ComeOnBoys works as a banker in Singapore. He left Hungary 12 years ago, just after graduation, so not for political reasons.
But things have changed since he had left. Ever time he visits home the same things happen in the same order. At first he can’t wait to meet his old mates and his family, he is even worried that two weeks might not be enough. But in a week his mood sours and he leaves for a tour of Europe instead. But this year it would be different.
The visit starts the same as always. His family is over the Moon. They prepare his favorite foods, go through the same family rituals. They are good, urban intellectuals, not friendly to the regime, but keeping a low profile in academia and living comfortably in their inherited wealth. But a day or two into the visit, they start complaining about politics and ComeOnBoys can’t stand that.
If the situation is so bad, why don’t they protest and be done with it? They say they fear for their jobs, and protests don’t work anyway, but ComeOnBoys can’t tolerate such talk. He challenges them to name anyone who was fired for their political opinions and they say names, and they go through each and every one of them and he has to point out that all this is hearsay and colorful imagination, nothing more. They have no proof.
The last days of the visit pass in heavy silence, with only polite small talk, so he goes out to meet his mates every evening (the ones who are still up for it) and tries to get in touch with the girls from school (the ones, who are not yet married. The married ones don’t answer anymore. Hungary is like some Gulf state sometimes.)
When meeting his old mates in a pub, the scenario is always the same: Those who stayed are resentful and jealous of his money and success. They think that he looks down on them because they stayed and earn less. And he does look down on them but not for staying or the money. Okay, a little for the money. But mostly he just enjoys that he makes more, he doesn’t look down on them for making less.
But he can’t stand it when they start talking shop and all they can talk about is oligarchs, and politics, and crony-owned this and that and how they screw up finance. And then they look at him, challenging him to dare to contradict them with a “do you think yourself better?” kind of look.
He swallows because he doesn’t want to ruin the evening and tries to suggest ways to work the markets, like he does, but that triggers the usual scorn, they tell him how this is not possible and that is not possible and so on, without an end. So eventually he stands up and makes his excuse. Every year he feels more and more excluded – and more and more happy to have left.
So this time he tries to cut off the conversation before they get to the part of Singapore-bashing.
“I went to Carbon Monoxide Wellness yesterday,” he says.
“You did what?”
“Come on, guys, it is just a gym. Any mortal can just walk in, you don’t have to be a blood-fanged vampire.”
“Just an oligarch’s wife, same thing.”
They all laugh, and not with him.
“So did you pick up a rich oligarch wife? Can we expect you to return to our humble country and grace us with starting your own bank here?”
“If you must know, yes, I met someone.”
“You must have a death wish or something…”
So ComeOnBoys tells them the story, just to prove how normal the whole thing is. He matched a girl on Tinder while lounging in Carbon Monoxide, she was very nice and sort of shy, a bit on the traditional side, but not disturbingly, she seemed quite into stuff. She texted to meet again. See? All normal.
Miss 999 texted ComeOnBoys the moment he drove away in his expensive BMW. She was hooked.
She has always been an overachiever, even in Bible class. Her parents were not particularly religious, but since 2010 they have changed with the trends and sent her to a Catholic university. She has promised (to no one in particular) that she would be a mother of three before she turns thirty, but people looked at her like she had three heads when she said that.
The only people who approved of her choice were – weirdly enough – her bosses in the Ministry, where she did her internship. Who said employers don’t support motherhood in this country?
“They will either promote you to wife or you stay a secretary forever,” her desk mate told her, “that’s why they don’t mind how many children you are planning.” But that just happened to be exactly what Miss 999 wanted. She was actually quite okay with being promoted to a Fidesz wife. That was her plan since she joined the Christian Democrats, but she didn’t find anyone in her home town who fulfilled her ambitions.
Now in her 20s, she was getting panicky. She would agree with just the first child before 30, but four children altogether to earn the tax exemption Orbán promised. She would be fronting for her husband and take home a tax-free salary form his businesses. Because her husband must be a Fidesz politician and that means lots of public procurement contracts.
She was an overachiever. She graduated summa cum laude, she was always thin and wore heels, she ran marathons and volunteered in social issues and marched for the right things. She cooked and kept her rented flat clean and scented. She counted her calories and had a weekly rota of which face mask to wear each night. She was perfect and was ready to be perfect for the perfect guy.
Since she moved to Budapest, she realized, she would have to bag at least an oligarch. And they can only be found in certain spots. One of them was Carbon Monoxide Wellness. So was the Ministry, but she failed to catch one there, the only one she dated had a wife and didn’t want to get a divorce. So when someone offered her basically the same job at the online paper, 999, she jumped at the opportunity. (But she made sure that her desk mate’s words got back to their boss before she left.)
ComeOnBoys was perfect. Tall, blonde, handsome, rich. A banker, not an oligarch, but Miss 999 wasn’t quite sure if there was a difference. He said some off things but she wrote it off as too much time spent abroad. He said himself that he wasn’t quite politically educated. Like this, with these words. And that smile… And he drove a BMW and he was of the right age. It was her lucky day!
ComeOnBoys only mentioned her first name, but one of his mates already looked her up.
“Is that your “journalist“?” he asked, the air quotes heavy in his words.
The phone went around the table and all the guys went ‘fuuuuuuck!’ as they looked at it. Some laughed. One of them stood up shaking his head like he was a dangerous idiot and left for a smoke outside.
“That’s her, why?”
“Your traditional little flower is at 999.”
ComeOnBoy felt that this was not going as he planned but he stood his ground.
“And? Not everyone who works there…”
But his mate already started reading one of her articles. It was a vile, bile-spitting little piece that managed to call for banning homosexuality, hinting at justified violence against traitors, all under the pretext of a silly little girl’s thought on fashion. She had her own column of 200-word girly thoughts like that. It was poorly written and clunky, ridden with attempted humor, but only ever punching down. The kind that makes you wince and feel embarrassed. For her.
ComeOnBoys lost the argument but decided to show them. He texted back and accepted the date.
The next morning Miss 999 was standing in her boss’ office, shocked that he knew about ComeOnBoys already. She told a colleague about her date and of course she immediately looked him up and laughed her ass off. He was a fucking liberal traitor, and Miss 999 fell for him! Her colleague found it amusing – and she reported it to the boss, apparently.
The boss went through the Facebook contacts of ComeOnBoys and found a lot of liberals, and read their names out loud, one by one, some of them were well-known intellectual scum. “Not a lot of patriots here, are there?” he said it with ironic seriousness that was actually real. Was her new boyfriend related to those other liberals of the same name? At 999, just like at the Ministry, people collected everything on everyone, even one another. One could get into trouble for much less than this.
She said no, that wasn’t him, and he wasn’t her boyfriend, but she was shaken and dizzy. She had her hopes so high, she forgot to look him up properly. Her boss spent the rest of the day mocking her. She knew what she had to do. Her entire reputation, not just her job, was at stake.
As time passed she was getting more and more angry at ComeOnBoys for misleading her. Because this was clearly false advertising. No one should pretend to be all right when he is a fucking liberal! Going to Carbon Monoxide, who would have thought!
By late afternoon she was determined to come back at him for what he did to her. She knew that she had to prove herself at 999 after such a burn. And finishing off liberals and making their life untenable in this country was exactly what she did best.
To be continued…