Tražeći sebe u volonterskom radu, prije skoro punih petnaest godina, zatekoh se u zapisivanju i obradi priča žena iz Sigurne ženske kuće u Podgorici. Ideja je bila da će priče jednoga dana biti objavljene u zbirci, svojevrsnom udžbeniku o krugu i primjerima porodičnog nasilja.
Priče ovih žena razarajuće su, a ja sam htjela literaturu. Literatura postavlja granicu: tik do razaranja. Pređeš li crtu, postaješ crna hronika. Piši istinu! – kažu svi – ali ugradi kočnicu.
Iz te kombinacije istina + kočnica nastala je moja priča ‘Rozo srce’. U toj se priči mlada junakinja, Dragica-Caca, freško udata i malo trudna, preispituje gdje je napravila grešku pa se odnos između muža i nje naglo promijenio. Zašto se ona osjeća loše, a voli ga i dalje, nosi njegovo dijete, zašto se jednostavno ne opusti i ne uživa, ne mora ni na posao da ide, niti da trpi okrutne šefove ili dosadne kolege? U jednom Cacinom poslijepodnevu, otkrivamo koliko je usamljena, tužna, preplašena, iznurena stalnim stanjem pripravnosti dok čeka muža da se vrati kući – a nikada se ne zna kakav će doći. A muž, kada dođe, prvo smanji ton na radiju, da prekine trenutak uživanja i radosti svoje žene u kojem on nije učestvovao, zatim je ispituje šta je korisno uradila u njegovom odsustvu, podsmijeva se njenom životu koji je upravo on prekrojio po svojoj mjeri. Podsjeti je na to da joj je on sve kupio, i tu kuhinju u kojoj stoji tako zbunjena i tupava, i kuhinjske aparate, sve aparate u stanu, pa i stan, zvučnike i muzički stub, telefon čiji račun on plaća, jer neko mora platiti njena bespotrebna čavrljanja sa sestrama i majkom, a ona, umjesto da ga dočeka kako treba, sluša glupe pjesme na radiju i pravi još gluplju rozu tortu koju on ne podnosi.
Instinktivno, tu sam negdje došla do crte i nisam je prešla – samu sam sebe uspjela napuniti srdžbom ali i strahom od muškog protagoniste. To mi je bilo dovoljno. Priča se, po mom mišljenju, završila baš kako i gdje treba: vrata ormara otškrinuta su, izvirio je kostur koji junakinju Cacu plaši i iznuruje.
‘Paa, dobra ti je priča,’ rekla je jedna od voditeljica Sigurne ženske kuće. Prilično mlaka reakcija s njene strane.
‘Nisi baš oduševljena,’ progovori uvrijeđena autorka iz mene.
‘Ma,’ voditeljica SŽK-a odučila se za iskrenost. ‘Većina žena neće ti tu priču shvatiti kao nasilje dok ne dodaš bar dva-tri šamaranja. Jer ovako, što je bilo? Ništa. Muž joj je došao s posla, smanjio radio i počeo da joj se sprda i prigovara. Na to su ti sve one davno oguglale.’
A ja baš mislila da su šamari lakši: konkretni su.
Ne sjećam se jesam li u drugoj verziji priče dodala šamaranje. Ako jesam, bilo je to protiv moje prirode koju najviše boli povrijeđivanje duha.
Ta moja Caca, lik iz priče, tek je započinjala krug oduzimanja prava na privatni prostor. Svašta joj se u međuvremenu moglo dogoditi. Ali hajde da je posjetim nakon petnaest godina. Vidim je: otišla je iz onog stana s kuhinjskim aparatima. Napokon slobodna, misli Caca. Niko ne voli žrtve, niti njihove umorne misli iz umornih mozgova, programiranih na samo jednu stvar: preživljavanje. Napokon će odmoriti od 24-časovne nametnute joj uloge žrtve. Otišla je bilo gdje, u podrum neki, s pogledom na cipele prolaznika. Gotovo je.
Ipak nije. Jer važno je i od koga je otišla. Onaj koji nije volio da ona uživa u pjesmi s radija dok ga nije bilo doma, sada je iz tog doma ne bi baš lako pustio da ode. Cacin će se mozak resetovati, da, ali na novu vrstu traume: proganjanje.
Opet nema šamaranja, nema vidljivih modrica, samo joj je taj njen muž, lik iz moje priče, ali kojem sam zaboravila ime, stalno na ramenima, kud god da mrdne osjeća mu težinu, svuda ga nosi sa sobom.
Od kada otvori oči, on je opet kontroliše time što kontroliše njen strah, ostale njene emocije, njeno vrijeme. Nikada neće shvatiti da je kontrola i ubila njenu ljubav, ugušila je. Ne može promijeniti broj telefona, dijete je treba. Može njega blokirati, ali evo ga, opet iskače s ekrana, poput stravičnog pajaca iz kutije, pod nepoznatim brojem.
Caca je ilegalno kupila suzavac i nosi ga u torbi. Nikome to ne povjerava jer nema povjerenja ni u koga, a prijateljice i sestre odavno štedi, i njih i majku, sama je otrpjela sve, a i dijete je poštedjela, ali nije svoju štitnu mogla zaštititi, ni srce, ni želudac. Od kada je napokon pokazala hrabrost, živi u podrumu i u torbi nosi suzavac, zbog čega može biti uhapšena, prebačena iz podruma u zatvor. Naravno da on ima pare i veze. A ona je opet žrtva. Žrtve niko ne voli, dosadne su im priče, aoo, pobjegla od muža u podrum i sad tamo trune, bolesna, nikakva, a on je kao progoni, ne može bez nje, a ovamo šeta stašne ribe! Mora da Caca voli tu ulogu žrtve, što se ne trgne, brate mili, ja to ne razumijem, žene danas imaju više prava nego muškarci, što mene niko ne proba da progoni, da vidi kako bi završio, kako bi ga neko prvo sačekao iza nekog ćoška, a onda u zatvor s njim, žene su danas stigle i do predsjednica država, a ne da se plaše do prodavnice da odu.
Caci takve reakcije ne pomažu, još je više srozavaju, zašto je baš ona morala tako nisko pasti, a ne pomažu ni priče o ženama koje su na čelu država, korporacija ili NATO pregovora, jer te žene ništa za nju neće uraditi. Caci trenutno najviše pomaže ilegalni suzavac u torbi, a kad bi mogla još i šoker nabaviti, muškim rodom protiv muškog roda, i to pod stare dane, a dok je bila djevojka ničega se nije plašila, ni sama kroz park da hoda noću, u mini suknji.
