The dusk had settled long ago, when Ben looked at me across the table and blurted out - Let’s go to a local disco!
I thought it would be stupid to explain I had not been in a disco since my student days, still, even then – some twenty years ago – it had not been fun. But, guests ought to be entertained, so I nodded my head, pretending I’m thrilled with the idea. In fact, some local guys from Osijek invited Ben and he needed an interpreter. We were standing outside the hotel, in a warm spring night, with hands in pockets and different ideas of entertainment. The rest of our party was pondering the idea, and some girls flatly said ‘no’, when choices between classic and folk disco were presented. How and why choose at all between two equally bad options- I myself was thinking about the same dilemma. Yet, I kept silent.
Osijek is a relatively small town; we nevertheless waited for a car to pick us up. Our host dumped us in front of the Student Center and an experienced guy from the party said:
- If you cannot hear the music out in the street, there’s no fun inside! Let’s go to the Old town!
Ben was standing nearby, unbuttoning his shirt. He loosened the tie, obviously preparing himself for a wild party to follow. For an Englishman, he’s quite unconventional, even though he has a look of a typical London yuppie. We started walking, heading towards the Old town and the disco.
- Why are we walking back from where we drove? - Ben asked innocently.
- Our hosts think we ought to see something better. It’s only a ten-minute walk – I tried to calm him.
The night was warm and the park we walked through smelled of blossomed branches. It looked to me, no confined spaces could provide more fun than walking by the river. Still, I kept my mouth shut and cooperated. The Old town walls were casting long shadows, and our steps echoed on the cobbled stone. Inside the walls, we suddenly found ourselves surrounded with rivers of young people, flowing like a mob on some local folk festival. The narrow streets were jammed with couples and small groups of people moving in different directions and the coffee shops were swelling with customers. I checked the time on my cell phone; it was one after midnight. Numerous lamps on the square and the Plague obelisk in the middle glowed with brilliant lights.
The Moon was helping wholeheartedly.
Our host suddenly eed - We’re here!
Small groups of people were patiently waiting in front of a dark, unlighted entrance to a night bar, from which the vague murmur and noise were coming. Traces of light were casting odd stripes of illumination, across the entrance staircase, yet never crossing the last stair.
A typical, heavyset bouncer, with a clean-shaven head, a tacky, over-sized golden cross and accompanying tattoo on his bull-like neck, was guarding the entrance doors to the nightclub.
– We have to wait – I explained to my confused Englishman, while we were patiently waiting for the bouncer to have mercy and let us in. Obviously, we weren’t attractive enough visitors for immediate pass.
– I think we’re waiting for the empty slots inside to squeeze the new customers in – our experienced host said, lighting up another cigarette. We were headed for a long wait.
– There are some foreigners here, let us in! – A girl from our party told the bouncer, pointing a finger in Ben’s and my direction. The guard changed his mind, moved aside and waved us in.
Behind the double wooden doors a dark corridor awaited, and then suddenly a myriad of senses were triggered by music, murmur and noise from hundreds of people. I stepped back, as a wave of thick tobacco smoke and a mixture of perfumes, shaving lotions and sweaty bodies hit me. There was no time to adjust slowly to the change, as the crowd swallowed us in. Moving bodies engulfed us and pushed into a long, narrow, oval-shaped room, with Salvador Dali -like painted walls. Right next to the entrance, a row of crowded booths with wooden benches stretched. To the opposite, there was a narrow dance floor with two parallel platforms with a silver pole for dancers to wrap their legs around; a long bar, with a line of heads stuck closely together. At least that’s how I saw them, just heads, as their bodies and legs were hidden somewhere in the mass, surrounding them. Our guides were lost in the flowing river of bodies, slowly but steadily circulating in this thickened claustrophobic place. I don’t like crowds, and my years-long experience taught me to make quick judgments and decide instantly. I pulled Ben’s sleeve and dragged him to one of the open booths.
With my back, safely against the wall, I moved my lips close to Ben’s ear and yelled, trying to be louder than the surrounding noise: - Entertaining, huh?
He gave me a puzzled look, not comprehending. How could he? I say this ironically, as the surroundings were completely surreal. A cacophony of voices, decibels of irritating howling sounds of an Arabic origin, a Middle Eastern hit, were ripping through the room, through my mind and thoughts - I could swear – my internal organs. Habibi, habibi, I remembered the song and the singer from Syria, whom I fell in love involuntarily in Tunisia once, intoxicated by hours-long exposure to the local music and totally vulnerable, with a Stockholm syndrome of the captive. But, that’s another story to tell.
–What are you drinking? - Ben yelled at me, but I read the question off his lips.
