Traveling through Europe with my father at thirteen or fourteen: our itinerary took us to Hungary, among other places, and on a day-long bus tour in the hills of Buda. We watched some sort of “authentic” folkloric performance – for the benefit of those of us on the bus – in some tiny village. I was indifferent.
But across the square, during the performance, I noticed a beautiful Hungarian villager, my age. My eyes never left hers, and her eyes didn’t leave mine, for the entire performance. I had elaborate fantasies: I would approach her, tell her… I don’t know what, something. As was my wont, I did nothing. I just pined. We drank some disgusting raspberry brandy. And, after a while, it was time to board the bus. I climbed the stairs, feeling acutely I had lost something, I had failed, profoundly, to bring about some life-changing relationship.
I eased myself into my seat, looked out the window, and saw the girl one last time, as the bus backed out. She stood next to a dusty old Soviet car, her fingers dusty as she finished writing, “I love you” in the dust on the car’s rear window. She looked up at me, and waved.
I couldn’t bring myself to wave back.