Želim ovu novu Cacinu priču završiti hepiendom, pa ću joj se ja lično pojaviti u životu, i reći joj da ću svjedočiti, da ću ga snimiti ili slikati dok prijeti, pa ćemo zajedno s tim dokazima na sud. Ali sud neće to pogledati, ako jednom popusti, navalilo bi se na sud previše takvih prijava praćenja i proganjanja, ima sud važnijih parnica, neke žene jednostavno nemaju sreće ili su ovce. Bivši će dobiti ukor, možda neku novčanu kaznu, ali to njemu nije problem, a Caca će dobiti utjehu ‘da će ga to proći’, ali sada već prelazim crtu literature, barem crtu za kratku priču, i tonem u kraći roman.
I žene proganjaju. Po nekim statističkim podacima, doduše iz istraživanja napravljenih u Velikoj Britaniji, čak 40% žrtava proganjanja u poslednje vrijeme su muškarci. Statistika ipak i tješi muškarce-žrtve da neće biti ubijeni. Žene-progonitelji, po istom istraživanju, služe se ucjenama preko zajedničke djece ili uništavanjem materijalnih dobara, ali rijetko prijete najgorim, što je prijetnja koja se od muških progonitelja najčešće čuje: kad-tad, kad-tad. Pa ti čekaj.
Čekaj šamaranje, to je konkretno.
A one-liner from the train on Piccadilly-line: ‘Defeat your fears and you will defeat your enemies.’
My fear of the underground was finally defeated. I was a Londoner. I was a Western Samurai.
But it took several years of my London life before I went under ground. Even above ground I kept getting lost, ending up at the same place from which I wanted to depart. London felt like a conspiracy: the silent, slow river’s unusual twists; the sameness of the sky with no mountains to the north; the crescents, the mews, the cul-de-sacs; the streets with interrupted names and door numbers.
During our first year in London, my family lived in Knightsbridge. Knightsbridge was big enough for me then, and I used some buses, sometimes, to Chelsea or Kensington, paying fares in cash because even the Oyster card eluded me.
I was a body among other just-bodies. Starting a new life in London, as a parent, requires a lot of physicality. It was all about the endurance of my legs, my shoulders and arms. My new life felt like a triathlon practice. At night, my muscles hurt; I had cramps in my calves. I couldn’t stretch properly in bed, because I shared it with both of my children. I needed regular massage, like an athlete, or a ballerina. I was neither; I was only a mother, a nobody, really, yet I was everybody and everything to my children, which was taxing, but left no time for sadness, for thoughts, except for the most basic thoughts of acquiring new facts and tools for survival.
We were living in a service apartment high above the polluted, noisy Sloane Street. Un-rooted we hung in the garage-smelling air pierced by shouts in languages we couldn’t understand, above boutiques and double-deckers stuck in traffic.
‘How do I meet people in London?’ I wondered, switching on the TV, regularly, first thing in the morning. ‘How do I meet the kind of people I want to become friends with?’
According to the morning TV, the government here always issued warnings. Black Ice, for example. Black Ice!!! – in a red triangle, in black letters across the screen, followed by black exclamation marks, yes, plural, yes three of them. I thought that Black Ice was a politically correct, 21st century’s name for Black Death. It was just slippery pavements.
‘Yellow warning for rain!’
‘No, actually, We Are In Drought!’
‘Meningitis C! In London’s parks’ playgrounds!’
But after a true horror, like the attacks of July 7th, everyone was supposed to carry on as normal.
We came to London in 2005 because of my husband’s job. ‘Only one year,’ he said. ‘Maybe a year and a half, possibly two.’
I was still breastfeeding my daughter. My son had just turned 7. Back home he’d only be starting school, but here he was placed in year 3. He didn’t speak any English and had no concept of math except addition and some subtraction, so after his first day of school he told me that, in London, five-times-two wasn’t seven, as I’d taught him, but ten, according to his math teacher. ‘Oh, boy,’ I thought, ‘it’s good we’ll be here only for a year.’
‘Don’t worry about maths,’ I told him. ‘You just learn some English, baby.’
But we’re still here, and it’s 2014. This kind of return-self-delusion probably happens to most people who come to London for only a year, possibly two. How can this city stand it? Because everyone has to obey its rules. As simple as that. The realisation that I only had to obey the rules and nobody would violate my rights kept me going; it made up for the initial lack of friends and babysitters.
I loved the pedestrian crossings where a pedestrian really was the king; I loved the queuing. I loved young English boys with their easily blushing cheeks, broad rowing-team shoulders, and hair neatly combed and parted from left to right. They always let me go first, made way for me, and silently got up from seats in public places, for me.
Apparently, they also liked adventure. And many times, their young lives were ended prematurely because of this love for adventure. Same with young English girls. They were too fearless, foolishly un-paranoid (and not properly dressed for this climate). It seemed that even motherhood couldn’t make them paranoid. I didn’t understand them. They had everything – why risk it? But that was the point.
I, who had come from a country torn apart by the late 20th century civil war and genocide, I hated adventure. Before that war, our childhoods were basking in the warmth of community, true – we were the product of Mediterranean spirit and the hands-on Mother-state – but there was always the sniff of cruelty in the air. Why, even the snowballs that were thrown at us, girls, used to have stones or glass hidden in them. Fortunately, it rarely snowed in my hometown. But, like with animals: everything unusual made our young males go wild. So now, change gives me migraine. I love routine.
I was surprised to find out that people considered me brave for diving into a life where, at first, everything I’d achieved thus far would be erased; and then I’d have to create again, from scratch, in another country, with small children and a madly unpredictable-but-genius husband.
Fragola was my first London friend. Her name means ‘strawberry’ in Italian. She is not of Italian origin. She is a half-Oriental-half-Welsh woman, i.e. a proper Londoner. She is also one of the popular mothers in my daughter’s school.
Fragola used to write for Tatler. She quit that job when she had her boys. She started recycling everything and turning it into collage-furniture: tables, shelves and chairs that told stories, literally told stories, because they were made of old Tatler pages. Fragola is modest about it. ‘Just my hobby,’ she says and spreads her soft, un-lipsticked mouth into a wholesome smile, full of large, white teeth, beautifully too big for her small, pretty head. Her boyish hips are loosely dressed in a short, denim skirt, and her toned legs are stuffed into a pair of tiny cowboy boots. Among other things, she’s also a Yogi. Next to her, I look like a Soviet ex-basketball player.
