At the other end of the bridge, Marko and I find ourselves in front of the Four Seasons hotel. We then make our way down Merleg Street, taking a shortcut to Deak Ferenc park. I tell Marko about the first and last time I was there, some seven years ago, and how that was the place where some of my friends managed to score at the time. A light drizzle commences as we approach the traffic light on the edge of the park.
“This is not going to make it any easier.” – I say, looking up, blinking at incoming drops.
“I’m not too worried.” – he says. “You always had a good nose for drugs.”
“So, you’ve learned how to make puns now?”
“I thought it was a pretty good one.”
The light turns green and we cross the street as the rain is gaining ground. The variety of headlights, taillights and sounds in the surrounding traffic gives off a displaced impression of a Saturday rush hour and I take a look at what time it is. 19h. I start to calculate the number of consecutive hours I have been up for, and then decide every other line of thinking is better. Umbrellas, for example. Never liked them, never used them. Often needed them.
“Do you have an umbrella or something?” – I ask Marko.
“Where do you think I keep it, in my ass?”
“I thought you liked having things in your ass.”
“Ha-ha.” – he says as we enter the park. “Try and do something useful now.”
People in the park are moving in search of a shelter. I’m trying to make out a group of skateboarders somewhere, since it was members of this dying subculture that were so kind seven years prior. I brief Marko with the same task, and after a couple of minutes he extends his arm in the direction of a nearby tree and the sounds of rolling wheels and board clattering coming from there. We head their way, slowing down our walk as means of gaining a more amicable entry.
“Hey guys.” – I say to no one in particular, of the three 20-somethings wearing hoods in front of us.
“Hi.” – the least shy one responds and turns his face to me. I realize that my age projection is off by at least five years and that I am talking to a high school kid. I wonder about pressing on at all, but decide to give them the benefit of the doubt after remembering that it’s 2017 and that my grandparents are the only people I know not getting high, and that I’m not even sure of that.
“Do you guys know if there’s a place around here where we can get some weed?” The kid doesn’t seem to understand either the request or the language, and so I try a different, subtler approach.
“Ganja, you know, marijuana, hashish?”
“No.” – the kid says and waves his head, then goes silent.
I thank them, apologize for intruding, and wish them a fun evening. We step away and continue with our search. Minutes pass and I can feel my coat getting soaked and heavy, and my enthusiasm subsiding.
“How about those guys over there?” – Marko asks, pointing at a similar but taller group of buddies gathered around a bench.
“Ok, but if they don’t have it, fuck it.”
“Ok.” – Marko replies, his voice deflated.
The second group of suspected dealers joins the first one in successfully denouncing our suspicions, and our fresh agreement stipulates for the next destination to be a rainproof one. I tell Marko about an Irish pub nearby and I can see the implied presence of beer cheering him up. The pub is closer than I thought, and soon we descend a flight of stairs and enter its darkened premises. The capacity of the place is greater than its current occupancy, as only two other people are keeping us company, sitting two tables away, sipping on cocktails. I order a draft lager and recommend for Marko to try one of the British ales that are on offer. He says he never had one before, and so now he does. He likes it.
“There are so many things I want to try man.” – he says, setting the glass down.
I say nothing, staring at my own glass, rotating it together with the wet coaster stuck to it.
“So what’s the plan now?” – he asks.
“We should go and grab a bite once we’re done with these beers. Then go for the manual labor part of the evening.”
“Damn, I forgot all the stuff is still in the car.”
“There’s an elevator in the building, it’ll make things easier.”
“What’s with these Jameson bottles everywhere? – Marko says and points at a row of them, encircling the full length of the pub’s walls.
“Why? – I ask. “Are you secretly hoping for a tasting?”
“Nothing secret about it.”
“I’m not into having any liquor man.” – I say. “And it’s just sponsorship.”
I look back from the walls to my glass.
“Man I’m glad I’m out of that game.” – I add.
“Marketing.” – I say. “But not a lot of difference there.”
“Whew.” – he says and gestures with a swipe across his forehead.
“We’ll go out later on tonight.” – I say. “No worries.”
“You sure you can take it?” – he asks.
“What’s one more night.”
We sit, sipping on beer. I look at the couple silently sitting at their table. The ice in their glasses has melted and the White Russians have grown paler, close to translucent. They’re taking turns going outside to smoke. They are around forty, equipped with rings, and I allow myself to estimate around fifteen years in the relationship, thirteen in marriage? I think of how their domesticity looks like if this is how their going out looks like. Are you tired? Are you hungry? Where are the kids? Did you pay the bills? I bought that beer you like. Should we go to sleep? It’s getting late. Yes, it is.
“I’m trying to think of a fate worse than that.” – I say, pointing with my eyes.
“How’s that working out?”
“I need to think harder.”
“We should go for those burgers.” – he says.
We leave the pub and traverse back across the Deak Ferenc park, on our way to a street lined with burger joints and bars I read about on TripAdvisor. While walking through the park, Marko gives me a slight shove and asks for another purchase attempt. I tell him that it’s better for us to try again tonight when we go out.
In Kiraly street, the actual name of the burgers and bars street, we proceed down the left sidewalk, encountering groups upon groups of half-naked Brits taking an early stand against the January evening. The majority of them East Midlands-based and under Foster’s care, I judge by the accent and the cans in their hands. Marko is no longer by my side. I turn around and see him some five steps behind me, talking to a group of middle-eastern looking guys leaning onto a car, all of them valid candidates for the world’s darkest bags under eyes trophy. I join the conversation before Marko has a chance to bring me in. I ask what’s up. They ask if we want some fun.
“You got some weed?” – I ask.
“Weed yes, ganja.” – the guy says.
“Euros, forints?” – he asks.
“Fifty Euros for a gram?”
“No, fifty Euros, three grams. Not selling one gram, no.”
One of the other guys pokes his head between us and informs us about the coke, ecstasy, and mdma that are all on offer as well. I wave off our interest in this and turn back to the ganja guy.
“How about thirty Euros for three grams?” – I ask.
“You pay in Euros?”
“Yes, in Euros.”
“Then I go for forty. But that’s it. Forty only, is cheap.”
“Ok, three grams for forty.” – I say and make a motion for my wallet. He stops me, pointing at a little alley on the side. I say that I’m not going there. He then opens the doors of the car behind him. I take the driver seat. The guy joins me inside and takes out three little foil wrapped packages. I ask to give them a smell and he obeys. The well-known aroma of Amsterdam greets me. I smile, pay the agreed sum, and shake hands. I leave the car and interrupt Marko’s conversation with the others, pulling him away and down the street.
“Look, they gave me their phone number.” – he says, showing me the screen of his phone.
“That’s great man.”
“Fuck off, maybe you can use them from now on.” – he says.
I open the doors of one of the better-reviewed places I recall. We enter and a girl wearing a branded apron informs us self-service is enforced and directs us to wait in line. We join the back of the line and I tell Marko that I have to go wash my hands. If he gets to order before I return, I want the Angus Cheddar one, fries on the side. In the toilet, I am glad to see paper dispensers in place of hand driers. I wash my hands and think of stereotypes.