Sunday, October 13, 2013

How I Met Myself Part II

Chapter 5

I tell Andrea

And so my new life began. Every day that week I went to work, every night I waited outside the house at number 7 Felka utca, and then I spent time in the bar. And every night I had the same dream and woke up feeling afraid in the dark. And if I went back to sleep, I had the dream again. And if I didn't go back to sleep, I lay in bed in the dark trying to understand what was happening to me. And every morning I was more and more tired, and I wasn't nice to Andrea. I felt terrible because of the dreams and because I was so tired. And I felt worse because Andrea didn't know why I was arriving late every evening, and I didn't tell her the truth.

Things at work became difficult. I couldn't think about the important things I had to do. And even worse, the next day I argued with Andrea. She couldn't understand why I had to go to the Gergely utca bar every night, and of course I felt I couldn't tell her. And then because I didn't feel good, I started drinking more than the two glasses of wine I had had the first two nights.
I started staying in the bar much longer because I was afraid to go home and try to sleep. I was afraid to dream the same dream. On Thursday, when I came home very late after drinking too much, Andrea had already gone to bed.

On Friday, I was late home again, but when I got in Andrea was waiting up for me. She looked very unhappy. Her face was white and her pretty blue eyes were red. She had been crying.

'John,' she said, as I got some bread and cheese to eat, 'what is the matter?'
I said nothing as I ate.

'John,' she tried again, 'you must tell me what happened. You've changed completely. Please …talk to me.’

I looked up at her, this wonderful woman I loved so much, and saw how much I was hurting her. I felt so terrible that I started crying.

She put her arms around me and talked to me quietly, as if I were a little child. Then she took my face between her hands.

'Tell me, darling,' she said quietly. 'I want to help you.'
And so I told her everything. The words came out quickly, and when I'd finished she suddenly laughed and laughed.
'It's not funny,' I said angrily.

'No, darling,' she answered. 'It's not funny at all, but I feel so happy.' She stopped laughing, and continued in a serious voice. 'You see, I thought you'd found somebody else. Another woman.'

After that we held each other and kissed for a very long time. Then she made me tell her the story again, very slowly. She kept asking questions, trying to get all the information about every part of it.

'Right,' she said. 'Tomorrow is Saturday, and neither of us is working. We'll go round to number 7 Felka utca and start asking some questions. I'm sure there's a very easy answer to this story.'
I felt so happy. She was so sweet and good and I was sure that everything was going to be all right.

Chapter 6

Talking to the housekeepers

The next day was very sunny, though still very cold. The strong sunshine made me feel more hopeful about the future, now that I had told Andrea about what had happened. I finally felt good after an excellent night's sleep - it was the first time I hadn't dreamed about meeting myself for nearly a week.

At ten o'clock we walked round to Felka utca. I was really pleased that Andrea was with me; although my Hungarian was good, she would be able to talk to people much more easily than me.

The first person we spoke to was the housekeeper - the lady who had the small ground-floor flat near the door in return for doing jobs in the building, such as cleaning the stairs and checking the lift and the lights.

We asked her a lot of questions. When we asked if there was anybody who looked like me living in the flats she looked at me for a long time, and then said there wasn't. Andrea next asked her how long she'd worked there; the answer was twenty-one years. And did she know everybody? She did. And were there any new families? There weren't. And were there any men looking like me who'd lived here and then moved away lately? There weren't. We thanked her, and left.
Out in the street, we looked at each other. I was starting to think I must be imagining everything. 'Perhaps it was a visitor,' said Andrea, realizing how bad I felt.

'Or perhaps,' I said, 'perhaps he lives in the other building, where the bar is, and I didn't see where he went.'

'Maybe,' said Andrea. 'Let's go and try.'

We walked round to Gergely utca and stopped outside the bar.
'So,' she said, looking down the steps to the cellar, 'this is where you've been spending your evenings!'

My face went red. 'Sorry,' I said.

'I'm joking, love!' she said laughing. 'Look, the main entrance to the block of flats is next door. It would have been easy for you to mistake which one he went into in the dark and snow.'

'Yes, you're right,' I answered.

But I kept thinking about the fact that there had been no footprints in the snow.

Inside the building we met another housekeeper. This time it was a man in his fifties who'd worked there for twelve years. We asked the same questions as we had asked before, and got the same answers. He'd never seen anyone there who looked like me.

I felt very bad after these second answers. I thought that Andrea would think there was something wrong with me. Andrea took my hand.

