In the night, you say all you can see are the Romany woman’s
withered brown fingertips tracing your lifeline, so you distract
yourself by telling me about János Marschalkó, the sculptor of the
Chain Bridge lions––how the hinges of his fingers cradled the chisel,
which day after day he sank into marble, one thick metal claw
carving muscle and mane. You say some days he woke up hating the
lions, believing he never wanted to be a sculptor at all, that he
derived no joy from the constant chipping of stone. Some days, he
felt as if the nerves were broken from his spine when he looked at
their pupil-less eyes, as if they were filling his lungs with warm
honey, and he couldn’t help but love them. You whisper that the day
came when they were finished and revealed to the crowd. A little girl
pointed out they had no tongues. That night, the sculptor dreamed he
cut the tongue from his own mouth to place in the lions’ jaws, but
when they opened their grey lips, no sound came out. Yet, you are
already thinking again of the Romany woman on the bus, who
grabbed your hand with fingers of mostly bone. If it were just touch
without meaning, you could shrug off this moment the way her eyes
widen slightly and do not blink and she speaks slowly, in a language
you do not know, as if delivering bad news.