1. Shores of Liguria, Italy
I just couldn´t sit tight, I´d been walking around in circles for hours. From time to time I would lean out of the balcony to scan the sea with my eyes. I was waiting for a ship that was only supposed to arrive hours later. The seagulls by the shore stood like statues on the rocks, it seemed like nothing bothered them, not even the extreme heat. I would have loved to see someone pass by and make them fly away disapprovingly. ‘Shoo, shoo, go away!’ I waved my arm at them, but they were far away from me and they didn´t care.
I remember the first time I was here with Angelo; crying out with joy I had leaned towards him in the car and slowly kissed him. The sea has always fascinated me and literally nothing could touch me more than this infinite, magical blueness which has become a constant part of my life since then with its washed-out, leached roar. I don´t even know what it´s like to live somewhere else anymore, this is my home.
I scrolled through your messages on my phone, I get chills every time you write and I get anxious when I don´t hear from you for days. ‘We´re coming by boat’ you wrote on Messenger. ‘I´m bringing the boys too, so they can get to know your son.’
Francesco and I started walking towards the shore. As we were strolling across the beach, I noticed he must have been excited too; he either kept walking by my side and holding my hand or he kept kicking pebbles. I noticed the silhouette of a ship in the distance, so we rushed towards the dock. You eventually came by ship, but of course, not the way I had imagined. Cornelia had rented a dainty yacht, she elegantly navigated it towards the dock. She got off last, adjusting her wide-flanged straw hat with one hand, the sunshine reflecting off the large Guess logo on her oversized shirt.
„‘We promised the kids to take a cruise ship but I just couldn´t resist these rentable yachts when I saw them in the port. Good memories, you know.’ She gabbled winking at me with a smile to let me know that she thought that I couldn´t possibly have memories like those, I´m just an Eastern-European girl after all.
You were soaking wet when I saw you, I would have loved to run into your arms but Cornelia´s presence held me back. You were laughing. You and your boys had been playing with water guns on the way here, that´s why you looked like that. I laughed back at you and then I smiled at your sons who were still holding their guns. Francesco timidly grabbed my arm, he didn´t know what to expect from the two older boys, but within a few minutes they started running around together. We made our way towards our house, Francesco proudly showing the way to the boys and to Cornelia, and you and I hung back a little bit, trying to grab a moment together.
‘Why did you bring Cornelia too, Abris?’ I whispered in your ears.
‘She decided at the last minute that she wanted to come.’’ You sighed deeply and then you hugged me. You gazed into my eyes and I knew I couldn’t run away anymore. Not even from you.
‘That´s our home.’’ I pointed to our house on top of the hill, surrounded by cyprus trees, in the middle of a green garden.
‘Wow this is a villa!’’ you mumbled. Maybe you were thinking to yourself ‘So this is where you go to bed with Angelo every night.’’ But you didn´t say anything, you just held my hand tight.
I nervously looked at our clock as we arrived, Angelo could be here any minute, he always spends his long siesta at home. I had only told him this morning that I was expecting company from Budapest. When Angelo hears the word ‘Budapest’’ he always smiles, subconsciously. That´s where we met. There was an Italian tourist bus parking in front of the Parliament building, a fresh breeze was blowing from the Danube, it was a glowing summer morning. I was on my way to the art gallery where I did my internship, I had to open the gallery up. The tour guide yelled after me: ‘The passengers said you look like an angel!’’ I turned around. ‘Who said that?’’ I asked and I started walking towards the bus. All of a sudden, there he was in front of me, Angelo. On that day, I opened the gallery a bit later than usual.
Angelo was like the hot, burning sun. Being around him was just like lying in the hot sand, the warm sunshine beating off your whole body. Yet you, you were like the waves of the ocean. You never seized to exist for me, I was never able to forget you. I could always feel you, like the constant, always-rumbling waves of an ocean. Whenever I watched the sea, I saw you.
Finally, Angelo joined us and Francesco ran to him right away, he adored his father. I was watching Angelo´s long eyelashes that mysteriously shadowed his fierce, deep brown eyes in a sexy, melancholic and sentimental way. We all sat down at the table and I didn´t dare to look into your eyes, because I knew that your eyes were burning. You were waiting for me to end the silence, but I kept ignoring you, one hour went by in stillness. I saw myself from the outside, staring at the long curtains, the wind gently blowing them, they looked so pretty this way. Angelo had no idea why you were here. Or what this whole visit was about. This won´t work, I just can´t go through with it.