'Come on,' she said, laughing. 'Let's go and have a drink in your famous bar!'

I was so surprised that I didn't have time to say anything as I followed her down the steps.

The barman welcomed me with a friendly smile and a joke about good friends bringing more friends. I introduced him to Andrea, then we took our wine and stood in a corner and talked about what had happened.

'There is one important thing about all of this, Andrea,' I said when we seemed to have talked about it all. 'And I know it sounds very strange, but I don't think this person just looked like me. I think it was me.'

I'd said this to her before when I'd told her the first time, and she'd laughed and said it was impossible. But I had a feeling deep inside me that I was right.

'But, John,' she asked, 'how could that be?'

'I don't know, love,' I replied. 'I just feel it. So perhaps we shouldn't be looking for someone who, lives in these buildings now. Perhaps we should be looking for someone who, well. . . er. . . someone who's dead and who I am now.’

Andrea looked at me very hard.

'John,' she said, 'I've never heard you say anything like this before. What do you mean?'

'I wish I knew what I meant,' I said with difficulty. 'All I know is that I have a strange idea inside my head that tells me these things are possible.'
We finished our drink without speaking and left.

'Andrea,' I said as we walked home, 'you must believe me. I need your help to try and understand what's happened to me.'

'I'm trying to believe you, love,' she answered, turning to look at me. 'It's just that it's very difficult to understand.'

'It's difficult for me, too,' I said.

Chapter 7


After that Saturday my life returned to what it had been, in one way. I went back to work on Monday and I was my old self, and things went well. I didn't have the dreams at night any more. And I didn't visit Felka utca and the bar every night either, although I still went in once or twice a week.

But there were also big changes. The next Wednesday Andrea came home from a visit to the doctor's with big news: she was expecting a baby! We were extremely happy. We had often talked about starting a family, but hadn't thought it would happen quite so soon. And then the day after that she lost her biggest teaching job - fifteen hours a week with an international bank. They didn't want to pay for Hungarian lessons for the people who worked there anymore. The ups and downs of life!

A week or so later I told Zsolt—the wine cellar barman—that Andrea had lost her most important job. He said he was looking for someone to help him in the bar. He said it wasn't a job for an 'intelligent lady' like my wife, but he also said he could offer her good money, and he felt the place needed a woman's touch to make it better.

I talked about the offer with Andrea, and in the end she took the job. The pay wasn't as good as for teaching, but the bar was very close to home. Also, she didn't have to spend hours working on her lessons like she did for teaching. And she soon made quite a difference to the bar.  When I went in the week after she'd started it looked much better—there were flowers on the bar, and pictures on the walls.

'I've asked Zsolt if we can make one side of the bar into a sitting area with tables and chairs,' Andrea told me over dinner one evening, 'and he's agreed.'

'Why do you want to do that?' I asked.

'Well, I thought more people might want to come in,' she said. 'And women might like it, too.'
And she was right. Soon after that women started going to the bar as well as men. Zsolt was very pleased.

However, between all these new things in our life, I didn't forget my strange meeting with 'myself'. I started doing lots of reading about life after death. It was a completely new thing for me, and I found it very interesting. I learnt many things I didn't know. Perhaps the most interesting thing I found out was that what had happened to me has a name:

DOPPELGANGER: A German word which is used in English. It means something like 'double-walker' or 'double­goer' - a ghostly double of a living person, who comes to give messages about danger or to offer advice. It can only be seen by its owner_ (This was why there were no footprints, and why Zsolt had seen nothing in the bar, I thought.)
However, it can sometimes be seen by somebody close if it has an important message. It is usually thought to bring bad luck, and is often believed to show that there will soon be a serious problem or a death.

I showed Andrea the page from the book I was reading.

'And so is this what you think you saw?' she asked looking surprised.

'Well, it sounds like it, doesn't it?' I answered.

So now I knew - I had met my doppelganger. The next question was why?

Chapter 8

A holiday

In August Andrea gave up working for Zsolt. We spent my summer holiday happily painting a small room in our flat so that it was ready for the baby, and on September 16th our daughter was born. We gave her the name Kati. After that, things changed even more as we got used to all the differences a new baby makes to her parents' lives. It was hard work, but we were very happy. And I was so busy that for a while I forgot about what had happened in Felka utca.

We decided to go to England at Christmas. We wanted my parents and family to meet Kati, and this was a good chance. We soon learnt how difficult it is to go on holiday with a small baby. You need to take so many things! It took us a very long time to get ready.