When I arrived in London, before the crisis, the people of this town seemed to me either already rich or well on the way of becoming it. School-mothers were special species: self-regarding creatures that ‘worked full-time on certain days’ and managed their investments by typing fast on their phones while chatting quietly among themselves, the tough Anglo-Saxon women, with mouths that appeared shut when they spoke, while I shouted and roared at my children not to run towards street curbs or a vehicle with a driver with clogged arteries – therefore destined for a stroke, or a massive heart attack – would jump on the pavement and kill them.
There’s no middle ground, you see, in the country where I grew up; you are either alive or dead from any small disturbance in the atmosphere. There’s routine and there’s change, aka – tragedy.
On account of my roars, but also because of my children’s names, the school-mothers decided I was Italian. They approached me in elegant, silent steps. ‘Are you Italian?’ they asked.
‘No, I come from Montenegro,’ I replied.
‘Oh,’ they said, covering their mouth in astonishment. ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’
‘Why are you sorry?’ I asked.
‘Well,’ their lips quivered, ‘that was stupid, wasn’t it? But, thank you.’
‘Why are you thanking me?’
They never answered that.
Sometimes, the morning after this small talk, they would greet me with sweetness, and they’d even ask some rather complicated questions for 8:30 a.m.
‘Yours is a very small country, right? So what is the percentage of immigrants there? Any endemic hunting spots? Challenging kinds of birds? Sustainable golf courses?’
Or was it sustainable birds and challenging golf courses? I couldn’t tell. Hip words buzzed around my head, and I was hypnotised into believing these women loved me.
So I would arrive for the pick-up, armed with additional info, wearing a wide smile on my face. My plan was to talk even more, and more deeply, with my new friends.
In the meantime, something had been erected there, at the school gates; something almost intangible, like a soundproof cellophane wall. I felt it. Through that wall I could see the Anglo-Saxon mothers typing fast on their Blackberries, raising their busy eyes towards me from time to time, towards my smile. I’d wave and they would look right through me; they would, again, not notice me – the loud woman of not-even-Italian origin.
‘What’s wrong with these English women?’ I asked Lada, the Estonian (Old Estonian, she says of herself) maintenance manager (‘kleener’, she says) in the building where I live. Lada takes frequent smoking-breaks in front of the building, so she’s the person I see most during a day.
‘What is their game? In the morning they love me, they’re all over me, and in the afternoon they don’t know me, they don’t see me. What is it?’
‘Dey drink,’ Lada answered, jerking back her head, thrusting her thumb into her mouth. ‘Dey drink during day,’ she added. ‘You know that English people also go locally crayse.’
Locally crazy? Did she mean that the locals everywhere had the right to behave as they wanted, show a little craziness, while we, who were foreign here, were actually not encouraged to exercise that right; we had to appear super-sane, truly stiffen that upper lip because we had to prove something, to . . . integrate?
But once I’d been here for several years – local people didn’t seem that rich and busy anymore. And we, the exotic mothers, we were still around. Hm. Strong was the material we were made of, as Lada would say. Other women smiled at us.
Sometimes, at the school gate, I caught myself being too busy to smile back. At least I corrected it, as soon as possible, and, again, with too much loud laughter and talk. That didn’t matter anymore. I didn’t have to be Italian anymore.
Fragola approached me first. She gave me compliments, which I only realised later, because I was surprised that she not only approached me, but also invited me to a yoga class she volunteered to teach once a month, once a fortnight, whenever she felt like it, really. Another hobby, she said. ‘Would you like to come with me?’ she asked. ‘As a friend of course.’
I said yes, I’d go with her. I said YES? Why?
Prior to that, only once in my lifetime had I done yoga, unsuccessfully, in the Balkans, a one-on-one with an ex-warrior from my region, who saw combat material in me and made me do push-ups and sit-ups for one hour, while charging a private yoga session.
Fragola drove us to her yoga class in her very small electric car. She didn’t turn the heating on, in order to save the car battery. I looked too huge just sitting next to Fragola, but that hugeness couldn’t keep me warm, so I kept my puffed-up jacket on. I was an unadjusted, caged mutant that breathed noisily and made fog on the windshield. Some pedestrians overtook us.
‘So you had some yoga lessons before, you said?’
‘Only once,’ I didn’t mention the Balkans, sit-ups, PTSD-ing -ex-warriors.
‘Doesn’t matter. Follow your own rhythm today. My group is advanced level.’
She taught her class in one of the rooms of a Methodist Church. Her students threw themselves at Fragola when we walked in. She blushed. It was a strange group of people. Their outfits were washed-out, their hair unwashed, legs-hair unshaven (there was a completely hairless man, though), toenails uncut and as hard and ochre-coloured as the skin of their soles. There was a proper granny in size zero cycling shorts, with a glittery piercing in her bellybutton.
‘If this is advanced level,’ I thought, ‘I’m going to shine here.’
I was the only one wearing socks and trainers. Fragola asked me to take them off, to do the class barefoot. I left the socks on. It was cold in there.
Everyone rolled out their yoga mats. They lay down on them, closed their eyes and, like, fell asleep. I was freezing, my intestines were freezing, why was there air-conditioning in a church, why was it switched on, why? The granny was not cold; her legs were spread apart and she was visibly breathing deeply from her stomach; I could see her piercing lift and fall.
‘Well,’ I thought. ‘This yoga class is a farce. Maybe those sit-ups were better after all.’
At that moment, Fragola started giving instructions:
‘Put your palms together in a small prayer (how small is a small prayer?), put the prayer on your heart, lift it to your third eye, give your third eye to the Sun, kiss it, bring the kiss back to your heart, plant it into the ground, plant the heels into the ground, plant the palms deep into our mother-earth, stretch your chi, give it to the sky, breath in your aura, greet the sky with your left elbow and, your shoulder blades connected, focus on your third eye, the more advanced ones should curl their solar centres, others – curl into foetus pose, leave all hurt outside, spread into the cobra, fire breaths for thirty seconds, cobra to crow, lift the feet and stay, crow to frog, twenty-six fluctuations of lymph, frog into left-bent archer, archer to warrior two – ’
And to the other side, even faster, the rhythm ever-accelerating, until everything became one word, one body, one love.
