszava by nepszava.hu.

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