The sounds and his voice were somehow disappearing halfway from him to me, yet he was sitting only a meter away. The principle of a black hole was at work, and our voices were just a humming of a mosquito next to a hydro - power plant turbines. It was a surreal experience. I got up and headed for a drink, slowly making my way through the crowds towards the bar. There was no chance for Ben to order drinks. After quite some time, skills and pure luck I got to the bar. The bartender was reading my lips to make out and guess what I wanted. With two double whiskeys I was better off than with what the bartender offered me first. At our table, Ben tried to strike a conversation with the girls from an opposite table.
– Ask them their names – he insisted, and I had to explain that this could cause trouble.
– If you still want to take a chance, offer them drinks first. If they accept, the next logical step is to introduce us! - I told him reasonably.
Then it hit me and I bit my tongue – a stupid idea! It would be me again, fighting a passage through the crowd to get us drinks, twice in a short time. I didn’t like the idea digging my way through the mob. The girls ordered some cocktails, combinations that made my head spin. Of course, I had to repeat the names of the cocktails they wanted, afraid of forgetting what they wanted by the time I get to the bar. I cursed Ben and myself for being hasty, for accepting the invitation to come here. I could barely jle the drinks on my way back, and a glass almost slipped through my sweaty fingers. So I stuck the thumbs and index fingers inside the drinks to secure the glasses, with a perverse feeling of satisfaction. It was not my drink after all, I thought cooling off my fingers inside Ben’ whiskey and a cocktail of screaming colors.
- Martina, glad to meet you! Yes, indeed I’m 18! My friend is Jasenka. She’s 23!
I didn’t believe her. She looked 16 and not a day older. Still, I was never good judge of people. She could be of age after all, but lots of faces here looked young and green.
I sipped my drink without enthusiasm, while Ben drank up his second double drink in a swig. Cruel, as I was up for another battle to reach the bar through the crowds. Ben looked fresh and calm, as if he wasn't loading himself with alcohol the entire evening. I already felt dizzy from three drinks.
I finally felt my nerves relax. The odd, howling music was dissipating through the pores of my body, despite my sober, yet failed attempts to isolate the recognition of music, syncope and lyrics of these songs in my brain. Feverishly I was clinging to the definition in my head: syncope in music is rhythm transition, the loss of sounds. Still, a medical definition would be more suitable here - loss of consciousness from insufficient blood flow to the brain. I think many, if not everyone here, in this folk music infernal disco of howling fugue, lost their consciousness and minds altogether. Perhaps on permanent basis, I felt venomous. I admit I hate folk music, but these are the new heights I never felt before – disco folk staggered towards me in a shape of a monster, finally materialized.
I tried a musical mantra in my head – something easy, soothing, sleepy. Simon and Garfunkel, like a bridge over troubled water, I was silently singing inside my head, until the melody suddenly started to twitch like a serpent, the rhythm speeding up. Soon the poor Garfunkel was squealing like an old 33-record, forced to play at 45, and then – 145 speed. I was shaking off my head, trying to chase away my innocent mantra, which turned into a colorful, coral snake.
- Are you okay? You look like you need another drink! - Ben waved his empty glass.
– You go ahead for a change! – I snapped at him and pointed my finger towards the bar. He was in a good mood. He stood and started inching his way in the crowd. It no longer mattered.
I lost track of time. As if we were turning around on some hellish merry-go-round, with street organ-music going round and round, together with our sweaty bodies and the sky above us. Vertigo, 39 Steps, Frenzy... names of the movies with similar atmosphere started spinning before my eyes. I waved my hand to chase away the fog from my mind and the smoke from my burning eyes.
The girls got off the table long ago. They were dancing to the rhythm of the music, which was so loud it moved the glasses on the table. Their young bodies were twisting and snaking around, in gyroscopic movements that looked odd and illogical. Inertia, precession, tumbling, all sorts of space terminology popped in my mind with perfectly new meanings.
- Dragana Mirković! – The girl pressed her lips against my earlobe and yelled in a friendly way.
I looked puzzled. Finally it dawned on me – that was the reply to Ben’s question, I kept repeating several times and finally quit. Who’s singing there? To Belgrade, to Belgrade… I recalled friendly faces in a surreal Yugoslav movie, a group of passengers in a bus, rushing towards the bombs and the world war. The movie and my association suddenly looked very applicable here.
With lukewarm enthusiasm, I tried to participate in attempts to start a conversation, Ben and the girls were occasionally trying to rekindle. But, how in hell could I translate their question, what the two of us were doing here? I didn’t know the answer myself. It looked to me, as if hundreds of people inside perfectly belonged to this, for them, desirable environment. Indeed, what the hell were we doing here?
