San Sarajevo: Boiler

A few weeks ago, on my way back from the city after a half-hearted and failed date, I walked through the alley between the City Hall and the Bazaar. In an alley that meant nothing special in my life, that night I noticed for the first time awkwardly written “graffiti” on one of the market stalls. The sign, which appeared in front of me that night, could have stood there for years without me noticing, because I may not have been destined to see it. Although that I’m sure, I hadn’t seen before that scribbling, the text in front of me sounded very familiar:

Dear Re,

i wish you a good

flight! 😀 + :3 <3

– i’ll fix the boiler <3

By the time you’ll arrive.

kisses Veli

At first, I was convinced that it was a piece of fiction, something taken from a book or a movie, written, deliberately clumsy in a public space and that’s it. Yet on the bus, that night, I could not remember how I knew it. It is not a work of Lana Bastašić, her boyfriend in „Rabbit“ is Michael… there is no theory that it is Dario Džamonja’s „Light and Darkness“, his nature is far from fixing the boiler because of some woman there… Not Remi but it could still be that this all is in my head, like that one song of hers says it…

I would like to say that when I returned to my apartment, I forgot the whole situation and that it was short-term late-night thinking on the way home. However, something from deep within did not give me peace, so Re and Veli became my new occupation in the following days. At one point I convinced myself that I saw their figures moving, dancing lightly, in a studio apartment, too small for one, let alone two people. In my mind I saw them in the kitchen, as in romantic movies, together making spaghetti bolognese „from scratch“. I had a clear picture of him drinking coffee on the balcony, and reading Dostoevsky, while she was smoking and looking at the market, where the blackness of the spray is now, which overwhelmed me and made me pursue this chase.

It was not clear to me where I got all this from and why in my memories the faces of these two are not clear. It has been almost seven days since my first encounter with the inscription, to which I returned at least three or four more times, like a detective, carefully trying to find any clue that would clarify this case for me. As I didn’t find anything at the “crime scene”, I started leafing through and re-reading excerpts from those books and magazines in which I thought I can find duo from “graffiti”. In vain. I found that I certainly hadn’t seen them in a movie, or a theatre because I’d remember by now, their faces wouldn’t be those blurry and fuzzy lines in my memory.

I also tried to search the lyrics of various songs but in the end, I realized that music is too wide and abstract an area to pursue the duo from the shadows of memories… And so on the tenth night of the investigation, mocking myself, I played Jinx “ What ya taking “. I was sure that was it, that I would never find out who was behind that quote and like in a clichéd Noir movie, I set out to do something else. While I was preparing dinner, fate decided to intertwine its fingers. After Yaya sang her song, a fresh, but old and nostalgic melodies reached me from the speakers, which finally evoked memories.

*

It was 2017, early summer, at the Corner Pub, which will close shortly thereafter, with the melodic Treblebass from Svadbas blaring from the speakers, the same song that evoked this memory, here and now, three years later. It was late, Aldin and Ena were already planning to call it a night and I was still up for some fun. I managed to buy a few minutes of their time by going to the toilet, after which I kind of had to come up with a new way to keep them. And just there in the aisle by the toilet, at one of the tables, I saw Renata and Vele. It was an unusual sight, to see two people I know from two completely different phases of my life sitting together. Re was one of the few chaotic dates in my life that took me nowhere but to bed and the inexplicable silence the next morning. Velić, on the other hand, was one of those prominent young surnames of the creative scene of our city, with whom I had the opportunity to work on a couple of occasions. I thought this was the guy who had the most potential to film something big, he was the one who in our circles was believed to surely succeed in life as soon as he raised some money for his projects. Long story short, Vele the King!

That night, the situation seemed different, he was dead drunk like a reptile, trying to explain something to her, she was calm, appropriate and elegant, visibly worried about how she would get away with it. In all of this, I don’t remember how I ended up at their table, how I said goodbye to the friends I came with, how long we sat there or what we talked about. I don’t remember the way we went to their studio apartment in the building that looked at that market between the City Hall and the Bazaar. What I remember is…

Re unlocks the apartment, while Vele lets go of me, barely conscious. He tries to behave charmingly and relaxed, to be a friend, a host, a creative genius in his home, although sleep and gravity are pressuring him down because he is under the influence of who knows what. Through a joke, Re pretends to dance with him and lowers him onto a dirty mattress, the only piece of furniture sprawled out in the middle of a room that is simultaneously a hallway shoemaker, living room, and bedroom.

I stand in the doorway and have a desire to quickly say goodbye to her and go my own way. I have no desire to intrude on their intimacy, to push myself into four walls that can barely fit two, let alone a third person. Renata invites me inside, not out of politeness, but out of pure sincerity and gratefulness. As she is slightly angry at me trying to excuse myself, she insists that I go in for coffee. I’m giving up. I accept.

 As she deftly moves like a cat between a pile of books, plates and random garbage on the floor, towards the kitchen, I stumble upon something every second. Through a whisper, I ask her if it’s okay to go out on the balcony for air, while I try to hide the slight disgust due to the smell of moisture that dominates the space. She removes the pot pasted with cheaply purchased spaghetti in ketchup from the stove and starts preparing us a coffee.

I sit on the balcony still in mild discomfort over that one night that Re and I never talked about. I notice a novel on the floor, pick it up and pretend to leaf through it with interest as she brings out her coffee. Then she lights a cigarette and while looking over the market stalls we start talking. Not about that one night of ours, but about my plans to leave the country, about how she has calmed down since she met Veli, how happy they are, how she is studying Russian literature now…

While she tells me that she doesn’t mind that small apartment, or the stench of Miljacka that exudes every night on the balcony, or the fact that the bathroom is right next to the kitchen, connected to a boiler that doesn’t work, I believe her. 

For her this all is so cute, for her and Veli to take a bath, they have to heat the water in one pot and fill the other with cold water. And then carry the pots to the bathroom where they pour each other out of the cups, first with a sweep of hot, then with a sweep of cold water. She is aware that all this is nothing but love for him, and it becomes clear to me that I have no worries that something will happen between us.

 We talk long into the night, we don’t mess with what happened, we look forward to what is and what is yet to come. At the farewell, she gives me a piece of paper with her and Veli’s home phone number on it, to see each other a few more times before I left Sarajevo. We never met again after that. 

The next morning I put the paper with the phone number in a petal with a bunch of other business cards to collect dust and he hopes that I will return to it one day…

*

It has been fourteen days since I met Veli’s outburst of love for Re at the market place box when I decided to call them. I also had a super stupid joke in my head that I had wanted to try for a while, so everything went fine for the idea of call. In the petal with a bunch of business cards, I easily found a piece of paper that she, for some reason, signed only with his full name and surname.

I dialled the number. The phone rang for a long time, with no answer. I was ready to stop and admit to myself that this story was not destined to end when the suddenly shy “Hello” was heard. Before I could identify the voice, I quickly uttered my reckless style:

Selam, selam, this is handyman Ibro. Um, I would like to come, to check that water boiler tomorrow, that needs fixing if it is ok, hehe?

On the other end of the line, a girl, with a younger, insecure voice, not like the one Re had answered me confusedly: Handyman Ibro, I beg you a pardon but our boiler works great. Selam and goodbye … and then the call ended.