San Sarajevo: Two infinities

Twilight over Sarajevo. I get in her car and throw a small backpack in the back seat. Short greetings “Heeeeej there you are! / Here I am, here I am” and “Let’s go/let’s go” is enough to leave another day behind. She drives, somewhere else, where no ego is burning in me and where she needs to discover another part of herself. Again, according to the now established regime, from the clear sky, we are rushing somewhere, where there is no room for fear, towards the new, unknown, which will change everything…

It has always been this way between us, when we are not next to one other, each of us lives their infinity of possibilities in which it seems as if we will never meet again, never think of the other or the other one’s name. But when we are together, it is the most natural and simplest distinction of life as such, intimate and harmonious without any primal lust. Simply bliss. And it all started three years ago…

*

It was mid-September, the year I first went to Maribor, and I’m not even sure how our meeting was arranged and why, of all the people in the city at the time, I was intrigued by Emina. I was writing one of my first columns, drinking the first thing that came to my mind at the moment when she appeared in the coffee shop. A green turban around her head, a yellow dress and azure blue eyes, against which the sea would be ashamed, was the first thing I noticed. As she sat down, she apologized for being late and then, without a shred of repulsion, set out to ask me questions that struck and impressed me strongly at the same time.

At that moment I was influenced by the poison of existence and living where I am, and the only thing I saw was the exit that was in front of me. Emina was much stronger, or as I thought at the time, she viewed the societal chaos in which we were born and raised, through the eyes of a romantic. While I saw salvation in the infinity of options across the borders of this country she saw the infinity of unexplored possibilities right here. Although it hurt and I felt accused of betraying patriotism, I continued talking to her thinking we would never meet again after that night.

The only thing we could agree on at the time was that it was the decisions that built us. My previous choices attempts to fight and survive in my country have brought me to the limit of my existence, while her life brought her to point where she still wants to fight, although neither she nor I am sure for what. As time went on, our conversation shifted into the territory of universal themes of existence. She mentioned that she was working on a thesis on the mathematical proof of one in infinity and of course I was intrigued by it. Sceptical and far from believing and spirituality, although even then I start to be interested in that area, I tell her that I can’t imagine infinity, although I don’t want to accept finality. For me, this adventure that life is, even at the moment of completion, I believe is the closest I can identify with infinity.

*

We stop at a gas station and she runs out. She doesn’t want me to sit in the blank and wait. And that moment of solitude suits me to check on my condition. For the most part, I don’t mind being uncombed, unpolished, or sweaty after a full day of field reporting, but not now and here in front of her. Everything seems ok, but I still take the deodorant out of my backpack and spray myself. I still can’t believe the impulsiveness that overwhelms me in her company. In front of others, I know that I am calm, careful and there is no chance that someone’s idea will fascinate me and offer me action. Yet there is something innocent and childish in being in front of her. I discovered that the second time we met…

*

Almost a year after the first meeting, we met again… again were the last days of my stay in the city, before leaving, this time to Klagenfurt. Although we chatted to each other on several occasions in the meantime, all that remained was that one day she and I would go to the cinema. As an “expert and determined critic”, I had to choose a film to watch and invite her, which did not happen. So she decided to meet me one unusually warm night in the ninth month. Of course, I did my “job” and made a selection of films in the cinema repertoire and offered her to choose what suits her best in character…

We met in front of the cinema, early enough to buy tickets and take a walk around the city and she had something else planned. She took a camera with her, the same one she used to make a series of works that I liked and because of which I contacted her again with messages. She had (and still has) simply the gift to capture the rawness of emotion in motion that amateur photographers generally don’t have. Her blue eyes knew how to sharpen and choose the most sincere and warmest in front of the lens in the infinity of existence and capture that moment in eternity.

As we walked around the city, she expressed a desire to photograph me… and my ego was flattered. We talked along the way, what happened in the meantime, where each of us sees ourselves through the year and although in essence, our plans were almost identical to the previous September, more gentleness and understanding was felt. I did not feel like a traitor in front of her, and it seemed to me that she lived and understood the beauty of Sarajevo that was reflecting in her eyes.

 She told me how to pose, though again she wanted not to sound authoritative. I was, incomprehensibly obedient, though I felt the need here and there as a boy to defy her. In the moments when she stood motionless and sharpened the frame in her thoughts, I saw another version of her, devoted, determined, sincere. I admit.

