Why do you consider yourself a gypsy

György Dragomán

Experience homesickness

It will now be an indescribably difficult exercise.

Try to imagine that you are not home. That you are somewhere else entirely. You've been there for a long time, months, years.

It's not working? I'll help you.

Imagine that you are standing at the top of a hill, in the middle of a beautiful, well-kept park in a strange city, it's cool, but you don't freeze, the fresh wind blows in your face, you look up into the towering cumulus clouds, for you For a split second you think you could even be at home here, you sigh, yes, at home, and as if the power of your sigh had transformed everything in that split second, you become homesick.

You look up at the sky, it's not quite what it should be, just a little bit different, just a little bit unknown, strange.

The sky is alien, the earth is alien, the country is alien, the city is alien, you yourself are alien too. You don't belong here.

You lower your gaze to the floor and leave, you cannot stay here.

Your soles slip on the damp grass, the gravel crunches, you make yourself get away, just get away from here, back home, you want to go back the shortest way, right now. You come to a large puddle, the water of the fountain has flooded the depressions of the promenade, you wade through, it is deeper than you thought, your shoes are filling with water.

You stop, look down, the water is still whirling around your feet from the swing of your steps, then the tiny eddies run and you see your own face in the mirror.

A stranger looks at you from below, it is you, of course, you have already seen this face hundreds, thousands of times, and yet you do not recognize yourself, you see a stranger who looks at his own reflection in horror, his face twitches, it shows his fear, ice-cold horror, the coldness of the water slowly creeps up your calf to your knees, and you know it doesn't stop there, it will soon reach your heart.

You look at the strange face, you don't know what it's looking for here.

Who is this, what does he want, how did he get here, why did he come, why is he there? Why does it even exist?

You stand there, staring at the water, and suddenly you no longer know who you are, where you are from or where you are going.

No, that cannot be, you have to be certain. You left home, from the most beautiful city in the world, and that's where you want to return, now you'll go back there immediately, you don't understand why you stopped, you don't understand why you can't move.

You want to think of your home, of the place where you grew up, of the street you lived on, of your house, of your room, of your old life. You want to remember, you want to see everything in beauty, and you actually remember that everything is reflected here in the water - for a split second your birthplace rises around you, you are back on the ground of your home and not in a strange puddle .

You never left there, and you never left here.

You stand there, trying to look up at the sky, the sky is gray, the clouds are gray too, the tumble pulls you up, the cold water pulls you down, your stomach rebels when you are caught in an irresistible, vertical suction and swirls around your belly button, the reflection of heaven swaps place with heaven itself, then everything comes into its place, only to swap places again, reality oscillates back and forth, nothing is where it belongs, you are not even where you belong, you stand in an endless corridor of mirrors, locked in a long moment, you think you will be stuck there forever.

Finished. That's it.

The exercise is over. If you got them right, you will always remember that feeling a bit, or at least you will somehow know what it means to be homeless in really hopeless moments.

Of course you can say that this will not lead to anything, you are not like that, it is not you, something like this could never happen to you, but you have to know, if you already reject the possibility of it, you will probably never really get to know yourself.

Translated by Ágnes Nagy

In: Vasárnapi Hírek, Oct. 3, 2015, p. 14. (Original title: Átélni a honvágyat).


György Dragomán, born 1973 in Târgu Mureș (Romania), writer and translator. His novel The white king (2005) has been translated into 30 languages. Most recently published in German: The pyre. Translated from the Hungarian by Lacy Kornitzer. Suhrkamp Verlag, 2015.