The granny kept her eyes closed, she swirled her solar belly, or the solar centre, she was truly advanced; the hairless man was grinning in Kundalini experience, his feet up, 60 degrees from the floor, his toes held firmly by his fingers, mighty toenails swish-swooshing through the cool air.
I was sweating like a Balkan horse. I couldn’t find my own rhythm to follow, although I was trying, I was trying hard, until I felt a long-forgotten muscle under some rib jump then tighten, and a previously un-noticed nerve next to right hucklebone tremble. In fear, I lied on my back and through the church’s glass roof I saw the blue skies and sparrow-like clouds. Finally, it was a bright, lovely day outside, but I was spending it on the dirty floor. And my daughter was spending it at home with a baby-sitter I didn’t really know. The cramped muscle pushed a rib to poke me straight into heart.
‘Fragola’, I whispered, ‘I have to get out of here.’
‘Wait,’ Fragola said. ‘Don’t get up before I stretch you. You must never stop abruptly. Shame you’ll miss the meditation.’
She stretched me right there, in the Methodist Church. I was a lying crucifix. Hallelujah.
‘You’re a good person,’ she said. ‘Your heart is in the right place. Have a cup of tea in the cafe next door. I’ll see you after class.’
In the cafe, my under-rib cramp untangled, causing my heart to grow. Relax, woman.
‘I like crisis,’ I was thinking over my cup of tea. ‘I like all kinds of crisis: identity, emotional, physical; I even like economic crises. They teach us things. Thinking like a true Yogi already. My third eye has definitely been activated.’
Fragola, my new-best-friend, was waving at me from behind the cafe’s windows. I waved back. I was trying to figure out what my specialty was, so I could show it to Fragola on our next friendship-date. After all, her perseverance in befriending a foreigner was a cool rebellion of sorts against the deeply seeded non-love of Easter European immigrant mothers with blond hair and dark roots, and with children in private schools. She wanted to give me a chance. I could embrace that.
VIVIENNE WESTWOOD: Behind the Curtains
I needed to work, at least part-time. If I started to work, I’d be forced to find a baby-sitter; I’d be forced to start trusting the foreigners. Surely I should go out there, into the world of grown-ups, and land me a job. A regularly paid Job! A Job described by terminology that I didn’t understand, because by then, for me, it had become a language in itself, and I didn’t speak it. I felt what it must feel like to be dyslexic while I was reading the ‘you should be able to’ job descriptions.
(‘You will have a keen interest in the output reflected in the site as well as experience in managing a production team using InDesign InCopy and web tools for editing and layout are also key.’)
So I started writing from and about London, for Montenegrin and Croatian newspapers. No real pay there, but at least a chance to grow; and – the Montenegrin editor told me to write whatever I felt like; the Croatian one wanted some interviews.
I had a brilliant idea to interview Vivienne Westwood. I thought it would take less than a minute to persuade her. I only needed to ask.
She’s my neighbour. For years now, I’ve been living in Battersea opposite her creative studio and head office. I often meet her. More often I watch her work in her stylish studio. She has built a three-story building for her head office. On the roof of that building she’s built a large, open-plan space where she works until late at night. During weekends and during holidays, too. It’s inspiring. The light in her London studio, her orange hair and her pale face that I can see through the studio’s large windows have replaced the strong sun of my younger years – the sun that used to pound into my eyes from a south-facing balcony, long ago, in the Mediterranean.
I thought: here was the famous woman who could show that after all, after the success, money and power, there was nothing more beautiful than to selflessly yet selfishly dedicate herself to her mission. Your partners and children will all eventually turn to their own missions, or passions, and it should be so, that circle should not be closed, but expanded.
Vivienne arrives at the studio on her bike, which is clearly her old comrade. She lives by her word: always advising us to use things till they fall apart on us. She teaches young people to not be slaves to fashion and shopping. “Save money”, she says, “When you have saved enough to afford a really good quality piece of clothing, you can buy it and wear it until it falls to pieces. And the closer it comes to decay, the better it looks on you.”
Once, I was with my children, buying meat in the neighbourhood. We saw Viv in this French bistro-shop on our street. She was wearing a knee-length flowing skirt and biker boots. Between her skirt and her boots, she had drawn fishnet stockings in black marker on her bare legs.
“Mama!” my daughter exclaimed enthusiastically.
I gave her a sign, a “mother’s eye-roll”, to stop there. She stopped and forgot about it.
“So, why did that lady draw stockings on her legs?” my son asked, much later. He’s the kind of child who sees everything but waits for a good moment to make a comment.
I said that she was a famous fashion designer; that she probably thought a pair of fishnet stockings would bring out the best in that morning’s outfit; she looked for them, couldn’t find them, so she drew them with a black marker on her legs.
“What a legend,” my son said.
“Yes, she is,” I said.
As I once believed that Marlon Brando would certainly agree to come to a provincial, amateur theatre in my hometown (Titograd, as it was known back then), and play the part of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman – no charge, of course, because Brando loved exotic countries – so I was convinced that Vivienne would agree to an interview with me in a minute; or when I finally decided to walk into her head office and ask for it.
My mother was visiting. She wanted me to go and interview Vivienne ASAP. What was I waiting for? She couldn’t understand.
“Just go to those French butchers again and buy a nice roast for Vivienne, take it to her for her lunch, or dinner, tell her: ‘Hi, Vivienne, I see you work hard every day, you should eat something warm’ and hand her the roast. And while she’s eating, ask your questions. Easy breezy.”
My only argument was that Vivienne might be a vegetarian. A vegan, probably.
“I guess those French butchers would know how to cook some vegetable,” my mother said.
In the meantime, I was investigating Viv.
Vivienne does not believe in having a role model, or role models. Well, of course! Neither do I, ever since a Sunday family lunch when I asked my father who his idol was, and he surprised me by saying he never had one, he didn’t believe in idols. “Except, maybe, Jayne Mansfield,” he added and laughed.
I was slightly disappointed with Dad. Those were still my formative years but that stuck with me. From then on I knew that being inspired by, ahem, certain qualities, is more important than having a role model.
Plus, Vivienne is still a “punk”. She defines “punk” as her rebellion against the propaganda (or organized idolatry) which, Aldous Huxley-like, she considers one of the three greatest evils of mankind. The other two are nationalism and the continuous disturbance of mind.
