A Day Too Long

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There is a café on the hill of Buda, where the sun sets. In winter this happens around five in the afternoon and the castle’s shadow looms over the street below, where on a narrow bend and hidden behind the outward appearance of an antique gallery, the doors open to this café. It is a place that, much like any other of its kind, serves coffee, tea, and the occasional liquor. It also features a couple of tables, corresponding chairs, and a person taking orders. What’s different about this particular café is that all of the items within its four walls are for sale. The prices of these items seem to range as much as their histories, most of which encompass more than a hundred years and have been involved with a lot more life than a usual breathless entity could hope for. One of them, a napkin holder the color of copper listed at 4000 Hungarian forints, is on the table in front of me between a small ceramic cup of Unicum and a glass of beer. The beer belongs to my friend, and the herbal liquor is mine. It is the first time I taste it, and helped by an empty stomach, I am growing to like it. There is a break in our conversation now and I can hear a jazz tune coming from the speakers in the back of the room. I think of how music, the most intangible kind of art we’ve come to produce, sometimes fits so irrevocably with the material world around us. From the great ballrooms of the past, and the ever-growing sports arenas and stadiums since then, to the candle-lit attics and sunshine soaked bedrooms on Sunday mornings, there is something about a certain piece of music that makes it belong there. Yes, different songs belong in different places for different people, but once a song has made its mark, it is hard to think of what can erase it. Time itself has been defeated by so many of them so far.

And so jazz is playing in the background, seamlessly making its way into the old teapot, spoon, clock, camera, book and every other kind of item in my current view. I feel the fleeting peace of a finished puzzle and I close my eyes as the drummer tap tap taps the end of this particular arrangement. Silence. The waitress receives a text message. I ask my friend whether he’d like another beer and he says yes. Another round is ordered and a new familiar tune is in the air, although I can’t distinguish it yet. That’s the thing with jazz; its neutrality is its best and worst quality. You can plug yourself in and out of it, enjoy it actively or passively, live or on track, but for the very same reason you will often have to suffer through it in an elevator full of suits and briefcases. The drinks arrive.

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