‘Nika, why can´t you act like an adult? Why won´t you just finally tell Angelo?’’ you whispered in my ears softly but urgently when you followed me into the kitchen. My eyes were filled with tears, I was so close to crying.
‘Does Cornelia know?’’ I asked, almost inaudibly.
‘Yes, I told her everything. I think she can´t wait either for this drama to finally end.’’
‘I can´t do this, Abris. I don´t want a patchwork family. I can´t imagine what it would be like to first have your kids staying with us, and then what it would be like when Francesco slept at his dad´s place. The weekends without him. I don´t want to imagine. Angelo won´t give up on Francesco, he won´t let me raise him alone.’’ I could hardly breathe by the time I finished my sentence.
‘Nika, Nika, don´t worry, we´ll figure something out.’’ You placed your hands on my cheeks and stared straight in my eyes. ‘I will wait for you, for as long as you want me to.’ You kissed me and I was afraid that Angelo would come follow us and see it. But no one interrupted us, so I hugged you, and although it felt silly, I was grateful. That you were willing to wait for me, even for years.
So we´re left with those secret weekends in Budapest in your studio, our parallel lives, staring in the distance and listening to the waves of the sea, every day. I feel like it´s so little that I get of you on those weekends, so little.
It had been a month since we had decided to put an end to our secret, a secret which had lasted more than a year already and had all started unexpectedly.
I hadn´t seen you since college and you just came out of the blue. You randomly texted me: ‘Nika, if you´re in Budapest, let´s meet up :)’’. A short text message. Only you called me Nika, I couldn´t help but smile. I texted you back, and only a few weeks later we were having coffee in the Muvész, on Andrássy Street. You asked me if I´d been in love with Angelo when I showed you some pictures of him and Francesco. ‘Yes, I was in love.’’ I said and I let you believe it was all in the past. I thought of Angelo and the messages full of heart emojis which I accidently saw on his phone the other day. Of course, I should have known. Angelo looks like a demi-god, it´d be a miracle if he didn´t cheat. My friend Sabrina had been telling me for ages to spy on him a bit.
‘Cornelia was my manager.’’ you started, while looking for some pictures of your family on your phone. ‘After I arrived in Vienna for my scholarship, she offered to take my pictures into her collection. We spent a lot of time together and one day, all of a sudden, she announced to me that she´s pregnant with my child. She was 35, she didn´t want to have an abortion, she said that it could be her last chance to have a child. I was 25, that´s how it all started. Later, she wanted another kid and we got married. She turned my pictures into a huge success, though it wasn´t so hard for her, if I told you who her family were, I´m sure you would feel intimidated. I always do. Now she has discovered a new talent in Saint-Petersburg, a young guy, she spends most of her time with his paintingsthese days. And I don´t think it´s just his pictures.’’ You added with a laugh.
We went up to your studio, near Oktogon-Square. Just as we stepped in and the door shut behind us, you turned to me and I got dizzy, you were so close to me. I leaned against the wall, closed my eyes and let you kiss me.
‘I couldn´t forget you, I looked for you everywhere until finally someone told me that you lived in Italy. That´s how I found you on Facebook.’’ You told me while you smoothed my locks out of my face, one by one, and you pulled me into the studio by my hands. You wanted me to see your pictures that told the story of the past years that we had spent apart. I couldn´t have known that you had been thinking about me every day. That I was in all of your pictures. That I´m always the centre. The light.
Not much later, as we lay next to each other on the bed, still close, as if we never wanted to get out of each other’s embrace, we continued our confessions; why we let each other go that summer. Our bodies had already forgiven each other, but we were still whispering to one other in tears and we kissed each other over and over again. You were talking about Cornelia, I was talking about Angelo.
‘I didn´t want to let you go to Vienna Abris, I was worried. I just had this feeling that something would happen there, something that would change you. That´s why I made a scene and broke up with you when you told me that you had accepted the scholarship. I hoped that it would make you stay. When you left, I wished I would never see you again. I was depressed for months, there were times when I almost called you on the phone because I missed you so much…’’ I started to respond, but you pulled me even closer and said in a breaking voice:
‘I´m the one who should have called you but I was wounded, like a deer that has been shot in the heart and doesn´t even have time to see where the deadly shot came from. Cornelia´s, how should I say, feminine charm seemed to be the cure to all my pains, how could I have known that she was the real hunter? Never in a million years would I have imagined what she wanted me for. She seemed so independent, free and strong on her own. I couldn’t even have imagined that she would want me to have kids with her.