I think a couple of hours passed since we had come here, yet I couldn’t be sure. I started recognizing some songs, singers, and lyrics… A trace in time, a worm in stone, my darling, head on my shoulders, save me from loneliness, tell me, my sunshine, it’s a heartache… Those were the lyrics I clung too. My luck turned a blind eye on me, when my stare at somebody’s face for longer than a few seconds, provoked trouble. A guy headed towards me to bust me, as I must have provoked him with my glare; or, perhaps I stared at his girlfriend, or the dancer on the platform, he was secretly in love with; I couldn’t put my finger on it. A bouncer saved me, grabbing the guy by his jacket and pulling him outside. The crowd never paid any attention, and even I myself turned away to listen to some new music blasting from the speakers.
Suddenly, Ben was pulling at my sleeve: –Let’s go!
It felt odd; he wanted to go after such a brief time spent here. And to leave now, when all the good songs were up next. We both were making rhythm movements under the table, our legs following the rhythms. It was just the blissful ignorance of lyrics that saved us from singing out loud, in each other’s arms, listening to the sad tunes. Oh, my land, cry out loud, forget her, my heart… something like that.
On our way out, between the two musical notes and a howling fugue, which was on repeat, circling around like a serpent eating its own tail, the time stopped for a split second. I felt like being under water, in a slow-motion movie, so I could clearly see the grimaces on the faces of beasts, which were surfacing behind the masks of ordinary girls, guys, waiters and bouncers. The belly dancer, with a figure much like Salma Hayek in ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ darted out a split, snake-like tongue in my direction; in horror I felt the hairs on the nape of my neck. Ben didn’t notice anything, looking frozen in a beam of light, just like Spock, before being lifted onto the starship ‘Enterprise’. I turned around. The crowd was pulling down their masks, triumphantly, peeling off the fake human faces from their partners, ripping each other’s guts to let their extraterrestrial offspring to freedom. Well-manicured fingers turned into the claws of some beasts, breathing out the air that was becoming dense and ice-cold vapor. We were locked in this neverending moment. I screamed silently inside my head and tried to pull Ben outside, just a few meters away. My legs were numb and didn’t follow. My shoes of lead and the melting floor were keeping me within the reach of these beasts and their tentacles. Their fierce eyes and the growling faces yelled ‘lynch the human intruders’ and this message spoke loudly in total absence of sound.
With my last bits of strength I pulled Ben through the exit doors and we fell over the stairs. Lifting his bloodied palm, he looked at me, not understanding: - What the fuck?
I was half running, without looking back. The stone gates of the Old town we walked through led us to the promenade alongside the river; it glimmered at dawn with a faint reflection in the water. The horizon smiled gently with a vision of arched bridge and peaking towers of the cathedral in the distance. It finally dawned.
The next day, in the bright sunshine, I got my courage back and walked to the Old town to look for the infernal disco, which turned my hairs gray overnight.
Of course, such nightclub, or entrance doors weren't anywhere to be seen or found.
Solace of Her Bathroom
She lies in the bathtub with her wrists slit, bleeding slowly. The bath bubbles are turning bright red, and the water level is dangerously close to spilling over. Soon she’ll have to reach for the bathtub plug, or the bathroom will be flooded and she certainly doesn’t want that. She already spent too much time cleaning the floor, the sink, the mirror, the whole bathroom, scrubbing for hours. If you’re neat, with a sense of cleanliness, no disinfectant can be good enough for you. No brush is completely efficient. Except for kneeling down and hand mopping the tiles, nothing else works.
Well, she didn’t want to be found dead in a messy bathroom. At work, she asked for a week off, to clean and tidy up everything before she greets the hot water-death in the tub. Although she cleaned the windows last month, rain and dust ruined all her efforts. Then, it’s the curtains, deep vacuuming of carpets, airing the mattresses, bed linens… She had to move the heavy furniture away from the walls, to clean the cobwebs and dust from last year. One time, a neighbor found her doing that and mocked her. Who on Earth is dusting behind the furniture? Naturally, he and his wife have never done that. The wife doesn’t have broken nails and damaged skin like she does.
In the beginning, she tried to clean with her rubber gloves on. But it didn't work. She missed the sense of touch on her fingertips and without that, good cleaning was impossible. Now, after a weak of fierce scrubbing, the house was impeccable, except for the bathroom. After she slits her wrists and starts bleeding, she will need to leave the bathtub unpled. Otherwise, the water will spill over, soak the floors and make quite a mess in the hallway and she wants to prevent that from happening. She only hoped she wouldn’t fall unconscious too soon. She’d need time to wash the blood off her wrists, draining the bathtub and rinsing the stains down the drain. It was a horrifying thought that people might find her all messed up, with bloodstains all over.
