San Sarajevo: The Stones

My Sarajevo is becoming more and more empty day by day. I notice this most in the late evening hours as I walk aimlessly, indefinitely. Once upon a time, at least for dangling, one could always find someone. As the steps lead me across Alipašino Polje towards Dobrinja, Ajdin, who left this city not so long ago, passes by my thoughts. I walk past his building and the bench where we were hanging around, mostly, in the dead of night, not because we had nowhere to go, it just suited us to be there. Then, near the coffee shop where we’ve been around for the last few years, while he’s been working there, and then I change direction, I walked along the river to the park where we met in the early fall six years ago. Slides, swings, seesaws … everything is the same, only, now in front of me here and now two white stones evoke restlessness and memories.

*

It was September 2014, in Dobrinja in the park in front of the office of the political party Democratic Front, we were fattening Fatima, Amar, Adnan, and some other friends, waiting for 20:00 to go to the office for a youth meeting. While Amila and I were flirting and kissing, doing our business khm, my party colleague Neira came and brought a newcomer with her.
From my mahala, my street, just a few entrances down, and yet we neither knew each other nor have ever seen each other, as far as we know it. Who knows, maybe we’ve met a million times before, passed by one another, without noticing the other one. Maybe it was here in Dobrinja in the park near that we played together as children. We didn’t know and had no idea, how much we will mean and shape each other in the years ahead.

At first sight, there was nothing special about Ajdin himself. A boy of eighteen / nineteen, that had a bit longer black hair, dude like everyone else. Until the first syllable, he utters expressed something different. His voice had a gentleness in it, but also a rapture. His movements, only in combination with that voice, were suddenly revealed as much more feminine than a man in Bosnian society and the current time would allow. To me then, as probably to my party comrades, one thing passes through my mind. Fag. Not a homosexual, because my mental capacity, and the mental capacity of the society in which I was, was not very sensitive to that linguistic correctness and sophistication. At that moment, that was not so much problematic, as problematic as the very phenomenon that even here young, intellectual, left, liberal politically aware comrades separated and distanced themselves, so obviously on first sight, physically and behaviorally, from something that is… well Ajdin’s unconscious manifestation of sexuality.

As far as memory serves me, I honestly and flawlessly couldn’t care less about it, because it just wasn’t my concern, what exactly lies behind Ajdin’s voice and movement. What I saw there and then is a guy who tells us about education in Austria, theatre plays he starred in and how he would one day be a great director… Just first to study that comparative literature … for ‘safety’ to please his mother and father, because according to them: “Comparative literature brings the security of employment, even as a teacher, at school where his uncle is headmaster, and those arts and so on are nice things to complete the time”. Yet he young and naive lied to himself that it is for his good and that he will learn how to write characters for his films through that study. In short, that basic acquaintance before the meeting of the political party youth was enough for us to get along. That night we went back to Alipašino together, and for the first time until late at night we talked and hanged around the bench in front of his building.

The next day we went for coffee for the first time, and within a month we met our best friends Ena and Mervana with each other at Faculty. We left the political party, we replaced it with a partying in art-house cinema Kriterion, because only there could Aydin be who he truly is. We didn’t talk much about boys and girls, by then I had already broken up with Amila, and was chasing another, new girl, and was free to do whatever I wanted in public with her, while Ajdin, shy though we all knew him well, kept his boys for himself… Then it meant nothing to me… That is, I did not notice this, or I unconsciously suppressed it. At the end of the day, Ajdin was simply him, so much so, that there was never a need for him to „out“ himself for any of us.

*

It is August 2018, Ajdin and I are in the park on Dobrinja again. This time surrounded by a bunch of dear people and filming equipment. His friends from the comparative literature, Nino and Ajla are behind the sound rod and the camera, Sayra and Emma are “producing the set”, they were making sure everything is in place, they were checking the make-up on the young actor Eldin, they scatter my hair and they put a scarf on Merjem, they joke around Sale because he looks like a classic Slav drug smuggler.

Everything looks harmonious and serious, but at its core, we are a bunch of friends and friends of the friends gathered to film something. Everyone from home brought what equipment they had, Ajdin and I coughed up 20 Bosnian marks each to feed/get drunk the team on the set and to finally film that joke from the script we were throwing around, like a hot potato for a while.

The idea was very simple, start in front of the building on one side of the street, go through the park, finish in front of the building on the opposite side. At that time, in front of the camera, four characters need to pass in one continuous frame. Each of them has some contact and relationship with two others, and each of them judges one and is judged by another character. Theatrical, on the edge of a farce, a real little charade that, Ajdin and I thought, represents the core of the society in which we find ourselves.

