Érd, Part 3
Now, with the help of the woman at the census bureau, I had an address for my cousin, but no way of finding a taxi. Taxis in this city had no identifying markers, no black or white or yellow stripes. We decided to eat, and ordered sandwiches at a corner restaurant, where we asked about a taxi. The owner made a call, and within minutes one rolled into view.
I handed the driver my cousin’s address and explained that we were pressed for time. He was uncertain of the location but had a general idea. After driving for fifteen minutes along bumpy, potholed roads, he admitted to being lost. I whipped out my cellphone and keyed in the address, and before long we pulled up in front of the house.
How was I to do this? We had an hour, no more, before our train left. With the meter running and my head spinning, I asked the driver to wait while I visited my cousin. I grabbed my purse and my husband’s sleeve, and we approached a locked iron gate. All was hushed and still, except for the yapping of a dog and the flutter of a circular that broke free at that moment from a waist-high black mailbox stuffed with uncollected mail.
I pressed the buzzer several times and called my cousin’s name. No response. From my purse, I retrieved a pen and scrap of paper and wrote a message, explaining who I was and why I had come, and promising to visit him on another trip to Hungary. I expressed my disappointment at not meeting him, and included my email address. Then I shoved the paper into the mailbox, hoping the wind wouldn’t claim it.
Back in the taxi, I cried to the driver, “Please hurry to the train station!”
“Which one?” he asked, shrugging.
My pulse was racing. “I don’t know, just as long as it takes us to the South Station in Budapest.”
Moments later, we arrived at a shopping mall, filled with parked cars and people milling around a courtyard. It was a very different place from the spot where we had arrived. The driver explained that there were two train platforms but both went to Budapest. With a deep sigh of frustration tinged with relief, we made it to the train on time—and even had to wait a bit.
The train was not the super-red speed train we had come on, but a dark green antique sprayed with graffiti. I felt sad as it lumbered away from Érd, away from the cousin I had failed to find, away from the past I had hoped to own. And my note? It must have been caught by the wind, for he never emailed me. I have yet to write a proper letter, though I still hope we will meet one day.