At first, it hurt like hell, but as time went by, the pain eased up. The only thing bothering her were the ugly, messy cuts on her veins, the raw edges gawking like ruptured electricity cables. It was a bit late for neat bandages now. To look neat, of course!
She must have dozed off from the heat, as the bathroom was all steamy. She could barely see the shapes of objects around her. She remembered how steam leaves ugly, wet stains on the mirror and smudges on the cabinet surface. She didn’t think she’d be strong enough to get up, due to all this loss of blood, yet she was up easily. This all will be lasting some more, she was pondering, not quite sure whether it was good or bad. The floor was soaked, but she remembered to drop a dirty towel into the laundry basket. Looking down on her gushing wrists disgusted her, so she made herself get up and look for some clean gauze. She wrapped the wrists loosely, but neatly, holding the bandage with expensive band aid from her cosmetics bag. A butterfly logo on the sticking plaster winked at her in appreciation.
When she grabbed the doorknob on the bathroom doors, it came as a surprise that she couldn’t open them. The doorknob clicked and let go, yet the doors remained locked. Maybe it’s locked from the outside? But who could do that in her own apartment? And why? Her brain was puzzled with dilemma. Banging on the doors or crying for help wasn’t an option. She didn’t need someone breaking in and ‘saving’ her before she completed what had been initiated. Before she kills herself. There, she said it. And yet, the skies have not fallen down on her head. Killing her. Herself! No thunderbolts to strike her down. There’s probably no hell either. Death is the end, she was certain now. All her strict Catholic upbringing, Sunday Mass, hell’s fire looming after every little mischief... all that was for nothing. Free, soon she’ll be free from everything. She’s going the way she’s always wanted. This will not happen by coincidence, accident, God's will.
Another thought popped out of the blue. She realized that the jammed doors weren’t such a big problem after all. So what? Where would she go anyway? Or, why? She needs to return to her hot bath, trembling a little now, all naked and with God knows how little blood remaining in her veins. She avoided looking at her wrists now, even though they were so neatly wrapped in bandages. For a long time she’s been planning her own death meticulously, since her teenage days, just like little girls who plan their own weddings since early childhood, in every detail; what the wedding dress is going to look like, the veil, the bridesmaids, shoes, matching colors, flower arrangements and rosemary for wedding party, everything; every single little detail. Well, instead of weddings, her death played this key role in her life. She knew it had to be neat, eye-catching, and inconspicuous. The closest to this ideal was swallowing a bottle of pills, but then again, it would mean an autopsy. They’d say, ‘well, let’s see what exactly she swallowed and how much of it’. It wouldn’t matter, if she’d leave an empty bottle with label explaining everything – the drug name, quantity, expiration date. She would write down the exact time when she swallowed the pills, just to make it easier for the idiots, just to stop them from cutting her open on a messy autopsy table in some hospital basement. But, she couldn’t be certain. In today’s world of no logic, ethics or morality, people failed to their jobs respectfully, thoroughly, methodically. For most people she knew, superficiality was the new deity they worshipped now.
So, slitting wrists in an open bathtub meant pretty clean job. Just keep the water running! The blood will be washed out clean and everything, including herself, will be spotless. Clearly sliced veins will not leave doubts as to cause of death. If it comes to the worst, an unavoidable post mortem will have no gushing blood from her dead body. There won't be a drop left. A pathologist's apron always reminded her of a butcher in slaughterhouse (a mental note flickered in her brain – anything to do with pathologist is pathological by definition).
Staring in the bathroom mirror, she thought she could do some final cleaning, dry the mirror glass, remove a soaked towel from the floor. She pondered if there would be mould and stench in the laundry basket if she put it there without drying first. Yet, she didn’t want anyone to find a towel of suspicious cleanliness and doubt her personal hygiene. While at it, she checked the toilette bowl and replaced the sanitary scent. She remembered to open up the water tank and pour antiseptic refresher.
In the end, there was nothing else to do, so she got in the bathtub again. The hot water felt good on her neck, so she drew the knees to her chest, bent down her head and let the hot shower massage her body. Tiny water drops stabbed her face and the skin as acupuncture needles. She moved the shower further to her breasts and down the spine.
Suddenly her eyes spotted a tiny curling snake of the water going down the drain. It was surprisingly clear, without any trace of red color. It took her a few minutes to realize what it meant - she was not bleeding any longer. But, she was still conscious and thinking clear! For a while she refused to check her wrists, but in the end curiosity prevailed. The bandages were soaked, yet clean of any bloodstains. She pondered this for awhile, thinking how stress or great fear can stop blood from running. She remembered how she tried to donate blood once, but they had sent her back. The nurse joked that her blood got scared away and hid.
Or, perhaps her wounds dried up and only little blood leaked? The bathroom clock on the wall showed hours had passed. Remember how magazines describe suicide stories and wrist slasher horizontal cuts as cry for help? They argued that if slashers meant business, they'd do it vertically along the veins, not sideways. A vertical cut makes no stitching possible, even if they find you right away. But no, thanks. That's too messy, barbaric even. She can't stand gaping wounds anyway.
A final look in the mirror revealed a pale, oddly familiar face. Her look alike perhaps? Still, not quite herself. The woman in the mirror had a much better complexion, a glowing, ethereal face, unlike hers. The woman’s breasts aren't sagging, like hers. They looked firm and rounded, just like her own, when she was twenty. Another mental note - loss of blood obviously improves own perception. Well, at least something positive in all this mess, she concluded.
A sudden knocking on the door awakened her from dozing off. She tried to say ‘who’s there?’ but she choked and just pulled her knees tighter in silence. A cop appeared in the doorway, with look of annoyance in her stare. Obviously he's seen loads of naked women in his line of duty. More heads appeared behind him, lurking over his shoulders – she recognized the neighbor from next door and the maintenance guy from the ground floor.
– ‘Get out of my bathroom, don’t you see I’m all naked!’ – She argued in half voice, too weak to scream or even protest.
What really worried her was the fact they all stepped in their dirty shoes, trampling on her spotless floor tiles. They all seemed to speak at the same time and cacophony of their voices drowned her complaints. She just lied there with the hands over her breasts, as if her small hands could hide all of her naked body. Another man rushed in with a camera and focused the lenses on her in the bathtub.
‘Don’t! Can’t you see I’m naked?’ she whined in half voice. To her surprise, nobody paid attention.
Snapping the shots in frenzy, the camera guy finally spoke: - I have to give it to her! I see suicides a lot – some women naked, some gorgeous looking, but this one really impressed me. Such a clean bathroom I haven’t seen in years.
She couldn't follow, as they weren't making sense. They spoke as if she wasn't there!! But one thing she knew for sure – finally a man was admiring her for something. The feeling of satisfaction, of joy and pride was overwhelming. Finally she did something right!
We’re sitting in a small, uncomfortable car, you and I - the pilot and co-pilot on their front seats, staring through the windshield into the blackness of the night. Dark and deserted parking lot is fogged from our joint breath, made of desire one can feel on the fingertips.
You’re folding your hands in your lap, defensively, neutrally, I don’t know…All I know is that I want your hands around my neck and they’re scared, vulnerable, untrusting hands, crossed in your lap, bound to swallow us both. My infrared vision is penetrating through your clothes to scan the curved shape of your shoulder, small breasts under your shirt, loosely put inside your jeans. I save the scanned images in memory for future days, when we’ll both be naked to the bone - next time I can compare the hollows of your vertebra, birthmarks under your left breast, in the pit of your belly, on your left shoulder blade.
You speak of impossibility of our desires, and the intoxicating closeness of our hair and necklines is drawing our faces together like a magnet. I’m breathing you in while you’re shivering, refusing me with words of reason, just as your lips wander and come down to mine, soft as a butterfly touch. Our tongues are shameless, tongues that speak in their own ‘tongues’, in riddles and circles around our lips, around our consciousness. They’re exploring the unexplored, rarely used trajectories of our lips, where only liquids or saliva dare wander sometimes.
Our hands are tentacles of climbing plants, poison ivy with no poison or thorn, claws pulled inside the skin for this moment only – wrapped around spindle-shaped bodies of our joint trembling. The Moon gravitation is elevating the tin cocoon of the car together with our silky chrysalis inside, in the night without lights, under the jet-black glimpse of starlit sky. The uncomfortable seats are melting below us into a mountain waterfall, our bodies, rid of layers of clothes, considerations and socially acceptable forms are fluttering, hovering in zero gravity side by side, before our orbital modules touch. Houston, we’re connected, the auto-pilot message reads, taking over controls on our journey to the Moon, just before the video link is lost and the voyeur Luna considerately turns its head away from the second lunar landing in history.
Gently we touched the biggest Ocean of Storms, large as the Mediterranean Sea. Our melted, formless mass is submerged into the Sea of Rains, while we’re swallowing moist with dry, raw lips. As in a Gargantuan Laundromat, we’re circling through different states of mind, exploring all other seas in one single, uninterrupted sequence, going through the Seas of Serenity, Tranquility and Fertility.
We’re unaware it’s a threesome, while the Moon is blending with each pair of lips and taking turns in each embrace. A kaleidoscope, colorful glass spinning before our very eyes, the images of bare skin, embraced limbs, you inside me, in positions yogini-girls can only dream about. Funny, what small gravity can do! Lovemaking inside the moonbeam is creating fractals in the brain, crystals of desire, floating inside our bloodstream.
From the Moon, we’re watching our energies send a light beam to the dark belly of the Universe, as a torch, lighting the dead stars and making floating asteroids a new, shiny comet.
I’m muttering binary codes in your ear, inside of me you’re speaking in mathematical equations and I - who flunk physics and chemistry – suddenly comprehend all the equations of the world. You say, E = mc2, energy of our joint body equals our embrace; our body is rushing at light speed, thus, it’s captured, held in a single spot and equals the kinetic energy of our desires. Pity, schools don’t teach this kind of Einstein’s theory of relativity - it looks now that everything is relative, except our energies in this single beam of light.
Out of the two, you’re the prevailing mind, emitting all possible chess outcomes of our embrace under the moonlight. You’re the one with the knowledge, theories, end-game steps to knock down the King and secure the Queen’s victory. I don’t care, as long as the King remains on the chessboard. I gladly sacrifice castles, bishops, taking off the heads of the pawns…Anything, to prolong this Moon game of chess.
Your eye pupils are widening; a tidal wave is coming to cover us with eruption of lava and ashes simultaneously. Lava is going through my bones, my veins, rushing without stopping. In our lunar voyage, we’ve passed the point of no return. The empty fuel tanks are discarded, modules that led us from one rendezvous point to another, from one Moon Ocean to another. The only untouched is the Sea of Crisis and the craters like Copernicus and Tycho.
Again my loins are only mine, my lips parted from its twin. I’m chasing away the fog from my eyes, condensed mist between the two of us, on our side of the galaxy… All of a sudden, we’re sitting in our cramped, tiny car again, all dressed up and buttoned to our necks, unaware of Einstein’s theory and our oddly parted bodies.
We’re not sure, whether we made love or not, or just held each other in an embrace. Perhaps it’s the same thing, now that we’ve confirmed our own theory of relativity?
Finally, you manage to speak. You’re saying, we should not make love. I’m looking at you, not understanding. There’s an uncombed Nebula in your hair, which is betraying you and telling it all; in your eyes, there’s a glimpse of the lunar Sea of Tranquility.
(Writing on the Wall)
Nights always get me into strange movies inside my head. I’m sitting on a riverbank, watching the battle of Titans; dark clouds pressed against the ground; the soil breathing out the vapor and mist. You’re by my side, unaware that I’m drowning. I’m digging through the shelves of memory. I’m counting constellations backwards. I let my body float downstream, swallowed by the rapids, looking at my own self with a stranger’s eyes. I’m drowning fast, even though I have no rocks in my pockets.
The writing's on the subway wall
I'm sorry that I never called I,
I never phoned or wrote to you
It's silly 'cause I wanted to
I’m travelling through woods, meandering within the underground streams of my old neighborhood. I’m laughing at all the right places, joining the mob to chant, adore, lynch, march on... I’m forcing my body to breathe, speak, to lie low undetected. Mimicry has become the way of life. It’s survival in its elementary form. I speak too loud, radiating self-assurance, picked up from educational shows and self-help publications. «How to believe in oneself», page three: in Rome like Romans, in a wild pack, as a wolf to a fellow man; keep your body in perfect shape; live to be a hundred years old and dance on the grave of your enemy...
Oh yes, the subway wall
Sadly seems to say it all
It's my mistake, I know that now
A bit too late to cry...
The spring is late, and winter has not left yet. Someone at the door is just about to knock. I’m going mad from all that waiting. Stomping of feet down my street reminds me to have my doors wide open, to let all runaway chances return with remorse. Days are locked in like colorful pearls on a string, the petals of daisies in a flower meadow. Yet, the spring is late.
You're somewhere else
With someone else
And here am I
All by myself
An empty wall
An empty me
I write the things that should've been
I tell the world how much I care
And miss the one that isn't there
Oh the writing on the wall
The Sun has still not chased away the winter. It lingers around, like the hundred year old- iciness in the garden of a giant, good and bad at the same time; the one, who chased away children’s innocence and laughter and got punished with ice and wasteland. What was the name of this fairytale? I’m getting old, I can’t remember. The only name, popping in my mind is giant Regoc and the little girl Kosjenka, but this is another, almost a love story.
My company is all gone, so I’m taking off my face to rest. This wicked hour, when morning is far and night not young at all, is the best moment for us with a hundred faces, without any face.
She’s asleep now. I forgot which side of the bed she sleeps on. The right, I guess. On her belly, with arms quietly folded next to her body. Her hair is all over the pillow. She’s like a mountain well, which never runs dry. Cold to touch, persistently she follows her bridle path of a mountain goat, without wail or complaint. She understands and accepts that holding own heart in the palm of one’s own hand is a dangerous and careless task. Only sometimes she brings down the floodgates and defense walls, to allow the rare fortunate ones catch her moment of vulnerability, openness, exposed to piercing, interrogative, prying looks… the unnecessary questions. When the clock strikes a minute, she’s safely back in reality. Bringing up another firewall, protection from self-exposure. She turns off the people and their personalities, takes a book, and a blind look in her eyes takes her to deep thoughts. She looks inside, within, while stroking hair with a hairbrush for the hundredth time, before escaping into another dream.
After a challenging day, I finally embrace darkness and lights switched off with appreciation and gratitude; with hope, I’ll fall into abyss of dreamless void, without images, without colors.
My eraser, never worn off, is wiping away all the program languages and coding, leading to her. It will bring me back as an empty cup, a wall without scribble, with neatly folded graffiti by my bedside.
The writing's on the subway wall
And give or take a year or so
Someone will come and rub it out
Delete the words that hurt my heart
Oh yes, there will remain
A little hurt, a little stain
The memory can still be read
Upon the wall inside my head
Oh the writing on the wall (right on)
Oh the writing on the wall (write on)
(For Lili Marlene Premilovich, aka Lene Lovich, born 30 March 1950, my first love)
(Black Magic Woman)
I’m wandering the streets without any free will. Beggars and regular bummers, who know me as a melancholic, but good tipper, suddenly avoid me from far. I look odd. My T-shirt is torn at the sleeve, with ketchup stains on the left side of the chest. My eyes are glued over the rooftops, through the dirty grey clouds of our little town, far away, behind the horizon.
For days I’ve been in this weird limbo, no will power, no own mind, without need to return to my family, work, my daily routines that used to mean a lot to me once. An organized life, order in the Universe, I once held a firm grip upon. And today, I’m just a goose feather in the wind, grass bent by a weak whirl of wind.
The key step towards this doom was my going to this flea market, in search of antiquities for my collection. Fact is, I collect antique stuff and rare old books out of collector’s passion, without any plan or sense of measure; I buy them for own pleasure and my large collection I keep in the attic of the building where I live. On Sundays, you can find all sorts of odd things there from a number of weirdoes. However, that last Sunday something odd happened. I stopped by a sloppy-dressed girl in early twenties, with small hands and sad, brown eyes. She was standing by the pile of odds and ends and some books she was selling. She looked a lot like the Professor’s daughter from Krsto Papić movie ’Izbavitelj’. Something in those eyes drew me to her; I stopped and started a conversation with her. It turns out she’s not from here, with not much to offer except a few books and a little alabaster box, filled with strange-smelling herbs and odd-looking black powder. She claimed the herbs were remedies and a pinch of that powder worked magic- it can tie a loved one’s feelings and lock his or her heart forever.
Naivety and simple-minded seriousness of this girl made me smile. Her own convictions in this fairytale was clearly seen in her eyes. I felt good, so I decided to buy off these few books she was selling for pennies. While I was leafing through the yellow pages of half-decaying Vladan Desnica's book 'Proljeća Ivana Galeba', she suddenly offered to give me the box with the powder for free, with the books. I didn’t know how to decline her offer, so I clumsily reached for the books and the box. At that moment, the box was turned over, and the powder sprinkled over our hands. Startled, she jerked her hand away as if burnt, and began wiping it off on her skirt. I felt embarrassment too, for she truly looked terrified.
- Don’t worry! I’m married, my prime years are long gone; I have a well-rounded life and there’s not the slightest chance to fall in love with someone at the flea market – I said ironically, trying to make her feel at ease. Yet, my ill-conceived humor had a hollow ring to it, while she, avoiding to look me in the eye, quickly collected her items and left.
At home, I rushed to tell my wife what just happened to me. She shred her shoulders and muttered – In the end, our fears eventually become real! I had no idea what she meant by that.