She’s constantly surrounded by a group of young assistants. Often, when I don’t see them behind the windows, I see them in front of the building, and, through a cloud of cigarette smoke, they continue their discussions from “upstairs”, poorly dressed for English climate. Vivienne employs and educates them, gives them the tools for the struggles ahead. This reminds me of ancient Greece. And then, on her blog, I have read that ancient Greece indeed is her most frequent source of inspiration!
I walked into her building that day, around noon. Sans hot meal from the French.
It was a very sudden decision that caught me by surprise. Because, before that, I was in the nearby Coop supermarket, and I walked into Vivienne’s carrying two plastic bags full of food. I think that one of the bags was punctured by a chicken leg, or a veal rib. I was wearing my very old coat: grey fur and black leather. Some mothers from my daughter’s school told me I looked like a Russian spy in that coat, but I think I look more like Herr Flick with a wig on. At least, I thought, the coat was so old that it was literally collapsing on me – something Viv would appreciate.
A young assistant patiently listened to my opening story of how I wrote for a new Croatian daily, and have been observing Vivienne, Ms. Westwood, work for years until late into the night, her head glowing behind the lit windows of her studio; I have read her manifesto and her blog, now I wanted to meet her and do an interview with her.
“Vivienne is currently away from London,” the girl said. “She’s in India. But I will give you her press office contact number, call them and ask for Laura, her press assistant, and be sure to include your little story when you speak to Laura.”
Deeply grateful, I picked up my bag and my coat and left.
I told Laura the whole story.
“Write us an email about it,” she said. I wrote an email.
“Contact Vivienne on her blog with this whole story”, Laura replied to my mail.
I went to the blog. I read about Westwood’s support to Julian Assange. I watched the documentary film about the destruction and ventures to preserve the Rainforest. I attended a lecture on the book on how it’s too late to save the world but we can at least status quo-ise it, or help the group of celebrities and wealthy people with their new mission. When I realized that Viv had returned from India (where, as we were informed, she was a guest on a crazily-luxurious three-day birthday party of Naomi Campbell’s boyfriend), I wrote on her blog, just a hello, followed by my little story about watching her work through the windows. Days passed. I received a letter from a blog assistant, Cynthia.
“Call Laura in the press office,” Cynthia wrote. Laura directed me to that first assistant, in the head office. And then, some kind of circle was complete.
Night fell. The children were finally asleep. I made a cup of tea and went to look at Vivienne’s windows, knowing already that the interview would not happen “in a minute”, as I thought.
But there, over Viv’s windows, I saw, for the first time in five years, the thickest and darkest curtains that were most severely drawn, as if glued together. I could have sworn that those heavy curtains never even existed there before. Ha. They were urgently purchased and installed after the visit, the stories and the emails from Herr Flick with a wig, the black leather coat, and with dead animals in plastic bags.
I didn’t really need any interviews from Vivienne, I realised. Or from anyone. Everything you want to know about anyone, you can read on their blogs!
I still admire her and I still think she’s a legend, as my son said.
Moreover, she taught me something.
The world is not ruled by money. Money is just another slave in the service of the true ruler: Fear. Fear of the unknown, of different, of “Eastern” or “Southern”. Famous people are often so unhappy-looking, probably because, in spite of money and power, they don’t feel protected. I understand them, I’m sure I would be like that, if…
Just when she built herself a total “space of her own and of her happiness” – on the roof of the building in her old hood, with wide windows and open views of the stars – somehow there appears a carnivore-stalker in fur and leather, and Vivienne again has to watch what she’s doing, and with whom, because God knows who the woman in the suspicious coat works for. The woman that by now should have already learned not to disclose her little stories so openly. That would be me.
But before I learn, I want to have a bit more fun with sharing stories.
Now, the only thing I regret is never contacting Marlon Brando for the part of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, adapted and directed by amateurs, in Montenegro’s first private theatre.
THE BEST KIND OF VISITOR
Roaming alone, through this huge Londonarium.
At 10 am, I sit on a bus in Battersea; an hour later I can be in . . . Kensal Rise, for example. One beep of the blue Oyster-fabulous and I can be anywhere, then back – before it’s children pick-up time. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I like my ‘saved by public transport’ days. Armed only with an Oyster card, any London girl, native or not, can spend a bad and lonely day sightseeing from the warm upper deck of a bus, possibly listening to her own choice of music. Sometimes this is all the freedom she needs.
Last week I had a full house.
Well, a kind-a full house, considering the way I live my new life, the kind of life in which my daughter says that Haloween is her ‘favourite holiday because we go and visit other people in our building.’ (When trick-or-treating, my daughter never stops at a door. She really goes inside other people’s homes, all the way to their bedrooms and studies, interested in the choices they’ve made decoration-wise, from which she feels she gets to know their lives.)
‘But why don’t we ever have any guests here, mum?’ she asks. ‘It’s so easy, you just invite people and serve them tea and brownies, or toast and ham.’
She was only ten months old when we came to London and started living in rented apartments with brown furniture – not good for entertaining even if we had friends – but, somehow, growing up in a home constantly buzzing with guests, relatives and other people’s children, seems to be a big part of her ancestral memory.
In my childhood, people yelled out other people’s names from their balconies, and said things like: ‘Come up, let’s smoke and talk!’ My daughter will never hear those words, but in her eyes I can see that she knows them, she has them stored up in her brain.
So last week, my mother came to London to visit us.
She took the underground train from Heathrow. My children and I were waiting for her at the reception desk in our building. We were waiting for a long time, and I couldn’t reach her on the phone. She got lost, I knew it; but when she finally arrived, she wouldn’t admit it. She didn’t look tired, but then, my mother never looks tired. Her golden-blonde Marilyn Monroe hair had pink highlights on the ends of some curls, and there was a fresh layer of diva-shade lipstick on her lips. She wore large rings, mostly shaped like skulls, and feather earrings. She left traces of lipstick on my children’s cheeks and foreheads. They didn’t mind.
New neighbours have moved in on our floor: a single mum and her son. We said hi to them in the lift that took us all to the same floor. My new neighbour is a beautiful, elegant and serious black woman. Her son is eight and a bit small for his age. ‘He won’t eat,’ the new neighbour said. ‘He only eats three kinds of food: plain meat, toast and butter, and clear soup.’
‘Just like my daughter,’ I said.
My mother was blinking fast. I knew she was dying to participate in the conversation. ‘Ven children hungry, children eat,’ she said and kissed all children on their heads, our little new neighbour included.
