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  • Katherine Stevens

Metropole moment

I've been reading Ferenc Karinthy's Metropole on and off for a while now. If you've read it, maybe you can understand why. It's a hard book to read. The stress the protagonist is under is palpable and unflagging. It's not a book that's good for you, physically or psychically.


Today I went to the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna. I can't leave the house tomorrow because I have hirsutism and my first electrolysis appointment is Monday morning, which means I shouldn't shave tomorrow, and it's far too humiliating leaving the house looking like that. I suppose there are some women who are strong enough to, but I am not one of them.


Anyhow, I wanted to enjoy the sunny Saturday since I'd be cooped up on Sunday. The gardens are gorgeous, the sort of place that would be perfect for a wedding, and in fact one was being held while I was there. All over the park visitors were taking photographs, with iPhone cameras and professional equipment alike, of the peonies, the cypress knees, the bee-lousy Korean Bell Garden, the lakes, the gazebos, the turtles basking in the light. Someone had even brought an easel to paint en plein air.


At one point while i was walking the path was obstructed by a family having their photo taken. They were all sitting on a bench, wearing red flower wreathes in their hair, and the lot of them were making almost hysterical high-pitched sounds to get the youngest of the family to, I assume, smile or stay still or something. There was a bridge going out onto the water, so I decided to go that way instead, and over the bridge I came upon a pavilion also clustered with members of a family trying to get professional pictures taken.


For a fleeting moment I panicked. What if every which way I turned I was met with people getting their pictures taken and I couldn't get by. I felt like Budai, the free flow of my physical motion suddenly fully impeded and ruled by others. The feeling of course passed. I could communicate with this family because we spoke the same language and was able to skirt past before they finalized their picture placement. And even if I hadn't no one can take photographs forever. Still for a moment it was like walking into the wall of a labyrinth.


People can be walls. I can be a wall. You can be a wall. Let's try not to be walls.


In any event the gardens were lovely, and I highly recommend them.


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