The following morning we discuss the Theory of Everything in a little more detail. As a member of the physics departments I have for years received sporadic emails from random people concerning their brilliant, but unaccepted ideas. I've never responded to these emails, though I know there are more senior members of the department who do. Now some kind of response is in order, but I'm not sure what.
Veki's mother continues, “I gave this to two physics professors. One treated it as a literary work and the other provided some very helpful critiques, but said it was difficult to follow it without the mathematics physicists normally use. Perhaps I will enroll as a doctoral student, then I will not be an outsider, but be able to work from within their system.“
As the conversation continues, she says something which is very striking to me, “I am meeting with a mathematician later this week and will try to explain it to him. If I succeed, then I am not crazy. If I am the only one who understands, then who knows? But if just one other person understands…
Χριστιν once asserted that there were really only three numbers—zero, one, and infinity—adamently refusing all my arguments to the contrary. I've since come to see her view as wisdom; certainly so here.
Still unsure how to respond, I go for an early morning walk around Budapest.
My walk carries me down to and along the river to the Parliament.
They're in the process of cleaning the building, and I think how nice the city will look when this has been done everywhere. Later, Veki laughs telling me that it is a running joke that by the time they have finished cleaning one part of the building a different part needs cleaning again, so the scaffolding just makes a continual circuit.
I make a last drop by the apartment and Veki's mother proffers me an infinite variety of food for my trip, which I foolishly decline. As I leave, she says, “If you need to change money, you can do this at a place by the train station. It is next to a jewelry store, which is next to a Turkish restaurant, which is next to a dry cleaners.”
I leave thinking that there is no way to miss this place. But, when I get near the train station, I find that there are a lot of jewelry stores, Turkish restaurants, dry cleaners, and money changers. I iterate through a number of combinations, but can't find the one she was talking about. With only minutes to spare, I head to the station.
By day the mystique and age of the previous night has burned away, like a fog.
Can I buy tickets in Hungarian? Yes, I can.
As soon as I step into the train, the door clangs shut behind me and I realize that the conductor was waiting for me to finish my photographing.
On the train, I have a brief, but jolly, conversation with the man across from me which consists of us not understanding each other and enjoying it. Later, I offer him one of the homemade German cookies which my company gave me as a Christmas gift. When I offer him a second one, he takes hold of his belly, shakes it a bit, laughs, and gestures no.
Outside, the land is familiar to me: flat and expansive, like so many farmscapes of the States. Since even rain puddles can stir feelings of connection in my mind, most places remind me strongly of others. But, as I stare longer, an overwhelming certainty grows inside me that something is subtly different about these fields in a way I've never seen before. The spacing of trees? The slight roll of hills? The colour of the grass? The way the train sways?
I never figure it out.
At each station, the operator says stuff on the intercom. Sometimes I can pick the name of the town out, other times not. A quizzical look and “Szeged?” draws negatory responses from other passengers, so I while away the time and become increasingly hungry: I should have accepted that food!
Finally, we arrive in Szeged and I jump off, assessing. Catching myself in the flow I am drawn to the end of the platform where I see Veki waving at me from above the crowd! “I should have told you it was the last stop!”, she says as we purchase me a three day transit pass.
It's seeing the excited friend at the end of a long journey that lets you know it was worth the trouble.