The lift stopped at our floor. The door opened.
‘Bye bye, see you,’ we were saying.
‘Come to our apartment,’ my mother said to the new neighbour. ‘We smoke and talk and do everything.’
‘I will definitely come,’ the neighbour said.
The next day, on our way back from the school drop off, my mother and I passed by the new neighbour’s door. We overherheard her singing in a soulful voice (‘Contralto,’ my mother whispered), while vacuuming her flat.
‘He-ey, baby,’ she sang. ‘There ain’t no easy way out. Mm.hm. I will stand. My. Ground. And I won’t. Back. Down.’
My mother and I just stood there, in front of the neighbour’s apartment, and listened. When the neighbour stopped singing and vacuuming, my mother applauded. I poked her with my elbow. ‘Bravo!’ Mother shouted.
‘Bravo!’ louder now, as I was dragging her down the hallway, towards our flat. ‘Bravo!’ she managed to shout one more time, before I closed our entrance
door in front of her face.
Ten minutes later, our doorbell rang. Our doorbell here sounds like a scream; it always startles me. ‘Change this monster sound!’ Mother said.
‘I can’t,’ I said. ‘We are just renting this place, remember?’
‘Well then at least open the door.’
It was our new neighbour. She brought us slices of her banana loaf.
‘Yes,’ my mother said. ‘This cake ist fantastiche. But now, we eat my cake.’
So Mamma served her ‘Swiss roll’ instead. Oh, the roll-cake made by her; with the layers of rosehip jam so thin, so precise. But the neigbour didn’t touch the Swiss-roll. It was a cake power game. And I was enjoying it.
The neighbour did accept a cup of Turkish coffee. I promised to read her fortune from coffee grounds the next time she visited. ‘Not on a Wednesday,’ I said. ‘Coffee turns cheeky on Wednesdays.’
‘Cheeky,’ the neighbour said and laughed.
‘You very beautiful woman,’ my mother said to her.
‘You too,’ the neighbour replied. ‘Very beautiful.’ Then she turned to me. ‘Please tell your mum,’ she said, ‘that, since I saw her, I’ve been missing my own mother so much that I begged her to come from Kenya and stay with us next month. She is the only person that Oliver, my boy, cares to make proud of him. He does so much better in school when she visits.’
I translated that to my mother.
‘This is life,’ my mother said in English to our neighbour and the two of them nodded their heads in agreement for some time, sipping their coffee.
I get off the bus in Kensal Rise. There, I stare at the same mix of Georgian and council buildings next to an unoriginal High Street, just like in any other London’s village. I know there’s The Heart of this Rise somewhere, but it’s too well-hidden for me today. I have no desire to discover it. My lips are glued together by a long, bus-ride silence; my ears spilling with iPod’s sweet, nostalgic tones: Meditteranean macho whispers about wounded sea-gulls; adaggio-mixes; rock-ballads that bring back memories of balmy nights spent sitting with friends on the hometown’s Central Library steps, when we made plans, before the war of course, to become avant-garde, yet filthy rich. Then the war broke out and we never went avant . . . and will we ever?
So I sit on the bus and take a ride back to my SW part of town.
If anything, it seems that I’m regressing. My mother is again, after decades of growing up, the most beautiful face for me to see. I love opening my door to her. She is my most wanted visitor, the one I can choose to entertain or not; the one I can talk-or-not to, while we visit those places where it’s boring and cold when I’m on my own, regardless of the place’s importance and grandiosity.
And only with her do I feel free enough to say: ‘No, mum, again, this is not a good photo. Take one more.’ Then one more, and again, and again – and to infinity and beyond – taking photographs in places where that activity is strictly prohibited.
She accepts my suggestions for a ‘waste-no-time-lunch’, without despising me for being cheap. ‘Let’s just go to Pret,’ I tell her.
And then she says to me: ‘Why did we have to skip a proper lunch, then pay to come all the way here and look at this poor cow’s head, with blood and flies? I could look at the same scene for free at my butcher’s Temo in Podgorica. But I wanted to have lunch made by Jamie Oliver! Or that beautiful Nigella girl. Does she also have a retaurant?’
We take some more forbidden photographs of unused pills and marinated animals. When the gallery’s security men approach us, Mother blinks really fast and asks in her impossible language: ‘Ist verbotten?’ Soon, we are followed by the whole team of security people.
Outside, on the street, I save her life again because she always looks at the wrong direction, sees no cars coming her way, and, proudly marches on. I pull her back on to the pavement. ‘Mum,’ I say. ‘Remeber: London’s left is your right.’
‘I know,’ she growls pushing my arm away. ‘I know.’ There can be nothing her daughter knows and she doesn’t.
She wants to get to know Bob Geldof, who crosses Albert Bridge almost every day, like we do.
‘This man is so cute, always with his bicycle next to him, never under him,’ she says of Bob. ‘And he is a legend.’
But the best thing my most wanted visitor has to offer is – her time with grandchildren. That’s the infamous ‘quality time’, for all of us.
She cooks for them one of her meals that start with olive oil, bell-peppers and onions, and to which she then adds – ‘From the fingertips or as much as your nose allows’ – everything edible she finds in the house.
She also slow-cooks my children. They bubble gently on the pleasant warmth of her rhythm, instead of burning down in flames of deep-fried hysteria that is their average evening with me. Even the TV is off now. There’s a soft sound from a distant radio playing from an unidentified corner of the apartment.
I don’t know how to behave. Can I just . . . relax? Yeah, but what about my arms, my legs, my collapsing back, my vocal chords – what do I do with those? Can I just sit like this and stare at my cup of – tea? Sage, ginger, hibiscus – what? I never drink tea. My mother drinks tea; and now we all do.
She winks at her grandchildren and jerks her head towards me.
‘Your mother,’ she says to them, about me. ‘hasn’t changed a bit. When she was a teenage girl, she used to stare and keep quiet like this whenever there was trouble. Once when I went to her school for parents’ evening and there they told me she’d had detention for writing on the school’s walls. I asked the headmistress to show me what she had written and the headmistress said ‘All of this’, and pointed to the walls: they were filled with your mother’s handwriting. Lyrics from songs. ‘Oh, Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood’, ‘How long shall they kill our prophets?’, ‘Horror is what sets us free’. Stuff like that. They said they’d consulted the translators from counter-espionage . . . My head was spinning. I didn’t know where to run, which way to exit the school. I had to give them cash to repaint the walls. ‘Why did you do that?’ I asked your mother. She just sat like this, at the dining table and thought her thoughts.’
