The doorman is standing in front of the gate smoking a cigarette. When I get next to him, he smiles: “Nightride?” – “I’m just going home”- I answer, and I turn on my lights. The night breeze of the city street hits me in the head, the temperature is pleasant, but the scent of summer is still in the air, and I feel awake and full of life. I get on my bike and start pedaling. Soon the feeling of freedom brushes over me, I’d almost like to shout “This is freedom!”

There’s only little traffic now, but I feel sorry for the people sitting in metal boxes – they cannot feel what I feel. When I ride through Petőfi bridge, the summery scent of the night mixes with the scent of the Danube, which doesn’t make it worse in the least bit. On the contrary, I almost feel drunk by it. Freedom. Between two bumps (just to still keep a bit close to reality) I have time to look to the side. On the right there’s the floodlit Liberty Bridge and the Gellért-hill, on the left the Lágymányosi bridge, the National Theatre and the Palace of Arts, which is purple at the moment (I always look forward to what colour it’s going to be when I see it).

On the way down from the bridge I accelerate, it is wonderful, I’m part of the city’s bloodstream, I glide through the lit roads. Karinthy Frigyes street, here’s our little bike lane. I get a green wave. On Móricz Zsigmond square people are waiting for the last bus (or maybe the first night bus) and they look at me. I like to think to myself that they are jealous, but of course it is possible that they think I’m crazy. Or maybe they don’t even care and aren’t even looking at me. I still spot a familiar face, someone from highschool, he hasn’t changed at all.
Villányi street. Some young people are on their way home in the shadow of the bushes and trees, others are waiting for the tram.
On Budaörsi street a cab passes me at top speed. He seems to be enjoying the light traffic, too, so he steps on the gas. What does the city look like to him? I picture stripes of light.

I go three lanes left, even this is easy now. I can start going up the “mountain”. On Jagelló street I think about the poor hedgehogs that got hit. I keep my eyes down, looking at the concrete, looking for new victims. There aren’t any, thank God. Be careful little hedgehogs. Evil metal boxes.

On Apor Vilmos square the rails are being welded, its strong light brightens the wall of the house on the other side, it looks cool. Now comes the steep part. No problem. We’re home. We’ve won against the mountain and the summer night is ours.

(Originally published in Hungarian here.)

Nightride” bejegyzéshez egy hozzászólás

  1. Funny how we feel this ‘freedom’ feeling. Freedom to turn this way and that, freedom to ride like the wind, freedom to look at things and get lost in thoughts. Perhaps break a few simple rules of the road in the dead of night. It’ll be fine – we’re practically invisible. Together with airborne scents (my favorites are woodsmoke and pine), they produce endorphins for a natural high (feeling drunk).

    But there’s something else isn’t there? It’s the knowing you are moving under your own power, and not harming a thing – especially hedgehogs!!

    Your post reminds me of a post of mine – ‘An Evening Cycle’, where I would avoid the snails (travelling homes) crossing the cycle path.

    Excellent translating by the way…


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