I hurried between the cars. At another time it would have been dark, but Spring has arrived dragging summer along, and of late the evenings had been stretching. The flashing green light gave me the right to be on the road but I just wasn’t sure I could venture across without looking. This city was unforgiving to those who were careless or apt to take it for granted. Rules here applied on a hierarchy*: a pedestrian stepping amongst motorised vehicles was the lowest of things. The way was safe, so my senses proclaimed, and I made the far footpath still intact. Engines rumbled about me but in the cooling evening shadow the sound held a pleasant air even if the stink still couldn’t.
I don’t know if he’d spotted me from afar as vulnerable, or was I just one of many. The latter would pertain to truth but for now I felt like the unlucky antelope, singled out for special attention. Why couldn’t that have been my role where girls were involved! Through the hedgerow I first glimpsed him rising from his porchway step, his drunken friends resplendent in their slurring (noodling: ref to Hungarian) support.
His smile, gapped and stained, with his watery eyes, were his weapons, as was his charm, lost on me, however, as I struggled to deciphre words. He may have been chosen because he was the most eloquent of the bunch but as I had sprung my defences early, assuming no understanding – it wasn’t my language afterall – nothing of his initial assault filtered through. He was not deterred, nor was I. The change in my back pocket was ready for use. I only needed to deploy it.
I smiled genuinely, I had no reason not to.
„Mit akarsz?” ( What do you want?)
A mumbled reply.
„Igen igen,” I countered, „ de mit akarsz?”
I hinted at an urgency but in truth my only haste was to sit and have my drink before the bus arrived. It would, therefore, be best if this negotiation could be rendered short but significant.
„ Jo!” (Good)
„ Csak egy kicsit?” (Just a little?)
„ Csak egy kicsit!” I replied as I handed him a 200 forint coin. Not much but on these streets not a little.
He smiled appreciatively and left with a goodbye. I, likewise, passed on a salute and perched nearby, opened my bottle, and began to drink. I should go unmolested, I assumed, because, at least, I had been kind. Isn’t that how Karma works!