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TODAY, ACCIDENTALLY

I came upon your photograph, that quick bust shot for passports, in which you're wearing an overcoat, and on the back of which you wrote, oodles, oodles, I don't like looking at photographs, they freeze the moment, and this always wears me down, I've especially steered clear of yours, it was fifteen years since I'd taken it out, in fact I didn't even know where it was, I acted as if it didn't exist, I was standing on a chair in the study, I wanted to hand in an application, I needed some old document, I suspected it was in one of the cardboard boxes on the shelf, first I had to take out your letters held together by a rubber band, so that I could reach it better, and that's when it fell out of one of the envelopes, I didn't know right away that it was yours, it was only when I got down off the chair and picked it up from the floor, that I saw that it was, my first thought was to put it back quickly, only it wasn't weakness but somehow my hands didn't obey, I just held it helplessly in front of me, I riveted my eyes on you and stared at you numbly, like one who sees a rattlesnake, a sudden blow struck me and swept away everything inside me, and it was as if I were an egg with its insides blown out, and I was cracking and shattering to pieces, then dead silence, I tried to think of something, for instance how long I've been in B., but I couldn't, nothing came into my head, and I'm ashamed, but I had to sit down, because I was dizzy, and I broke out in a sweat, and it was some time before I was able to pull myself together, enough so to put your photograph back in the box, and the box on the shelf, because it was clear that I couldn't go ahead with the search today, what's more, probably not tomorrow either, because I'll certainly spend a sleepless night and be unfit for anything, so much has this encounter upset me.

-- Imre Oravecz
Translated from the Hungarian by Bruce Berlind

Originally published in the January-February 1993 issue of Boston Review



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