My son is trying not to smile, but the dusting of hair above his upper lip is crooked in a smirk. His grandma has just added another step on the generational ladder; another mirror where his mum’s reflection could multiply. He realises now that, yes, even I was a teenager once, with some old-fashioned, but still ‘problematic’ behaviour. Even I could upset the grown-ups. He wants more of those stories.
My daughter asks her big brother to translate the anecdotes ‘a little bit’ to English.
The smell of my teenage sweat and tears – and all those years – has crept from under the entrance door into a faraway fifth-floor flat on a faraway island.
My mother has seen all my reflections. The genes, the upbringing, phases and metamorphosis – she has witnessed all of them. My children only know this recent part of me, the part that has moved them abroad and then freaked out frequently, in front of them and even on public transport. And there’s nobody in this huge city to tell them: ‘No, she’s more than that. She’s so much more.’ Nobody here knows that for sure. At best, everyone here has known me for as long as my children have known me. Sometimes, that’s great: I can reinvent myself, like a celebrity; or, to my children, I can lie that I was always like this: reliable, serious and paranoid. (‘And that’s why I’m still alive,’ I can say.) But mostly, it’s not so great, both for parents and kids: the identification material runs out as soon as we, parents, are no longer blindly trusted. Where are the witnesses to confirm or beef-up our stories, however self-censored? Where are the countrymen with the similar eccentricities, intensity and sense of humour?
My mother is that witness, that countryman, the reappearing one. That’s why she is the most wanted visitor for us, in this town.
But she can never stay for long. She still works, back home. She is the manager of my homecountry’s only Shelter for women and children. Other women and children need her. I need her more. I think she knows that I need her; but she also knows that I need her in doses. ‘This is life,’ as she would say.
She went home: Gatwick – Montenegro.
I am back from Kensal Rise and I can cross that destination out from my ‘to-see’ list. The neighbour hasn’t come back for the fortune-telling session yet. Husband is still away on a business trip; children have clubs after school.
Our fridge is empty. The sky is merciless. The traffic too loud; people too quiet. London is a stranger. The ever-increasing bills of living in a foreign country are spread like playing cards over the dining table. And that table has been falling apart for some time now, but we are adamant not to replace it with a new item – because it is always ‘just one more year’ before we leave here.
Oh, Zia. Well, now, after having rated my own books five-stars here on Goodreads, I’d be a fool to rate something like Zia’s book four-star, which otherwise I would do only because in the end he went all action-movie, this-is-the-plot, negative-of-zero-dark-thirty — like. And so I haven’t really finished the book, because by then, after 500 pages, my brain was so well-fed and changed by this wonderful writer that when the action started my brain reacted with ‘If I wanted this I’d go and read the newspapers all day long, and before bedtime.’ I’m more for all-the-way ‘James Salter-y’, ie, when you, an author, nurture my knowledge and soul with your writing, do it till the end, don’t suddenly remember that ‘there must be some searing plot moments in a novel’. I don’t care anymore, also because you, Zia, you had also by then freed me with your writing. In the Light of What We Know (what a long title to type) is a liberating book, because it’s basically two old friends, clever guys, sitting and talking about everything, which, by now I have realised, is one of the best things that can happen in a human life (and the book didn’t even need that dictaphone device). If some readers found that stuff about appearing over-impressed-and-blinded by the British upper class or upper middle class or I-don’t know-what-class – mainly because I wasn’t born there so when there I feel I can belong to any class – well, I actually appreciated the honesty of that. For me it’s preposterous and eccentric, the class society I mean, but at times I can also be impressed and surely its eccentricities are something I will remember, just like this book, for which I have created a shelf ‘you will remember me’. After this book, people can structure their content more freely; the content will count again…maybe, hopefully. I have underlined so many pages. I don’t want to share the quotes, sorry, Zia, because I want to modify them and write those ideas and knowledge into my own stuff and be better. (a smiley icon should appear here.)
We’re leaving, it’s pouring rain. Italians say: Strada bagnata, strada fortunata. My husband introduced me to this proverb, long ago, in the beginning of our marriage, when we were constantly traveling, arguing, making up, suitcases piled up in the trunk of a car, our son raised in transport and hotels.We had to hold on to something, and we mostly held on to those wet roads of happiness. They turned out to be fine, it seems. The same proverb comforts me now, when children and I are leaving Podgorica.Large drops of rain fall heavily on pine and cypress trees in ‘Maksim Gorki’ schoolyard, and beat against the shabby block-buildings’ facades.
It wasn’t a happy picture, either, when we arrived in Montenegro.
By night, we always travel this road by night, from Čilipi airport to Podgorica, or Niksic.People tell me – why do I even ask when I’m the most experience one at this?- that via Trebinje or Risan it takes ‘an hour, or so.’ It’s a deceit. It always takes three honest hours from Dubrovnik to the continental Montenegro. Something always slows one down. ‘If you avoid the bridge fare, you will pay the road fare,’ a Balkan proverb.
This country of ours is like a desert at night, even the sky is not lovely.I see it through the eyes of my daughter, even though she’s decided to fall in love with the country of her origin.I told her about the sun and sea of Montenegro, none of which she can see now, but still, she is looking through the car window, taking the photographs of the darkness through which, after a curve, and in the distance, a rare cluster of the Bay of Kotor lights break a-shining.
One day, I will tell her that this is the country of extremes. The sun does not shine, but burns;rain doesn’t fall, it pours; and the northern wind howls, freezing your bones with its chill, true, but freezing them even more with that noise, the howl, the sound of our transience.The sudden beauty is breathtaking;around the corner lurks utter ugliness.People are like that too: inexplicably beautiful or self-destructive. With excessive warmth or cruelty. Poor or with the manners of the old-money. With the poisonous sting of provincialism, or the openness, the tolerance of a metropolis. Primitive or spiritual. And all of that at the same time, in the same cauldron, a rather small one, which in turn either boils or stales to stink.