Nino and Ajla are in their positions. Sound, ready. Camera, ready. The action begins. Merjem and I are in front of the camera, we kiss, for the purposes of the film, for the first time, but we are doing well. We utter our lines of dialogue, she leaves the frame and I move towards the seesaw where Eldin is waiting for me. As I approach him, he trembles, I say my dialogue and he pauses too much out of fear, and then mechanically responds to me. „Cut. Not good. Let’s go again“ – Ajdin shouts and I go back in front of the building to start kissing Merjem again.

Eight attempts later, after Merjem’s and my kisses went from fun to lustful and then from lustful to lame, Ajdin decided that we will need to take several shots instead of one continuous, but will make invisible transitions between them. He didn’t want to waste time because Eldin was still nervous in front of the camera. Then we took a break, in which we all lined up on nearby benches and ate our sandwiches.

Everyone except Ajdin and Eldin that were now sitting on the seesaw. A directorial acting consultation, I think, though it gets a little funny to me as there is some touching, small and subtle, between the two of them. And then, just a few minutes later, they officially kiss each other gently, after which Eldin is finally relaxed, and we can continue filming.

*

July 21, 2020, 19:26
So who could we call at my place tomorrow?
I do not know. I don’t know if I’ll come at all…
AAAA what, what’s the matter?
Well, little of a situation has happened. I’ll write to you later…
I hope you’re ok … ❤ ️
<seen>

I leave the apartment and go directly to Ajdin’s entrance. I climb to the seventh floor, ring the bell. No answer. It goes through my mind how stupid that idea was, and maybe he’s not there at all, so I’m going to alarm and excite his mom or brother for nothing now. Still, again, I ring desperately and he unlocks the door. I burst in without a word and see… that his face is swollen, in shock. On his forehead, cracks, a wound that was still bleeding, and on his hand’s bruises that had just started to appear.

I’m silent. And I’m in shock with him. I don’t know what to ask or say. It is clear to me that what he had been afraid of for six years has happened. What happened was the only reason he felt safe sitting in Kriterion and a couple of other coffee shops, and the reason he kept his guys to himself and never openly outed himself. I approach him and hug him carefully. So we stay in silence, tears and sobs for a while.

Then, he makes us tea and we sit opposite each other at the kitchen table. The first words he utters are “Now I’m officially glad I’m going out to study film and that I won’t have to be here anymore…”. I look at him, keep quiet, give him time to open up on his own and tell m what happened. A little, because I feel that if I said anything, he would burst into a million pieces in front of me, a little because I’m afraid to show him how much it hurts me to see him in such a state.

After a few sips of tea, he finally starts telling me what happened. He, Eldin, Nino and Ajla were out, shooting a short video for the upcoming LGBT campaign. The concept was very simple, running through a frame with an LGBT flag, somewhere outdoors. Simply put, if a sufficient number of people across BiH and the region make one such short, 5-10 second video, a chain, a virtual, video parade, could be made in the editing, in some insanely sweet way.

Eldin and he decided to film themselves running together, holding hands, carrying flags on their backs, like a superhero cloak. Nino and Ajla were there with a camera and other equipment needed for one such recording. Why in a park in Dobrinja in broad daylight, because it was simply the place where Ajdin and Eldin kissed for the first time, that night, two years ago, after we were working on a film, which we never edited in the end.

Only, unlike that recording, this thing ended horribly. Aydin brings a laptop and plays me a recording. Sound, ready. Camera, ready. The action … lasts only two or three seconds, before the rain of stones starts pouring down the frame and showering the two guys in the frame. From the background, somebody shouting „ kill fagots“ can be heard in moments as the camera flies in all directions because Nino, Ajla, Ajdin and Eldin are on the run. Cut.

Another shot. The foursome is in front of Ajdin’s building, Ajla behind the camera, everyone is visibly out of breath, Eldin swears in tears and curses the seed and the tribe and the world, he angrily shouts at Ajdin. „Fagot, fagot. You’re a fagot! Your seed will be swept away. You deserve every stone that hit you and you deserve another thousand and one. My dick hurts for you sore. Did you hear me? I don’t give a S H I T about you. You and everyone like you should die in pain. What the devil persuaded me to do this. Dear God, forgive everything to me, I made a mistake and now I can finally see the right path … Eldin leaves the bench and heads towards Fahd’s mosque. Aydin is still sitting petrified. He doesn’t move and doesn’t answer Nina and Ajla’s calls. Cut.

Ajdin and I are sitting, drinking tea and crying. I am feeling bad in my stomach for every moment he saw me kissing and holding hands with girls freely and openly. He is devoured by the knowledge that he should stay in this city for another month.

*

Slides, swings, seesaws … children playing, young people hanging out and having fun on the benches. Today everything is the same, as every time I was in this park on Dobrinja. Just like the day I met Ajdin, the day we shot our first movie together, and probably the same as the night my best friend had the accident. The only difference, in front of me here and now stand two white stones. One fell from my shoulders the moment Aydin left the country to make his dreams come true, the other from his heart because he can finally love freely.