We flew from Budapest to London Heathrow on December 22nd. My parents met us and drove us to their house in a village near Swindon, about an hour from the airport. Everyone was very happy. It was only the third time that Andrea had visited my parents' place, and only her second English Christmas. And this time we had a new baby in the Family with us. Of course, Kati was the centre of everyone's attention.

The next day, my mother said she would look after Kati so that Andrea and I could go into Swindon to do some Christmas shopping. The town was very colorful, with lights and Christmas trees everywhere. And it was very busy, with all the shops full of people buying Christmas presents. We enjoyed ourselves, and got some more presents to add to the special Hungarian Christmas things we had brought with us.

That evening, my father was out at his office Christmas dinner and Andrea was tired after our day in town, so I decided to go down to the village pub and see if any of my old friends were there. I saw one or two neighbors and talked to them for, a while, but none of my good friends were there. I was just going to leave when in walked Paul Harris.

Paul had been one of my closest friends at school, but he hadn't been in the village the last few times I'd visited my parents. He was a journalist and had lived in many different places since we'd left school.

'Paul!' I called, as he walked into the bar.

'John!' he said. 'How good to see you!'

'Good to see you, too,' I replied. 'I was just leaving. None of our old friends are here.'

'No,' he said sadly. 'Most of them have left - gone to other places for work or wives!'

'What would you like to drink?' I asked.

'I'll have a pint of bitter, please, John,' he replied.

We took our beer to a quiet corner of the pub and started to tell each other our news.

'Just back to have Christmas with the family,' he explained.

'On your own?' I said, asking myself what had happened to his wife, Liz.

'I'm afraid so,' he said, looking down at his beer. 'Liz left me last summer.'

'I'm sorry, Paul,' I replied. 'I had no idea. . . '

'Don't worry,' he said. 'The worst part is over. So tell me about you. My mother told me there's a baby now. . ‘

And so I told him all about Kati, and Andrea, and life in Budapest. And after a couple more beers I told him about meeting myself.

Paul was one of my oldest and best friends, and I knew he would take the story seriously.

'That's very interesting, John,' he said when I'd finished. He didn't laugh or tell me I was stupid. He seemed to be thinking about something. 'There was a story about the same thing - doppelgangers, and people meeting themselves - in one of the magazines I write for.'

'Did you read it?' I asked, hoping he might have some more information.

'Only the first part,' he said. 'But I remember it said that this happens to quite a lot of people everywhere.'

'Well, that's good news,' I replied. 'I thought I was going crazy or something!'

'No, John, you're not,' he said, smiling. 'But you should be careful. I remember that it also said that bad things had happened to many people after seeing a doppelganger.'

'Yes, I read that, too,' I said. 'In a book in Budapest. But anyway, it's good to know I'm not alone.'

'Yes, that may help you to feel happier,' he said seriously. But I remember one story from the magazine where the Doppelganger was trying to tell a woman not to drive her son to school one day. She didn't understand and that same day they had a car accident and her son was killed.'

'Oh, really!' I said, surprised.

'So perhaps you should be careful,' said Paul.

'I will, don't worry,' I answered.

In one way I felt much happier knowing that what had happened to me was not so unusual, but I started trying to understand what kind of message my doppelganger was trying to bring me. Thinking about it made me feel uncomfortable, so I tried to forget it and enjoy Christmas. But it wasn't very easy.

The rest of the Christmas holiday in England passed quickly. We ate lots of nice food, played family games, visited friends and family' in other places, and really enjoyed ourselves. Soon it was time to go back to Hungary.

We flew back on December 29th, returning to spend New Year with Andrea's family in the snowy Hungarian countryside. Perhaps it was because we couldn't go out much and there wasn't much to do except sit around the house, but I started thinking about my doppelganger story more and more. I was trying to decide what the meeting with myself had meant. Andrea said that I wasn't joining in with family things much. But when I told her why she got angry with me and we argued.

'I thought you'd forgotten about that stupid story,' she said.

'I've tried to, Andrea,' I answered, 'but it keeps coming back to me.'

'Well, it had better go away from you very quickly!' she answered. 'I want a man who looks after his family, talks to his wife and plays with his daughter. I don't want someone who sits around the house all day looking into space.' And she walked out of the room.

I understood that Andrea was tired and wanted me to pay more attention to my family, and I tried to be better, but then two days later we went home. I went back to work as usual on Monday January 5th.