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Hungarian Impressions

By Anaïs JEANNERET Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge

Impeded by misshapen bags that bump and catch on the arm rests, two passengers are going up the airplane aisle with difficulty. The man behind me grows impatient and thumps my shoulder hoping, undoubtedly, that I free the passage towards the exit quickly. I could care less about the slow pace of the disembarking, but I am furious. Furious with myself. Furious for having accepted this escapade at the very moment my editor was pressuring me to turn in my new novel. What’s more, I am furious for not managing to move forward in my work, as if paralyzed for weeks by the fear of not living up to the reception my last book got.

 

I had received the invitation in midsummer. It involved spending three days in Budapest then writing a few lines for a tourist guide. I didn’t know the city, I was still in the euphoria of success. I had shown Croatia to Sonia. She laughed all the time her hearty laugh, her skin became browner, softer each day and I loved her incredible body and her expressive face as varying as an Atlantic sky. We would spend the afternoons in the coolness of our room making love. Then we’d run barefoot on the white stones to the sea and dive in the deep water. Without thinking, I had accepted the proposition. Then I had forgotten it.

On the gangway connecting the Airbus to the air terminal I can feel, despite the glass walls, the ice-cold December air that is awaiting me outside. It is four in the afternoon. A grey fog has already dimmed the daylight. The idea of going back to Paris without even leaving the airport crosses my mind. If I had missed the plane, if the stewardess hadn’t reopened the check-in for me, I would be home, seated at my desk. For that matter George Valenet, the director of the travel book collection, wasn’t at our meeting place at Roissy. He must have waited for me then left, surely thinking that I was no longer coming.

The airport resembles all the other big airports in the world. Same rushed crowd, same signs, same shops as in New York or Rome. Nothing indicated that I was I Hungary rather than Singapore. Someone taps me on the shoulder.

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