It scared me. What she looks at and what she sees… I was interested in what it was in her mind at that moment as I stood, pretending to chill, be determined while posing. Instead of a compliment, she told me that she mostly takes pictures of women only, which I certainly already knew from being familiar with her work to date.

As the photo session came to an end, our topics shifted elsewhere again. Philosophy, literature, art… where we are and where we are not, who better understands what and who does not. I knew that she has been hiding her strong competitive spirit from me for some reason but that night I tried and managed, at least for a moment, to press it out of her, to see that what I suspected was deep within her exists. I asked her how she clarifies monotheistic predeterminism and how she clarifies the problem of existence without free will, Kierkegaard 101. Unfortunately, my question was not or did not want to be answered… So we just went to the cinema and enjoyed the film.

*

As she drives us south, I see that she cares what I think of her. She says that on the radio, in case some trash starts playing, it’s not her fault, but a friend0s with whom she travelled to the sea a previous week. She tells me how they downloaded a lot of music for her, from Silvana to Nirvana and across cultural boundaries. I don’t think about it, I just enjoy her driving style, the road winding ahead of us at night, her voice and the melodies that are so far in the background that they are noticeable enough to comfortably fill potential moments of silence in the conversation.

I have the impression that She, who sits here and now, next to me is someone who has discovered that travelling is something important and beautiful in life… something that should not be missed, never, something that should last and happen, almost always. There is a new shade of happiness in her eyes.

I am convinced that if she stopped now if she had to be in one place, like a couple of years ago, static and tied to a small space, it would destroy her. The girl I once knew is no longer there, that Emina has started to turn her dreams into a new story of her life in the past year…

*

I remember our next meeting best. I remember the chilly morning that greeted me at the train station in the city where I was living at the time, the border guards, about an hour and a half later, who ask me only where should they put the stamp in my crowded passport, and arrival in September sunny Zagreb. She informed me that she was coming to visit her sister and that was more than a good reason for me to go there.

Without any concrete plan or arrangement, I got out at the station and set out to wander the city I often call home to my soul. The first stop of the tour was the Museum of Broken Relationships, where I rushed lustfully in hopes of finding the remnants of my past. But they weren’t there… Then I headed to the cinema Europa… where only memories remained. I delved deeper into my past with this city, on my first encounter with it, and remembered one wonderful, secluded bookstore.

I spent a good part of my morning there, going over each title carefully, looking for something, something I didn’t even know what it was. I used to be fascinated by the huge shelves of genre literature here but not now, those times passed almost a decade ago.

I was looking for something more sophisticated, which describes me but I am not in any way, something that is fresh and young and somewhat rebellious and yet so familiar and rooted in something I have already encountered. I wanted Murakami who is not Murakami, someone who is neither domestic nor far eastern nor Middle Eastern… Western but undiscovered author, European future grandmaster… In the endless books, I searched for something impossible and I found it. Switching between a series of unknown and unusual names of the Penguin Vintage edition, the book “My Cat Yugoslavia”, by Pajtim Statovci, caught my eye.

In the process of my search, a perfect morning passed which I decided to complete with a piece of cake at my favourite pastry shop in Ilica. There I discovered the message that she only has time in the evening and that she is still a good few hours before the meeting. Jarun was my next destination which, at that moment without the INmusic festival, seemed kind of desolate and sad to me… Still good enough for walking, getting lost in my thought, sunbathing, reading a freshly bought novel… I finally headed towards Hendrix’s bridge, ran into tram fourteenth and headed in the direction of New Zagreb where we were supposed to meet.

The reason I wanted so badly to see her and the reason I so unexpectedly packed up and crossed a nice distance and spent a nice chunk of my time was something I didn’t dare ask her that day. When she appeared in front of me at the tram station, there was no longer a veil around her head. Instead of a piece of cloth over her head, her long, golden curly hair ran down her shoulders. We sat in the nearest coffee shop, met her sister along the way, and this time the conversation started again in the direction of where we are and where we see ourselves in a year.

She seemed freer to me, but still nothing too usual. The fact that there was no scarf around her head did not open anything new in our relation. We didn’t shake hands or hug, it’s not that I felt the need for it, but I just noticed a difference in relation to other people who surround me daily and who are occasionally and overly physically close to me. The conversation was the one that was truly freer, she listened to my plans and ideas, successes and desires, and I was fascinated by the new city and the new job she was doing. It suited her, the girl I had known until then and the one I had met then. As always, we brought our meeting to an end with a mild philosophical discussion, which replaced the explanation of her change.

