This was just the start of how I fear it will all end. I have no recollection of the return trip from Szeged back to Budapest. I do not remember the scenery, the ticket inspector, the stops or the starts, the woman who was with me that I would later marry, nor the departure or arrival. All those memories, if they ever existed have vanished. I do not have a single photo from either a camera or my memory to conjure up any images. I do not remember what time the train left or when it arrived. Either this means I am losing my memory or Hungary was becoming so familiar to me that habit had dulled my curiosity and eliminated my fascination.
An Unanswerable Question – Straying Into Semi-Consciousness
Perhaps the problem was that nothing notable happened on the return trip. No one tried to accost me, there were no arguments between me and my significant other, there was no outstanding scenery, the train was on time and the tickets were in order. Difficulty did not exist. It must have been a rather pleasant journey. If it had not been this way, I would surely recall something or someone. Pleasantness and comfort are the mortal enemies of memory. Give me a comfortable seat, a silent carriage, unremarkable scenery and I return with nothing. In a sense, I went to oblivion on this journey, lost active engagement with my surroundings and strayed into semi-consciousness. This must be what death is like when a person is still alive.
None of this would be troubling except for the future that it represents, one day whether through memory loss or mortality everything I have seen and done in Hungary will be resigned to oblivion. That thought always brings me a self-defeating sadness. What was the point of it all? This kind of questioning is dangerous precisely because it is unanswerable. There was no explanation for my memory loss that afternoon. Usually while traveling in an unfamiliar part of Hungary, I am impressionable rather than impressionless. Maybe it was because Szeged had been so filled with outstanding attractions that I was on memory overload. My brain could not process all the little details or for that matter any details after the visit to Szeged. This bothered me because it portended the end of my personal history with Hungary.
From Habit To Addiction – Making My Way Towards The Exit
The memory lapse on that return trip is a precursor to my inevitable future arrival at the end of my Hungarian journeys. It is the fear of never returning to Hungary that keeps me coming back again and again. Nevertheless, one day in the near or far off future I will have visited that lovely nation for the last time. The visit in which the Szeged trip occurred was just my third to the country. Not long thereafter, my trips to Hungary turned from a habit to an addiction. Presently I am up to fourteen trips. I cannot imagine fourteen more future trips any more than I could have imagined taking the first fourteen trips. As the trips increased, so did the blank spaces in my memory. I have had to rely on notes and photographs to regain the routings. My memory cannot retain much of what I have seen or done. I would love to have all those trips filled with fantastical moments back again. That is impossible, but research and writing has allowed me to capture some of those moments, if only for a few fleeting hours.
Ironically, somewhere along the way at a place and time that I cannot now recall, a cloud began to loom on my Hungarian horizons. A shadow slowly fell upon the map as I began to unconsciously make my way towards the exit. An all-consuming fear of being nearer the end than the beginning began to plague my thoughts. The idea that most likely my best trips were behind me. The frightening realization that there would never be another first time journey to Sopron or Szekesfehervar or Szombathely or Szeged. And if there was a second time in any of these cities, it would likely be the last. There was still Kaposvar, Kisvarda and Karcag but visiting them would mean there was even less places to visit than before. I had moved from second to third tier cities, eventually I would run out of room, both on the map and with my memory. Hungary was the size of Indiana not Canada, through my obsession I had tricked myself into believing it was so much more.
Somewhere along the way I became aware that not only was time running out on my Hungarian travels, but that it had been since I first slid across the southern border at Magyarboly. That bright and sunny March day eight years ago was still a vivid though increasingly distant memory. The border station festooned with all those Hungarian tricolors, the guards dressed in their officious best, everything proper and neatly kept, all these stylistic details had charmed me beyond belief. It was love at first sight, obsession after a couple of visits and finally the slowly creeping realization that it would all end in oblivion. Perhaps these were just normal stages of travel obsession. First comes love and fascination followed by a prolonged romance that manifests itself in an unquenchable obsession that eventually resigns itself to failure.
A Lapse In Memory – At The Point Of Death
Whether I chose to accept this fate or not hardly mattered. The memory lapse which began that day on the return trip from Szeged to Budapest occurred without my recognition of it until many years later. It may have been normal, but that did not make it any better. Whether it was due to fatigue, human frailty or lack of curiosity hardly matters, it was and still is something I will eventually be forced to accept. Everything I have learned about Hungary will eventually come to naught. Such is life, which inevitably proceeds towards lapses in memory and deletes them all when at the point of death. My only solution to this irreconcilable problem is one filled with irony and impossibility. I could always just choose to forget.