‘But I didn´t call you.’’ I continued. ‘I just let the pain take me over. That´s when I met Angelo. When he took me to the sea, I thought that would be the solution, that you wouldn´t find me there. I went to the end of the world to forget you. Angelo seemed perfectly suitable for that. Up until Francesco was born. After that, I began to sink into my own little world a lot more than ever before. Francesco’s small, soft baby body gently pressed up against me in the carrier on my long walks by the sea. I started to think about you again. That´s how you and the sea were connected, my desires and the infinite, the unreachable. I was dreaming about you. About exactly that, what we´re doing now. That we would hug each other tight and wouldn’t let go ever again. I can´t even believe that you´re here, that I can caress your skin, that we are lying next to each other, just like the old times.
I didn’t want to lose you again. I looked at your paintings that covered the wall around us and I knew, you wanted the same things as me.
It wasn´t long after your visit that everything changed, it all happened so unexpectedly and completely differently than I had imagined. Francesco turned seven and Angelo wanted him to start at a good school. We found a school in Genoa, in the San Vincenzo district.
Angelo´s yacht business had been going well, we had to invest the profit into something. We bought a nice and spacious apartment in Genoa, on Via degli Archi. We had a perfect view of the city from the long windows that stretched from the ground to the ceiling. Angelo only lived here in the winter time, he was occupied with his business in Moneglia from the spring-time until the summer.
San Vincenzo is located on a hill—you can see the whole city from there. The neighbourhood reminded me of Budapest, only the air was different here, you can feel the salty smell of the sea even up there. Living between two places gave me more freedom, especially when Angelo was in Moneglia. I decorated the apartment with your pictures, you surprised me with something new every time you visited. And finally, in this new lifestyle, there was room for you as well. You rented a studio nearby and we spent the afternoons together. You being near gave intensity to my days and my greatest desire was to be with you. You lived here for half of the year and you spent the second half between Vienna and Budapest, because Cornelia took the boys with her to Vienna. You didn´t get a divorce but you were separated, the divorce was just a matter of time. Just like with Angelo and I.
‘Angelo surely has someone’ my friend Sabrina warned me again the next time we met. She showed me a picture on her phone of a Moneglian girl, dark brown hair, big boobs, sensual lips, maybe she has lip fillers. It was the same girl who had texted Angelo years ago.
The time had come to act like an adult. I sat down with Angelo and showed him the photo of the busty girl on my phone. He started crying. He doesn´t want to lose me and Francesco. He asked me to please forgive him and not to divorce him. Me, the person who had been cheating on him for years, I should forgive him? I wanted to tell him that I have someone too but at the last second, I changed my mind. I was still scared. What he would say, or even worse, what he might do. So, I just told him that I forgave him instead.
Angelo´s faithfulness didn´t last long. I noticed them one evening as I was walking along the shore, they were in Angelo´s yacht, there were candles on board, glasses filled with champagne. I opened the door on them and waited for quite a while, persistently, until they noticed me. Angelo wrapped the bedsheet around himself and he threw one to her as well. ‘Victoria!’ he screamed. The girl wrapped it around herself and she was just sat staring in front of herself while leaning against the wall of the boat. I think I probably looked weird standing there, as I interrupted their most intimate moments, they both stayed silent. I couldn´t speak either because, as much as what I had just seen hurt me, I was equally relieved.
Two weeks after that Angelo and I were already sitting in the lawyer´s office. Angelo was especially elegant that day in his new suit. He was generous, I got the Genovian flat, he agreed to pay maintenance and Francesco could stay with me, he only insisted on having him for the weekends.
You got divorced too, the boys kept staying with Cornelia in Vienna and they could spend their summer holidays with you in Genova or Budapest. You moved in with me, into the big, sun-lit apartment, on Via degli Archi. The parallel lives ended, we all became a big patchwork family between Genova, Moneglia, Vienna and Budapest, and the kids can´t wait to be together again in the summer.
The Hungarian Version you can find on the Felhő Café: