Short Story Birthday Tribute

by Judit Simanovszky


I was on my way to the cinema. It was Saturday, a golden, mellow day. Fall had started to turn the leaves russet though still leaving some untouched, the ray of the sun dancing among them.

I felt good, although restless. At the age of twelve (almost thirteen), one had to find someone to fall in love with – after all, there was not much time left of the world, there was an urgent need to hurry. School had started but I could not be bothered with that now. A weekend with its delights and heartaches lay ahead.

The heartaches were brought about by classmates: girls who kept bragging about their wonderful adventures during the summer holidays, the good-looking boys they had all met and fallen in love with. That these wonderful adventures were the product of wishful thinking was a trifling matter: one did not ponder the divide between reality and fantasy at that age.

’Let’s hear your story’, they said, and I was taken by surprise. I had no story to tell. Not wanting to give myself away, I just smiled, enigmatically, or so I hoped.

I must find someone, I thought to myself. Yes, the music teacher. He’ll do temporarily. At twenty he was a bit old, but the information need not be made public. I would use his initials, S.H. and preserve my secretive mood. I would have to make up a story and tell my friends about tentative allusions, nothing certain, the promise of ’anything could be possible’.

I arrived at the cinema feeling more at ease.

I stepped inside the makeshift auditorium, a huge hall with concrete flooring, wooden chairs loosely arranged in rows on the same level, which made it necessary to lean forward or sideways if you wanted to peek through the gap between the heads in front of you. Since the entrance and exit doors were the only facilities of air conditioning when opened and shut, the heavy smell from the previous show still hovered.

Before long I was immersed in the love story on the screen. It matched my mood perfectly. I sighed and wept with the heroine, oblivious to sneering ’ughs’ loudly uttered by others, during the touching and very discreet love scenes.

Through the coming week, the afternoons saw me crouched on my wooden seat as I desperately and irrevocably fell in love with the hero. Gone were the images of the music teacher, swept away by a new and true feeling. Now I would definitely use his initials: G.P. when describing the promise of ’anything could be possible’.

’Listen’, a silly classmate said to me one day, ’we all think Susan must be crazy. She confessed to being in love with Gregory Peck. Of all the people, she had to pick a film star, an ancient relic at that. He must be thirty or over if he’s a day. Maybe forty. So, what’s your story?’

I felt myself blushing. As if having to share the beloved man with crazy Susan was not enough, I was going to face humiliation and all this on account of a noble feeling.

’Well’, I began, ’my story is about a sweet promise. Nothing certain so far. Just a promise to keep in touch and send letters. So I’ll only tell you his initials. Well, ironically, they are G.P.’

After all, you don’t lie about a friend, a dream-lover – not even if his initials happen to be G.P.