24th January 2023
4 minutes read
translated by Márton Navarrai Mészáros
24th January 2023
4 minutes read
Advice to the reader: I have already written the story of Conchita. However, I just realized how rough this portrait is. “Kagylócska,” the book, has four parts. And I would like to rewrite the last one. But nothing can be rewritten. That is why I am writing this addendum now.
My friend Gyuszi cracked a joke. An old chestnut, once known to every schoolchild in Pest and Buda. An old man stopped to pee in the street. “Sir,” the policeman shouted, “don’t you see that there is a toilet barely twenty steps away?” “Oh, my boy,” the old man sighed, “when was the last time I could manage to pee that far!”
We smiled politely. Yes, Gyuszi’s jokes.
“Disgusting jokes!” my wife barked at me from the far side of the door. “And you laugh at that?!”
She neither understood nor believed that this talk had been common among us in the Old World. It happens to me, too, I retorted.
“Well, don’t try it here in Florida!” she snapped. Why? Well, because it’s a federal misdemeanor! “You’ll end up in jail!”
Just a little detail concerning law and order.
But she didn’t speak to me for days!
“Don’t touch me!” she shouted, even after a day had passed. It did not occur to her that I would, heaven forfend, urinate in the streets if necessary.
After decades of peaceful marriage, that was it. That’s when I realized how different the two of us were.
This is where I will begin my notes on this topic once more.
Different ages, different culture, different continents. Should I continue? Being of different ages does not mean all that much. Fifteen to sixteen years are, so to speak, irrelevant. The fact that we came from different parts of the world? Irrelevant. Everyone comes from somewhere.
On one occasion, I was able to get my hands on my wife’s horoscope. Curious, independent, planner. It was all there. Well, for sure I am different. But I didn’t finish reading.
Then there’s the issue of language. Understanding each other in a foreign tongue is no longer an obstacle.
After half a century of marriage, elderly people talk less and less to each other.
What’s more, for a long time, I thought myself fluent in the languages I had learned.
It is not easy, though, that she, my wife, who had been my translator for a long time, no longer works on my Spanish texts. But I’m not going to bring this topic up now. They will translate my works if they discover them. If not, hard luck! No sweat, my own language is enough.
Let’s leave language aside. What I once thought was a connection now separates us. Maybe I should look elsewhere to find the real problems, though I’m not sure it’s necessary. Maybe it is the fact that America is ultimately foreign to me after all these years. I’m only realizing now that it’s not because of my wife.
Little by little, I got to know Conchita’s milieu. I lived among them. Over the years, they also became my relatives, while my actual relatives became little more than a painful, distant memory.
As it so happened, our destinies were the same. They were exiles, too, and here in the States they also began a new life. They held together and took me in. Even then, to me, they still represented the United States. I found friends among them, like Hilario, a Spaniard who, like me, had married into the family.
Little by little, Conchita began to tell her story. Slowly, step by step, I discovered her past. The father whom I never met and whom she loved more than anyone.
She said she was nicknamed Leslie Caron in her family.
We have a photograph of the little girl she once was, and I don’t know who is looking at me: Leslie Caron or she.
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