My parents escaped this country as young adults, a little less than a year before I was born. Yes, escaped. You see, Hungary was still communist back then and the western part of the country wore a crown of barbwire bedecked with watchtowers and bejeweled by landmines. My parents applied for travel pass to Yugoslavia shortly after they were married. They told the authorities they were going to the Adriatic for a honeymoon, and then went off script and slipped across the Italian border, leaving everything they had ever known behind. Eventually, they found their way to America, and I was born in New York – another faceless immigrant kid in an ocean of faceless immigrant kids.
My sister was born a short time later, and my parents spent the next four years trying to find a place to call home. That place became a small town just outside the northern fringes of Toronto, Canada. Though I came into the world an American, I grew up Canadian, complete with an ingrained love of ice hockey and a certain foolhardy nonchalance for subzero temperatures. We lived beside a modest lake, which ensured my childhood was a good one, marked with glorious amounts of time in the woods and fields and water and fresh air, but as I grew older, our small town grew bigger, and was encircled by rings of soulless subdivisions.
The familiar faded and the unknown seeped in. Most of the kids I knew moved away as they matured. Those who remained drifted until connections became nothing more than accidental meetings at gas stations and awkward how the hell are yous in the thresholds of convenience stores. The molten change of progress fossilized the place I had known and made it lifeless, but I remained and stuck to the script I believed it my duty to follow.
I got an education and tried to find decent work. I fell in love and mused about buying a house somewhere and settling down, but I could not commit to love or my faint domestic aspirations because I no longer felt at home. I tried to keep to the script, to find that better life my parents had slipped under the barbed wire for, but the better life ended up escaping them as well. Their adopted script had been the hardworking immigrant script, and the diligence and doggedness with which they followed that script did bear fruit. They achieved respectable levels of material success, yet this success ultimately led to failure. They divorced shortly after I turned eighteen. Definitely not in the script. My own wispy daydreams of domestic bliss evaporated for a time. I took the script I had carried in my back pocket my whole life, threw it to the wind, and turned my attention to becoming a writer.
Ten years passed. I wrote volumes during that time, but I did not succeed at becoming a writer. As I was on the verge of abandoning this ambition, I met a young woman from Hungary who happened to be in Canada. Six months later, she was my wife. After that, we set sail on an odyssey, one that took us many places. Like Odysseus before us, a decade was needed before I found my way home, but the nostalgia I experienced was tainted far more with sickness than it was with joy.
The script I had tossed away years before fluttered back to my feet – dirty, worn, covered in grime. I picked it up, dusted it off, and did my best to reprise the role I had abandoned, but to no avail. The lines in the script seemed unnatural and forced. I had outgrown the part, or perhaps the part had outgrown me. After my son was born, my wife and I set sail again, headlong against the prevailing winds. In a fit of defiance, I threw away the rudder and allowed our craft to float away whichever way the waves desired. Before the year was out, we washed up here, in a nondescript village in Hungary mere kilometers from the Austrian border.
It was a place neither of us had known. A place we had never considered knowing. A place that had been as distant from our conscious thought as the silvery outlines of blurred moonlight dreams. And in this place, in this most unlikely of places, which had never appeared in any script, not even vaguely, has become home the way none of the other homes we left scattered in the world ever could.
In my more pensive and reflective moments, I consider picking up a quill and composing a new script, one for this place and this time, but after a few moments, I allow the thought to seep away. For the first time since childhood, I feel an affinity. I know where I am. I know where I am going. My physical vagabondism has come to an end. What I am engaged in now is a different sort of travel.
Though this is home to me now, there is one last destination I hope to reach. This destination is clearer than any I have ever considered before. Clear enough to allow the journey to remain unscripted, as the best journeys home often are.