De Beauvoir and Sartre discussed together how man, each chooses for himself, and that choice is the only valid and valid action. Yet, with each choice we choose not only ourselves… but a whole new infinity, we choose a world, which is a part of us and which is not, which we could but will not be and which we never could or wanted. The infinity of possibilities is transformed into an infinity of new options in one act…

*

The road glides smoothly in front of us, and Emina’s voice introduces me to her past, her toxic connections, her conflict with herself, and her untangling of thoughts and hair under the veil of her deception. She tells me about her childhood in the countryside, in the fields of strawberries, which she watered with her little hands every morning and then picked up in a bucket the ones that had reached the ruddiest shade of red.

She mentions Cloud, her lamb whose fate she is not sure about after that one summer in the countryside… the story of her mother and lost father, a stubborn patriarchal grandfather and grandmother who is even more persistent and dangerous than him… And I listen carefully, discovering new dimensions of her beings, which I want to believe that many have not heard and knew… All this because of just one encounter before not so long ago, while the lives lived in the meantime has certainly passed at least a good part of an infinity of possibilities and accomplishments…

*

The month is July and peace and tranquillity break out of the hot Herzegovinian karst. The secrets of harmony and the meaning of existence were wrapped in the threads of the existence of the town in which I found myself in a pure game of fate. As Vanja shows me my accommodation in the old Bosnian house and as I take my first steps barefoot on the old carpets and place my little wardrobe in an emerald green beechwood saw, I know that something magnificent awaits me here in Dizdar-kasaba.

For the first time in who knows how long I feel grounded and in tune with everything around me. I have no desires or needs, only mild mental calls, to talk to those who sleep under the stone, to sit in the company of those who write and collect life stories…  In a clear mind without urge, my spirit tells me that I should call Emina tonight and right there. So I send her a message, „Emina, come from Šantićgrad to Dizdar-kasaba…“

She is coming. As impulsive as I had been the previous time around. As one dear writer calmly confesses the final lines of his life blues, on a stage, my eyes notice her appearance. I approach and notice in her eyes the same calm that reigns in me at that moment. This time I am the one who asks our fundamental question. Where you are and where you see yourself in a year.

Her answers are uncertain but sincere, she has taken the first step towards change, towards something new, and fear is normal. She chose some new infinity of possibilities again… but this time her infinity seems and sounds quite similar to mine. However, I carefully hide it, because I am afraid to surrender completely to the truth. Somewhere deep in my mind, voices echo that her attention, like any random attention from someone, is the only thing I need at the moment, and that’s exactly why I called her. I replace the demon of nature with the temporal Zeitgeist of the feelings, comforts of existence, and naturalness of our society.

The writer on stage is replaced by musicians, an electro-ethno-dance-sevdah band that decides to open the night with the song “Rain”. And while the strings and keys of their instruments move smoothly, the clear night sky begins to be overwhelmed by clouds. Drops of grace move down to the ground, comfortably, without haste. The drops are cold enough to soothe the heat, warm enough to keep people where they are.

Emina and I get up and head for the stage. Sounds and colours, people and shadows, entice us to take off the veil of the raid and indulge in dance. As I awkwardly try to move I admit to her that I never felt safe dancing, so I didn’t even try to. She comforts me by saying that she is not familiar with the concept of movement with music either. Yet somehow we merge with everything around us, we start to feel the atmosphere and take the first harmonious steps towards each other… and so on until the sounds from the stage reach… and then a cordial look at the starry sky and the promise that we will meet again…

And we meet without any harmony, order or rules… In a random Sarajevo park, on a morning picnic… In a flower shop while before her eyes I select and pair flowers that best suit her character while describing me, the author of the bouquet again… in a dark secluded coffee shop wherein peace we can sit and work on our projects so no one else interferes with us… on top of the hill from which we should throw ourselves on the opposite side… on the stone remains of the bridge that symbolizes Šantićgrad and elsewhere… because it has always been so between us…

*

The journey and conversation of the night with Emina continues, and the dark destiny of Albert Camus, a writer who lived life to the fullest, boldly and flawlessly making decision after decision, shaping and building his destiny, begins to circulate in my mind. So one night Camus decided to hop in a car with some of his favourite faces of the intellectual scene in France at the time and dare to travel to the south of the country. It was a journey from which he never returned. What the end of our ride brings tonight doesn’t matter because Emina and I, are two paradoxical infinities that exist opposite each other and the moments of our meetings, no matter how rare and random, I know are precious and sincerely chosen.