The first signs, however, that something weird was happening to me, began the next day. Leafing through Desnica’s book from the flea market, I kept finding highlighted quotes on death, dying, transformation and fairies. I had known before the book was about illness, a man’s introspection on life through the eyes of a bed-ridden patient in a hospital. Yet, I couldn’t understand that whenever I took the book, it fell open on the same pages with the same highlighted quotes, without fail. The book itself had no odor, except for the smell of mould and dust, however, my very hands began to smell oddly. No matter how hard I scrubbed them, the smell wouldn’t go away. I became obsessed by it and started to think that the flea market girl jinxed me in some way. Maybe she put a spell on me, some voodoo curse on my hands and the book she sold me.
After a couple of days, itching became unbearable. I couldn’t focus, before my eyes the colors were spilling into each other, and the skin on my hands was burning and itching like hell. I tried washing hands dozens of times, using different solutions, liquid soaps and detergents. No luck! I was beginning to have a crazy notion, to soak them in gasoline. I tried to chase this silly idea away, knowing a small step forward - striking a match and lighting them up – led to insanity.
I soon found out there was another side-effect to this: a crazy need to call people I knew. I desperately needed to phone her, the girl I even didn’t know the name or address. Then I wanted to call friends I didn’t hear in a long time, to talk to the relatives who decades ago stopped caring about me. My need to pick up the phone and dial any number, listen to the breathing of people on the other side of the line, to say ‘hello’ into the phone and listen to the echo of my own distorted voice….. All this became so obsessive.
Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. A day before yesterday, halfway through the counsel meeting I chaired, I suddenly stood up, took off my jacket and my shirt, startling everyone. Only after I took off the heavy golden wristwatch, a gift from the central bank’s governor for our successful collaboration, I felt relieved and free. Without uttering a word, I just turned around and left, leaving my colleagues in awe.
From that day on, I have not slept, eaten or gone to see my family. I’m wandering the streets, walking under the bridges, watching closely the faces of passersby. I hope to find that strange girl, who sold me the book and a story, giving me a little box of superstition and a pinch of madness. I want to look her in the eye and ask her, if she feels as strange as I do? Does she too have itching in the hands, where the black powder fell on that Sunday afternoon? I would ask her if she sold me a little chunk of paranoia, or just opened my eyes. Is she trying to make a devil out of me, a well-fitted little wheel in the Grand Scheme of things? A man with stone heart? Or, just a free man at last?
I’m sitting on a bench in the park. Across the street, from a nearby coffee shop, there’s music playing and I suddenly realize it’s the old Peter Green’s tune ' Black magic woman'.
She was staying in Zagreb as a forced laborer no companionship I thought it was strange for such a beauty delicate face high cheekbones and deep sad eyes like lakes she said her name was Bruna I tried to guess a German Polish perhaps no she was Norwegian from Stavanger I didn’t know where that was yet I was persistent Bruna that could be Italian then she admitted she was actually Brynhilda now I froze solid so much I learned from Nordic mythology to know that was the chief valkyra who brought death sent by the supreme god Odin true she killed warriors in battlefield and I am terrified of arms I even avoid war movies hundreds of thunders upon me Thor is my name and I am glad to meet you she said you’re mocking making fun of me my name my nation and history I said that was no history just fairytales she smiled enigmatically with the heat of Mediterranean summer on her lips and later I found out - between her thighs my Bruna is a hot-blooded animal she doesn’t kiss in cold or calculated manner Scandinavian style I thanked God hundreds of times for sending her to me she drowned me first in her deep eyes and then - like a drowned man – was saving me I was falling into abyss of Hell or was it Valhalla with five hundred forty doors and a wolf guarding hallways of dead heroes she had some kind of half-smile I knew from somewhere a gentle ironic smile of forgiveness sorrow or mocking who would know her hair was smelling of icebergs and fjords I was jesting and calling her names she didn’t like it at all hush don’t speak words always spoil everything she was so right everything was great so the heights and the depths all melted into one uninterrupted embrace of six days and seven nights if I put together all stolen hours at the hotel next to the bus station the very best were the moments when she would open the door and walk in the room would lit up she was wearing her aura so easily as she wasn’t aware of her radiance I was holding her in my arms too strongly too desperately so that she doesn’t run away with the first sunset as shadows were getting longer she would fall into silence check the time on her watch I hated it all because of the end that was looming over us yet I never suspected that my Brynhilda was here to get me with a smile of the Grim Reaper not close enough to funny TV characters at the time our staying together looked too short but a permanent thing with a promise of lasting now I know from other perspective from the other side of the grave that I had her only for a fleeting moment even though I’m not a Nordic hero although I have no blond hair she was my valkyra and this Valhalla is over-appreciated and overrated.
There was a boy - a lazy, yet sensitive Wall, with stars in his eyes...