Arad 50/mm Returns

Home. It’s where the cats hate me in a very specific, familiar way. An antagonistic yet friendly way. They acknowledge I belong to the landscape, organically, like the trees, the asphalt, the houses, and the metal gates. I am one with their surroundings, and they hate me with passion, because they are cats. They turn their tiny furry body away from my lens with the skill of Nadia’s perfect 10 on the uneven bars. Nothing lifts the heart quite like being spurned by a neighbourhood cat.

Home. It’s where I know the seasonal flowers of each house and yard. There is the wisteria right around the corner, lush and heavy scented. The violets and forget-me-nots we would pick on our way home from kindergarten, they still grow in the very same ditches. There are tall purples lilies, and fiery orange ones that bloom later. Lily of the valley grows in hidden, humid, shaded places, it’s hard to find, unlike lilac, which blooms victorious, in mauve and white. There is the all-conquering forsythia in our yard, gloriously yellow from spring to summer. We called it by its wrong Hungarian name, Wikipedia tells me, but for me the forsythia will forever be ‘aranyeső’, golden rain.

Home. It’s the concrete of my schoolyard, where I played football with the boys, bloodied knees and elbows, slowly learning the hard way that girls are not supposed to be either good at this sport, nor knowledgeable about it. I was never the former, always the latter. In the dark days of this pandemic age, my home team became my umbilical cord to the town I could not visit. Our staying up in the first division the dream I shared with those I could not meet in person, those of us who strayed away, those of us who stayed behind.

Home. It’s where I don’t find it odd that the McDonalds is still the beating heart of the town’s social life, long queues winding their way to the counters as the ‘vaccination marathon’ rumbles on in the Town Hall. I still remember the plastic taste of the very first cheeseburger, it was not plastic at all, it was heavenly, the taste of hope and promise, the promise that if I got right all the grammar in the ‘English with Tears’ practice book, I could have cheeseburgers in the most fabulous places of the world. Now I know that none of those cheeseburgers would ever taste as glorious as that first one.

Home. It’s where tram number 16 still lumbers across the bridge, but I rarely, if ever, ride it. Distances, after living in a metropolis, suddenly become easily navigable by foot. I never get lost, I never take a wrong turn, and that’s me, the person who got lost in Paris with the Notre Dame right under her nose. Home is where I don’t have to second guess and I don’t have to see the Cathedral to know, even in my dreams, where it is.

Home, it’s where I notice, or, rather, remember, that one of the libraries (never my favourite one), has a Donald Trump quote inscribed over its entrance. I knew it was there, never wondered why. Back in the days, he was just the weird looking gentleman who gave Kevin directions in ‘Home Alone’ and seeing him didn’t give me the dry heaves. Instead, it transported me back to the dust and burnt popcorn scented hall of Dacia cinema. The stuff dreams were made of before they turned into nightmares.

Home, it’s where one day I went out for my run, and out of the blue, decided to change my usual route. I just ran, jogged, to be more precise, and did not think about where I was headed. Just took a turn, then another one, and suddenly streets I hadn’t been on for decades, maybe, came sharply into focus. This was the route on which my grandparents’ two cows, Hermina and Panna, would walk home after a day of grazing. They were small cows, ginger and delicate, and there was a lady living on our street who had a special fondness for them, and would wait in front of her door every so often, to watch them and tell me how beautiful she thought they were. Home is where when you go out for a jog, you might just arrive, even for a few instants, to that point in your life when you were, you are, the happiest.

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