Budapest 1984

Cars whooshed past as I stood on the narrow median on Erzsébet Street, my three-year-old sister gripping my left arm as if it were a rope. We were to cross the street and return to the Hungaria Café and our mother. She had a meeting there with other journalists and was waiting for us to bring her cigarettes. I clutched a pack of Symphonias securely in my right hand—unfiltered, in red-and-white packaging (“Remember, Olimpia, red and white,” my mother had said, her brown eyes intent on me as she squatted and tucked a húszforintos bill into my overalls)—but I couldn’t move.

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