Today I am an official resident of Hungary.
Five years ago I fell in love with a feeling. It greeted me as a breeze, as I and a couple dozen friends rolled through the trees, lit by dark yellow street lamps, on a bus. Then we dropped our bags at the old Radio Inn on Benczúr utca and walked a wide-eyed two blocks to Heroes’s Square. I stared up at the archangel Gabriel, and the feeling made it clear that it was here to stay.
It swelled to a symphony in that month, and then it followed me home in Arizona dreams. I chased it back to Budapest where I got to know it better for a year, and it kept me afloat when I had to leave again and spend a couple more years in the desert.
I came back for the breeze once more, this time for keeps, but for the last few months I hadn’t been able to understand why it was so faint. A blanket of negativity and heaviness and fear covered it. I would have believed it dead, perhaps, had it not peaked out its head in key moments.
This morning I realized that with unconscious, almost microscopic denials I had mostly broken up with the feeling entirely. This mute self-destruction I do not yet understand. But I am now waking up to how much of myself I had cut off in the last two years. Curiosity, joy, belly laughter, boundless dreaming—slowly I traded them all in for fear. Returning this time around has been less the walking into a warmed home I was telling myself it was. It’s been more the wrenching open of a space abandoned.
This morning I walked out of my flat and made the trek to the immigration office. I was meeting Bernadette, the woman who has helped me with this visa regime in the past. Now we are like old commrades who dance a bureacratic waltz, nearly winking at each other as we go, although secretly I am usually terrifed of an official rejection. This time was different: I was picking up an already approved residence permit. I was legal, I had done it, and I was here to stay.
It almost slipped by me, the bastard. It would have been too easy, so natural to have fallen into the story that the golden times were gone, that what I had seen years ago had no more depth than an exciting trip or a fruitful year abroad. Budapest is changing and shit is stirring in this country, but its marvel hasn’t left. I had. And now I am back in more than just body.