Budapest felt different that day.
Everything was just as grandiose, but it felt more aloof. Filled with people, the wide streets echoed solitude.
I wandered, and reacquainted myself with the thoughts that only visit me when I’m alone.
How long had I been there? Two days? Three days?
Not long at all. The city felt new to me, but it was already filled with memories. And finally, I got to see it for what it was. The star of its own story, instead of the backdrop for someone’s face.
The solitude was both jarring and comfortable.
I caught sight of the Budapest eye. It made me smile. I was so caught up in the way the past lingered that bursts of modernity caught me off-guard. Sometimes I struggle to see things as they are, fascinated with what they used to be.
It was so hot out. I should find a lake, I thought to myself, sometime soon. This unexpected early June heat wave had my skin constantly coated in sweat.
I figured I should probably at least look for a park.
Thick, dark clouds began to cover the sky. A storm would be nice, I thought. Cut through this humidity.
I could have used a cleanse.
Something hit me in the back of the head. I turned around, confused. By that point there was no blue left in the sky. A pattering sound filled the air, but it lacked the musicality of rain.
It looked like snow, but with the heat that was impossible.
Little white specks dotted the ground, and it was only when I was hit again that I realized it was hail.
It was picking up. Larger and larger pieces hit the ground. I threw my arms over my head for cover and darted towards the metro entrance.
A hailstone the size of my fist crashed in front of me. I ran faster, into the mouth of the underground tunnel.
In the metro everything was calm, unaffected. I rode back to my hostel’s stop.
This is just a freak storm. It will be over in no time.
When I got out of the metro cart, I saw a massive crowd huddled for shelter along the platform.
I walked towards the exit. It couldn’t be that bad. I only had a couple of blocks to go, and I wasn’t afraid of getting a bit wet.
The hail had stopped, but the rain was coming down in sheets. If I’d stepped outside, I would have been drenched in seconds.
I stood with the crowd. Water poured down the stairs.
I don’t know how long I was down there, but it was longer than I enjoyed being trapped in a packed metro station. It was beginning to feel a bit too apocalyptic.
Slowly, people began to make their way out. I waited a bit longer, hoping the rain would die down a bit, but finally the prospect of being soaked appealed to me more than spending another minute in those cramped quarters.
I stepped out.
Water rushed down the streets. I took my shoes off and waded through the ankle-deep stream. In an instant I was as soaked as if I’d jumped in a lake. The air was somehow still steamy through the rain.
Once again, the city looked different, but this time it was something tangible. The water caught discarded trash and broken branches in its current. I sidestepped frequently the debris. The trees on the side of the road were bent at odd angles.
Oh, Budapest. What is happening to you?
I made it to my hostel, and lightning flashed behind me as I climbed up the stairs. There was no other light; power was out. Water poured off of me and created a waterfall behind me. Thunder rumbled ominously in the distance.
I shivered, though the temperatures were still high.
This was no cleanse. This was destruction.