Spring Water

Hot and tired, we find a vacant table. Nothing special, a cafe, a place to relax in the moment of a busy square. I notice Jozsef Attila’s statute standing close by surveying students in love walking past, holding hands, promising hearts. I close my eyes and feel thirst again.

I begin to hear mantra-like Hungarian words echoing closer and closer. There a gentle tap on the shoulder, from behind. Opening my eyes I see an old women crouched, her eyes warm, but wizened to the street. Her bruised hand extends an unlit cigarette. She needs more than nicotine.

Touching my empty breast pocket, I utter my apology, embarrassed that I have nothing she asks. She gazes in me further and holds the attention there. A look of concern shows on her furrowed brow, how long has she been living like this? Days, weeks, years?

I drop the gaze from her world-weary eyes to her parched, dry lips. Without thinking I reached under the table and produce a bottle of water. I hand it to the palm of her hand. More words are softly spoken as she hands the bottle back. Without the slightest hint of rejection she continues to gaze into me.

Puzzled, I look at her, intently wondering what she means. I search for clues to this untranslated human exchange, both of us ‘beggars of beauty’.
The bottle stands alone, its contents fixed in time and space on the table. The gas slowly rising up to surface.

I offer her a chair, hoping she would sit with me, teach me, and possibly wait long enough for the waiter to arrive. She has no time to wait. Her world never stands still, so her hands does the talking, and motions me to twist the cap off. Her patience is never failing.

Taking a firm grip, I do as suggested. The water suddenly explodes, escaping pressure unleashed in my face, awakening me in a shower of spring water. She takes back the opened bottle and with a gentle laugh, walks on.

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