Miss Mercy! My Ears!

I was humming to myself again, old river songs were pointlessly meandering out of my cold gullet and making shapes in the air around my face. Muttering, I was. Muttering in tune, a stony melody accompanied by my footsteps, hammering out a steady crackling rhythm on the black, rain slicked cobbles on the south side of the river.

“la, lalala, feeling so… la, la…my baby stayed out all night long, da, dadadum” and on, and on.

November in Budapest was more or less like November in any other city I had walked through at night time; it was cold, damp, air that the trees lining the boulevardes were breathing with sickly, shivering palpatations. I was breathing it to. In went oxygen, out went carbon dioxide, which in turn was gulped down by the last clinging and flaccid cedar leaves before being transmutated into yet more oxygen, which was sucked into my tired lungs. Over and over, just me, and the night time, and the naked knuckles of wood and vegetable matter to my right. Admittedly, there were a few other people sharing this transaction, scattered alongside the wooden chairs, just behind the misplaced statue of Shakespeare. The combined huffing and panting of life, be it vegetable or animal, was deafening.

A wedding had occurred somewhere, sometime today. The final drunken staggerers did as their nature commanded, and staggered this way and that drunkenly, singing songs of their own as the Danube scratched her way noisily through this old town, the same way she had done since before the stag parties droned their way here in orange or green metal birds, since before the Magyar kicked out the Turks with their triumphant orchestrations, since before the Turks kicked out the Romans with raised ouds and the clashing of darbhouki drums. I could go on. The Danube is no older or louder than any other river, and no more or less important. Tiny whispers of music came and changed with the wind. I strained my ears which involuntarily mangled electropop beats with lapping waves, smashed together violas with the violent rumblings of the metro beneath my feet.

All is sound, until there is shape.


About Benjamin Norris

Published writer of short stories, long stories, poems. Well received art critic and cultural commentator for Berlin magazines. Collaborator with operatic societies. Co-writer of fictional historic psycholinguistic journals. Lecturer of architecture and art history at a Budapest University. View all posts by Benjamin Norris

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