Camel Blue cigarettes have white filter tips in Hungary, I learn after tearing the cover off the paper pack. It took us ten minutes to get from the basilica to where we are now, Wesselenyi street, in front of what should be my address for the next two years, and we are closing in on my car. I turn off the alarm and open the trunk. There is a suitcase and a big plastic bag in it. I peek into the bag and smile, satisfied I didn’t forget to pack the speakers.
The hallway of the building is dark and there is no light switch in sight. I slowly shuffle forward in the direction of the elevator and get temporarily blinded by the automatic materialization of light, just as I approach the wall lined up with post boxes. Pulsating bright spots still populate my vision while we wait for the elevator. I hear Marko placing down the two suitcases behind me.
“This elevator is fucking old man.” – he says.
“This building is old.” – I say.
“Let’s take the stairs.” – he says.
“Weren’t you the one complaining about carrying all the stuff?”
“That was before we got the ganja.” – he says, taking the stairs.
I wait for another ten seconds before following in his footsteps. As I reach the second floor I’m out of breath, feeling as if I could pass out on the spot. I hear Marko yelling something about the keys from the floor above. I push up another flight of stairs and meet him in front of a locked door that leads to the outside corridor where all of the apartments are. I take out the bundle of keys they gave me at the real estate agency and start trying them out, one by one. There are five of them in total and it’s the fifth one that lets us in. We then move across the narrow terrace-like pass, simultaneously remarking the unexpected drop on the other side of the fence. We reach the end of the pass and another battle of deduction with the key bundle ensues before the creaking door handle gives way to my new home.
A fragrant mixture of dust and old furniture lingers inside. The hallway is long and narrow, with a pair of doors on the right that lead to the kitchen and the bathroom. In the back is the apartment’s only room, which is itself long and narrow with a set of three tall windows, forming a kibitz at the end. The ceilings are high. The blinds are drawn shut. I rest the bag with the speakers on the floor and pull up the blinds, letting streetlights in. Marko places the suitcases next to the bag and takes his jacket off, throwing it over one of the armchairs.
“So, what’s the plan now?” – he asks.
“Getting some rest would be a good idea.” – I say, looking around the room.
“You want to take a nap?”
“No.” – I say. “If I take a nap now, I won’t be waking up before the start of the semester.”
“So what are you saying?”
I take out the three little packages from my pocket and throw them on a little table in front of the TV.
“Do you have any rolling papers?” – I ask.
“Yes sir.” – Marko says, pointing at my back. “They’re in the backpack.”
“I’ll go and freshen up a bit.” – I say, giving him the backpack.
I go to the bathroom and splash cold water on my face. I look in the mirror. I recall having more color in the cheeks. There’s a toilet to my right. I take a test seat and realize the heat pipes are inches away from my knees. I don’t like this. I go back to the sink and take my sweater and shirt off. My torso’s white and my breasts are on the verge of acquiring a sagging quality. What was not so long-ago a six-pack has turned into a four-pack. I see an unopened bottle of shampoo on the edge of the bathtub. I take the rest of my clothes off and step into the tub to take a shower.
I’m naked and cold and without a towel I can use. I call Marko but get no response. I shout again and soon hear his footsteps through the bathroom door. I describe my situation to him and he walks away, mumbling something about something that’s wrong with me. He returns with a towel and a pair of underwear and he throws them to me over the shower curtain.
In the room, I take a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt from one of the suitcases on the floor. Marko is sitting on the couch, proudly twisting a rolled-up joint in his hand. I make a motion for it but he pulls it back.
“The one who rolls is the one who blows.” – he says.
“Ok Snoop Dogg.” – I say. “I suppose you have a lighter too?”
He searches his pockets and ends up empty handed. I throw him my lighter.
“You’re a good man.” – he says, lighting up and taking a very strong pull, sparks flying in front of his nose. He takes another pull and offers me the joint. I take three short pulls, then another three, keeping them all in, and blow them out 5 seconds later. We take another turn. I feel my mouth go dry and my eyes grow heavy and sensitive. There is another couch on the other side of the room, and I can’t figure out which one folds into a bed. The rental ad said one of them does. I pose this question to Marko.
“How am I supposed to know.” – he says.
I look through the windows. The building across seems close enough to touch, and I think of how narrow the street below must be. There is a small balcony there with two lion head sculptures on its sides. Or maybe these are sculptures of human heads. Heads of longhaired bearded men. I squint.
“This is some good fucking weed.” – Marko says.
“Yeah it is.” – I say, still squinting.
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing.” – I say, facing him.
“It’s not nothing.” – he says. “You were doing something with your eyes.”
“Can you grow your beard better than that?” – I ask, pointing at the scattered sparseness of his facial hair.
“I’m good like this.” – he says, smiling. “It’ll get better.”
“What’s going to get better?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you even know what I’m talking about?”
“No.” – he says and starts to laugh, then replies “Do you?”
I stretch across my side of the couch, take another couple of pulls, and give the spliff back to Marko. He kills it and stretches across his side.
“This is a very comfortable couch.” – he says.
“It is.” – I say. “It’s a great fucking couch.”
“We shouldn’t vegetate like this though.” – he says, “We won’t be in the mood to go out later.”
“I really hope this is the one that folds.” – I say, tapping the armrest.
“You haven’t even tried the other one.”
“Shit.” – I say. “Maybe the other one’s even better.”
“Maybe it is.” – he says.
I look around the room again, at the four corners of the ceiling, at the old cupboard, at the grazed surface of the lacquered parquet.
“I wonder how this place looked like during the war.” – I say. “Since the whole neighborhood was the Jewish quarter and all.”
“I don’t think it looked too good.” – Marko says and gets up, loudly remembering the piss he wanted to take. He goes to the toilet and I close my eyes, feeling my head sink deeper into the pillow.