Saturday, October 23, 2010

California Coffee Company

Yesterday, or was it the day before, at the California Coffee Company, Budapest, I met my wife's childhood friend from the village where she grew up. He tells me when he was recently walking with his father on a street in their neighborhood, my wife's father and brother drove slowly by and refused to recognize them. And before this, in the Christmas season when he had visited the Zalavary family, they had finally moved into the new house built with many interruptions over decades, outside walls still un-stuccoed but, other than lacking some kitchen and other household appliances, pretty much finished inside. This was where I had stayed with my wife. Now, according to the childhood friend, the family had turned it into a slum. The elegance of fixtures, windows, wood floors, and solid hardware paid for by my wife's settlement from her ex-husband had become invisible.

And it was this ex-husband who appears today to have taken a seat at the cafe table just in front of me. Years before I'd had a glimpse of him at the older cafe the California Coffee Company operates, and had later given his Facebook photo an examination. I guessed this was just a resemblance, a ghost message from my memory and my overpowering wish to be reattached to my old life. It was probably only that he was an unusual type, or rather not a type I could place, together with my preoccupation. When he left I went to Facebook and looked at the photo of the real Gabor Balthazar. Maybe, I think, maybe.

Apparently I am desperate for a friend. I'd befriend this man I had heard so much bad about, who throughout my marriage was trying to buy back my wife by offering her $1000 a day for a visit. But what if everything I heard was not true? Much of what my wife said was untrue. Too late now, anyway.

The house in the village turned into a dump, the house almost completed with the money from the man whose ghost I had just seen. I loved that house, the devious and vicious dog at the doorstep, the reading I did there over a period of a year. When my wife had gone to the city and would stay away overnight, her mother, walking outside from the old house up the steps to the new, would often bring dinner for me on a tray. Father, mother, brothers, everyone was kind to me. And now it is all gone.

The whole family has cut off contact with me. It appears that kindness is turned on and off at will. But doesn't everyone know that? The truth is I am shocked by it.

And the house, falling into ruin. The dog died too.