I feel like having another Unicum, but I think better of it and go outside for a smoke. Night has fallen in the meantime, and the Buda castle, owing to its carefully orchestrated lighting, is at its most beautiful now. I’m glad that Marko, my friend who’s still diligently working on his beer inside, will have a chance to see it for the first time.
A woman on a bicycle passes in front of me and her perfume leaves a scent trail that for a moment cancels out the carbon-monoxide trash I am exhaling. She must be in good form; I think as I look at how steep the path she climbed up is. Marko and I have done our fair share of walking today too. We walked in circles around Pest, going from the real estate agency to the apartment I was inquiring about, and then back to the agency for me to sign the contract since the apartment turned out to be true to its rental ad. We then made our way to the Opera house and the Heroes Square, lamenting the inferiority of our native Belgrade, just like a couple of Serbians are supposed to, before we crossed the bridge and barreled up one of the multitude of stairways scattered across the hill of Buda. Walking throughout the day made the zero Celsius cold bearable, but now my gloveless hand is entering a new stage of numbness, forcing me to throw away the cigarette and step on it; its last breath a miniscule explosion of fiery sparks on the pavement. I get back into the café and welcome the wave of warmth washing over my hands and face. Marko seems to be finished with his drink and our looks agree on asking for the check. There is none as our Hungarian hostess approaches and blurts out a number that we pay for in coins, making me proclaim that I will have to get used to the metallic part of this currency.
We then walk down the path the woman on the bicycle rode up on and reach a landing just prior to its steepest decline. I proclaim that this is probably the last place to catch a good view of the two bridges: one of them ornamented in classicist style; the other belonging significantly more to the country’s socialist era, and the famous Parliament building.
“Look at this building man.” – I say.
“Yeah.” – Marko replies. “It’s fucking awesome.”
“I wonder how the people here felt when, after being exposed to, you know, the poshness and everything of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for hundreds of years, they suddenly had to deal with uneducated power-hungry peasants taking over the country, only for them to again be further manipulated by other kinds of ruling assholes.” – I say, passively noting the presence of ice chunks drifting along the Danube.
“Do you know the difference between socialism and communism by the way?” – I then ask Marko.
“Not really.” – he responds, without showing too much interest in the topic.
“Well basically, they’re not two different things. They’re more like two different stages of the same thing, you know?”
“So, imagine a line with two ends that presents a kind of a process. Well if the starting point of the line is capitalism, socialism is the middle point where people no longer live according to their ability, instead living in accordance with their contribution. And then communism is the end point of that line where people no longer live according to their contribution, but according to their need, and as a result there is zero private ownership. Theoretically, nobody owns anything, not even regular stuff like clothes, and everything is provided equally for everyone by the government. And so… I don’t know, I guess you can see why it’s so easy to get hot about it nowadays.”
“I wonder if the government would provide us with women too.” – Marko replies.
“We should get moving.” – I say. “We still have stuff to do today.”
“Does that include getting some weed?” – he asks.