K IS FOR A KLUTZ IN KOMÁRNO, SLOVAKIA AND KOMÁROM, HUNGARY
Miro had arranged to meet her on the Elisabeth Bridge at midday. Before leaving the house he double-checked he had the ring in his jacket. The box caught in his pocket as he pulled it out, he fumbled it, dropping it to the floor and hearing the metal tinkle as the ring rolled across the floor. Five minutes of desperate searching on his knees located the ring, he stuffed it back in the box and left the house behind schedule. At the best of times he was forgetful, clumsy and awkward. The nerves were only serving to exaggerate his inelegant coordination.
Kata checked her outfit in the mirror. Spring had finally arrived, the sun was shining in a clear blue sky, and she had chosen a floral dress to reflect the new season. She tied her dark hair up in a stylish bun and applied a final dab of lip gloss. She kissed her mother on the way out the door, with ‘Boldog Születésnapot,’ ringing in her ears – today she turned eighteen.
Miro made his way through the streets of Komárno towards the river. The Elisabeth Bridge crossed the Danube and joined the border city of Komárno in Slovakia with Komárom in Hungary on the opposite side. Until Czechoslovakia claimed the northern half in 1918, Komárno had been one city. Hungary briefly gained full control in 1938, but since the end of the 2nd World War the Danube had been the division between the two countries and the two halves of the city. In 2007 the border controls on the Elisabeth Bridge were lifted thanks to both countries joining the European Union Schengen Area of free travel. Since then Hungarians and Slovakians have daily crossed between the two sides of the city. It was thanks to this that Miro had been able to meet Kata.
Kata wasn’t sure what her parents would make of her relationship with a Slovakian. They were a conservative, traditional couple, but in Komárom Slovaks and Hungarians had co-existed for centuries. It was more likely that they would object to his being five years her senior and a distraction from her University studies. That was why she had concealed the relationship from them. They had met a year previously. Kata was out with her girlfriends, celebrating the end of term in their usual club. She had been drawn to the shy, gauche senior who was the older brother of one of the girls. She had persisted with the hesitant conversation and eventually unearthed the sweet, sensitive soul hidden underneath the clumsy exterior.
Miro arrived at the bridge on time after hurrying through the streets. It was not a romantic setting. The Danube here was not the idyllic river that passed through Vienna or Budapest, but it was still the Danube. The bridge was part of a highway, with traffic constantly passing in either direction and was functional in appearance, made of iron and painted a muted, dirty green. But it was symbolic of their relationship, a physical bridge between two countries and two halves of one city. Kata was running late as she always was. She worked to Hungarian time they always joked. He reached the centre of the bridge, where the pedestrian path had a small bench, and looked towards the Hungarian side of the river, waiting to see her.
Kata saw Miro standing next to the bench as she neared the bridge. Her spirits rose as they always did when she saw him. She ran the last hundred metres or so, unable to contain the huge smile that spread across her face. They kissed on the border where Hungary and Slovakia met.
Miro pulled away from the embrace. He had to do this just as he had pictured it in his mind or he would falter. ‘Boldog Születésnapot,’ he said, in his halting Hungarian. He had never been able to master the language fluently. They usually conversed in Slovkian or English. He bent down on one knee. Kata realised what her birthday present was to be. She squealed with delight, prepared to let Miro go through his prepared speech. Miro pulled the ring box from his jacket, as he did so it caught in the pocket zip. He pulled hard. The box freed itself, but flipped open. Miro and Kata watched as the ring flew from the box and over the railing. By the time they looked down the ring had disappeared into the Danube below.
Kata saw the look of devastation on Miro’s face. ’The answer is still ’yes,’’ she smiled, ’with or without the ring.’
A passing truck driver beeped his horn at the young couple kissing beside the motorway on the bridge over the Danube, as he left Slovakia behind and entered Hungary.
Written as part of The A to Z Challenge 2018. Click HERE for more details of the challenge.
Each day in April we will visit a different town or city in the European Union, whose name will begin with the letter of the day – today it’s two countries for one with the border city of Komárno/Komárom in Slovakia and Hungary – for a story based on a theme also corresponding to the same letter.
Over the course of the month and 26 stories, we will visit all 28 member countries to complete a farewell tour before Britain leaves the political union next year, touching on the history, politics, culture and people at the heart of Europe.
For a full list of stories and places visited, visit here: THE A TO Z CHALLENGE 2018.