Waves and Paths
Edited by Dorottya Ágoston
Hope, you Wicked, Nasty Siren: After The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the Inevitable Waves of Change
Writing is cathartic, words are generous. I created this piece in a moment in time when reality was subdued by pleasant illusions, conveying only what I wanted to see, what I wished to hear. What I felt was the product of a canny mind, one prone to deception. Today, this reality appears awfully different. Inspired by Milan Kundera’s ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’, I hope to speak from the perspective of a well-trained heart, one that has seen both pain and pleasure in high, intense forms. Capturing a moment in time, pausing history for a fortnight is as important as the ability to see clearly, and to move on. They say art is inspired by intensity, and so it was, and so it will be: I am grateful for the lessons, I am grateful for my past. I will love again, but first, let me make peace with myself once more.
I was riding a wave in dreamland for weeks during the spring of 2022. From Florence to Rome, from Venice to Milan. And then promptly: him, us, my feet landed on a safe, steady path. Strolling through the streets of Budapest and Vienna, hand in hand, only to say our deeply felt goodbyes in Prague, two paths crossed in a precise moment in time, different fates, yet quite the same. Prague, a wondrous, magical city, its population emitting impressions of another time, a certain darkness from a distant past. The backdrop for the last quarter of our time together, our relations pulling us down heavily into an unknown land I have not quite yet seen from this perspective: ‘romance romance’. Budapest was the taste, Vienna a bite. Then, sitting in the Municipal House listening to Smetana’s Moldau in the heart of Prague, we finally had the whole meal.
The road back up from dreamland is painful, sobering, for I was drunk on him, swept up in his arms. We saw it all. What a beautiful gift, like one of Bernini’s masterpieces handed over to us to be experienced in its entirety. Standing amongst the heavy marble in Galleria Borghese, we’re too afraid to touch the sculptures, then each other, yet we cannot stop ourselves; is it the temptation of the forbidden or that of the beautiful? Is it both, or are they one and the same? How sinfully lucky we are. I wouldn’t want to quote Casablanca, nor would he, but it must be said: if this was it, then at least we had Rome, and Budapest, and Vienna, and we even had Prague. For a secluded moment in time, one a part of yet apart from reality, we had everything.
How do souls merge when meeting in harmony? Do they shake hands, do they brush against one another through our fingers? How do hearts fall? For we kept falling for weeks, so naturally, the intensity became a way of life, two entangled bodies filled with bliss, in beautiful correlation, a work of art. Creating love, producing generous quantities of affection, every second of every day as we opened up, staring into each other’s eyes and swiftly flowing, falling, like birds riding the winds. When two paths cross, is it a product of coincidence, is it premeditated, destiny? When two individuals are so perfectly focused on the other, how do you explain the need for goodbyes? Why give a gift so special if it inevitably ends in tears (mine of course)?
There exist certain moments in time where everything intertwines perfectly, to create an experience that changes you forever. The intensity, just on the brink of “unbearable” is like a black hole that pulls you in, and you have no time, no focus to even fathom all the shifts that are happening internally, in your ways and thoughts, only to change your entire being, perhaps ephemerally, though leaving long-lasting effects you have no control over. Over time, maybe in hindsight, you might wonder, as Tomas did: should I really have gone back to Teresa? In fact, you’re afraid, terrified that you eventually will wonder. But in the moment, it seems, it all feels right on an inexplicable, burdensome level. Wanting something, someone, will you ever regret it? Do we all end up as Oedipus blinding ourselves out of guilt and regret? Or are we just afraid of real, true happiness? And isn’t Kundera’s ‘happiness’ just another word for his notion of kitsch?
I have been thinking: it is the heaviness of the control, lost, the uncertainty, the fear of pain, all becoming one single feeling, not at the pit in your stomach, but taking shape as a burden on your heart, a shadow clouding your chest. The choice is not an easy one, but straightforward, one that frankly just “makes sense”: as kitsch as it may sound, you and I together just makes sense. But logic suddenly takes over, and despite the freedom and the many ways the future, our future might play out, we are quickly scared into reclining: the potential prospect of pain and failure is overwhelming, too risky, even if I am young and foolish. I couldn’t possibly be that foolish. And yet we keep asking ourselves: is it better to feel less pain now, to let this go, or risk that we’ll be living in misery once we’ve fallen, where there really won’t seem to be an easy way back anymore?
Where exactly is “back”, I wonder? Is it home? And what if I found home with him, even if only for a fortnight?
Falling in love, like a fallen angel, you find yourself at the mercy of your desires — how much can you take, how much can your soul handle before your heart bursts open in flames and rides your body into a destructive fire? Is it better to leave before risking truly falling or can you put your heart forward, gambling, quantifying its risk of pain, of failure, fearing yet again the possibility that it may never recover from the disappointment? What are we doing, how can we want to control everything, yet let ourselves fall in love? Love, making love, love and love and love— how much can we separate physical union from that of two souls? Kundera extracts the fine line between each individual’s idea on love, a single, subjective view of what it should and shouldn’t be, of what it means to trust someone with your being, your life. Life and death, une petit mort, another one and another one, intellectual synergy, a small smile of deep understanding on your faces, a glance at one another, your brains, interconnected, are thinking the same thing. A coy look, an intimate touch, a joke misunderstood turning into conflict, an apology sweet and surprising, you’re falling.
It isn’t that you don’t know the dangers, that you’re not aware you’re just another prey of Cupid’s arrow, but the process is so swift and smooth, you are swept up in it like surfing in the ocean, salt drying on your bare skin, the air combing through your hair, making it into knots of freedom. Wave after wave you ride, until eventually the water pushes you over the edge and you lose your balance, you fall, it’s too late.
If Kundera teaches us anything, it is the binal light and heavy weights of life: the bittersweet duality that exists within and hence around us. We will perhaps never know whether what we chose was right. A moment in time can change your entire perception on your life, the world; one moment you’re satisfied, the next you want to walk up to a tree and let someone aim a rifle at you: you’re ready for death. Then you’re saying: “but it wasn’t my choice” (Kundera, 1984), and you’re free once more. You fall to the ground, you hug the tree crying, you’re alone.
How much can we take before the turmoil, the whirlwind of a romance takes over control and makes us lose ourselves? How much can our souls grow from the beauty of the pain?
I am now sitting in a café writing this, days after the end of our brief adventure. I am sobering up, I can barely sleep, let alone eat. It isn’t heartbreak, it’s the afterthoughts, the postmortem of the potentiality of love, it is the waking up from a beautifully intense, though tiring dream. I think to myself: I am an editor, a friend, I guide people for a living. I usually pride myself on my strength. But I feel none of those things right now. I feel only the vulnerability, the delicate nature of life overcoming me, and I am tearing up now, for I dearly miss you. Right now, I am just a girl wishing to be with a boy, wanting to be guided herself. I am yet another lost soul victimising myself over the reality of globalisation, and an ocean between us, I am but another individual feeling the beauty of pain, the reality of distance. I’m thinking to myself desperately, turning to intellect, for emotions are becoming too overwhelming; in one precise moment in time, us being together “made absolute sense”, yet I cannot help but wonder: was it all but an illusion? And yet again, if you were here or I there, it wouldn’t even be a question, for the pain wouldn’t exist, only beauty.
Thus experiencing my human condition, as it happens every so often, I am laughing at myself in desperation, for I am indeed only human. I am writing the following thoughts, trying to make sense of what once ‘made absolute sense’: “people were hermaphrodites until God split them in two, and now all the halves wander the world over seeking one another. Love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost” (Kundera, 1984).