16 feb. 2010

'Budapest' or 'Nostalgia ain't what it used to'

When I was told that I had to attend a company training course in Novi Sad (Serbia) for three weeks, several ideas whirled in my head: Yugoslavia, Balkan Wars, Basketball in the 80s and 90s, and, of course, spending a long time away from home in cold place.

As we took the highway from Belgrade's Nikola Tesla airport another idea popped into my head. Budapest was only some 300 km away. Old emotions started to flow into me. Budapest... Cairo... Zamalek...

<FLASHBACK: Gezira Sporting Club. June 1990>
It's been another pleasantly hot afternoon. My body is covered in sweat and I'm feeling the fuzzy happy feeling that follows a good session of physical activity. As usual, we had been playing football at one of the club's grassy pitches (this one was surrounded by a 4-lane athletics track where I'd also run many other days).

Despite the exhaustion, we are all still joking and prancing around happily. A bunch of boys and girls with ages ranging from 12 to 17 that spent all their free time playing sports in the open air (football, basketball, swimming). Sometimes a parent would join in the game.

We were healthily absorbed in the joy of exercising our developing bodies under the sun. Being teenagers, a few were even lucky enough to begin exploring other developing bodies as well...

After a while, my body began to slow down, and the awareness of reality crept in. It was the last time we were all together. My  brother and I were leaving Cairo for good. Although I didn't want to make a fuss about it, I also knew that it was burning inside me.

After István joined my school, we became good friends and, for 2 wonderful years, I had been fortunate to share careless friendships with him and many of his group. Growing. Learning. And it was unlikely (to say the least) that we would meet again. They were all from Hungary.

I remember how we said goodbye trying, unsuccessfully, to sound cheerful and happy. I also remember how I walked one of the girls back to her house. She was two years younger than me and I liked her a lot. She was cute, honest, nice and sweet. And she hadn't fallen into the dark ways of self-awareness that teenage girls often follow.

As I stood in front of her door, saying goodbye I felt the full weight of the moment. This was the end. She was the last person that linked me to these glorious days. And I liked her. I felt the urge to do something stupid. She seemed to notice because she was rather tense as well.

In a giant display of willpower, I managed to pull myself together and avoided causing a scene. I said goodbye, kissed her, briefly, on her cheek and returned to my home while feeling the full burden of a moment that would haunt me for many years.

With some luck, I managed to regain contact in Budapest with one of the old-time friends and with his help set up a little get together at their city. For me it's been a beatuiful, lovely, heart-warming event that has uncovered many beautiful memories...

Isti, Miki, Attush, Fruzsi, Zsuzsi... Zoli, Miki, Gabor, Sándor... thank you all for your careless friendship and please forgive me. I had completely forgotten how much I've missed you all these years. 20 years is really too long.

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