Here I write about my city. Everyone is at the door at the same time. They enter and exit the rooms without knocking, laugh loudly, and without a reason – a theatre with the intensity of a musical – they ask questions, do not wait for answers, they pronounce fears, everyone agrees on fears, they laugh them off, they smoke. In fact – many of my friends quit smoking.Some miss it, some don’t.I hate it when they quit smoking. I want my country like that, always on the verge of life and death, laughing at death.’Sutjeska syndrome’ that’s what we have, it’s not my discovery, it’s a certified conclusion by the professors and researchers from Harvard, or Oxford: we defy the worst, but fear the statistical errors, for example, the explosion of the stomach after swallowing a chewing gum.It thrills me because I do not live there. They always remind me of that. Easy for you, you don’t live here.They still love our desperate neighborhoods.They travel, come back, share the experience. They even go to Brussels as tourists, it is inconceivable to me, even head to Bruges, I haven’t been to those places, I had to start new lives in Zagreb, in London, I did not get to be a tourist with a local agency, the tours, with the starting point, the points of destination and return. And as to them, my MNE-B.C. fatesharers, I don’t want them to go anywhere, I’d like everyone to stay there forever, in those rooms in the neighborhood, with cigarettes in their hands, laughing loudly and without a reason.
Suddenly, in the living room of my mother’s flat, in the midst of the tribal jam which my children enjoy, I remember the moments of complete happiness, moments that are not attached to that room, they only pass through it while I’m sitting on the sofa on which everyone falls asleep, as if hypnotised.Before my eyes, a day in Belgrade, in Ranka Tajsića street, a garconiere, its window and a small balcony, where I realized, at eighteen, that I would, for the first time in my life, live alone, be the empress of my own space; before my eyes, another moment, a warm dusk and an old cabriolet driving me somewhere unspecified but me, with stardust in my hair, feeling like going to the Oscars; then, immersing in a large, saline pool in one Cala; then, entering the amphitheater of my postgraduate studies, for the first time seeing the faces of the young people who shared my passion.These scenes are independently raised over the periods in which they happened, because at that moment, or immediately before or after, nothing worth remembering had spoiled them. Complete happiness.
Then, this April in Podgorica, at the new club a little outside the town, at the Pejovics, one such moment of complete happiness, with friends that I have not seen for years, and to whom I had to recount the same story five times in a row, I think, about how a couple of days prior to that night, I misunderstood the situation when my mother was interviewed on the aforementioned sofa in her living room, on which the interviewing team then invited me to sit as well, and the young woman, the interviewer, asked me the same question she had asked my mother, that is – what I remembered from my high school graduation year. Thinking I was ‘on camera’, I changed my dialect into a more proper one, and, hiding my shoeless feet under the coffee table in front of me, I started giving her a very long answer that had no sense, methodology or logic, but still ended somehow, after which I turned to the cameraman with the intention of blinding him and his camera with one of my best signature smiles, only to see the cameraman just completing the act of packing the camera in its case with compartments for legs and other parts, and I concluded that no one was even listening to me and that the young woman, the programme editor had only asked me a question about my Senior year because I was sitting around my mother’s living room anyway.
That ‘imaginary’ interview, and that evening at my friend’s club, will also remain as the moments of complete happiness because that is, I think, how my children will remember them as well, and, either before or after, nothing bad has happened, nor was I in my mind elsewhere, no other plan, no major commitments.
My daughter says she wants all those with whom she spent time in Montenegro to live together with us forever.That’s what I wanted, to awaken that feeling in her.And even better, she doesn’t have to live like that, but she’s now aware of these emotions and of the place to which these emotions can be attached. It’s where she has all those people that her school friends have in London, which she envied. Now she can talk with confidence about her Godmother, Godsister, her Godbrother, her baby cousin she can carry in her arms, her creative aunt with whom she can paint Easter eggs without anyone getting nervous and rushing her – a place in the south, whose microclimate I always disrupt with my arrival.
My son says that in Montenegro everyone is funny, he likes to listen to people when they speak, they immediately make him laugh.
However, something happens when we want to provide a form for that wit, when we want to formalise it in some way – something misfires. The rhythm, perhaps, we change the rhythm of truth, we bury the humour in too deep a context, into correct grammar, people feel that they need to philosophise at lengths.Lengths are not our destiny, we do not live long, nor deep, nor high, we live from day to day, we have a short form, in chamber and on the streets, we make little ripples on surface, we hear death approaching, with clatter or with a hiss, and we are not some privileged people who occasionally play with transience, no;we have authentic pieces of death all around us, and when we accept this, we will be more successful.
I eat a lot of pasta, pies, rolls, sweet and savoury, oversalted meat, and smoked lake fish, ukljeve. I walk around bloated, having lost the habit of eating such food. I don’t go out much, the weather deteriorated when I arrived, the soil again hard, the aluminum skies, the north wind blowing but not chasing the clouds away. I feel like my hometown considers me a traitor because I use it only occasionally, when I want to warm up my bones, and the town just won’t accept that.
‘Unbelievable,’ I say to my mother. ‘This is a conspiracy.When I come again in July, tell the weather station to alert people of the sudden weather change.’
She is defending our hometown, she always does that, says that this is the warm kind of rain and anyway it will pass soon. The rain does not stop, but it doesn’t matter, my town is always inside me, only here do I speak naturally, in my own dialect, with its dramatically-lazy accent, which one of my Belgrade friends has described as ‘the French sounding version of the Serbian language.’ My heart and my voice, like crazy runaways, somehow always drag themselves back to these streets and their kind-of-assumed-but-ridiculed, planetary completely irrelevant, deaths at every corner.
And my reunion with London?All I see of this city through the window, as I write, is one teenager, sitting alone on a bench, sadly looking at the muddy, slow Thames.Beneath the layers of London that I know well, underneath all the layers through which the picture of a lonely teenager sinks and transforms its meaning, at the hard base of the symbiosis of London and me, I find the thought that the imposed rather than chosen loneliness deserves the most sincere sympathy and help.
Hester Rd, and in bed I read this, knowing that I have given London a lot, and what has it given in return? It hasn’t made me an art monster; it hasn’t made me a monster, either, which is something. I underline, on my Kindle, and now I go back to it, and I believe it, I believe her, Jenny Offill, hers is a very charming book: Dept. of Speculation.
Zvuk predenja Singerice lijepo je išao uz pucketanje svijeća – u sjećanju, restrikcija je uvijek sa naše strane Morače. Majka u dnevnoj sobi opet šije neku suknju od otkačenog materijala, koji je možda planiran za zavjese, ili je čak rolna Ateksove lude tapete s početka ’80-tih. Predenje Singerice dobro ide i uz zvuke Animalsa i Pink Floyda sa Grundig kasetofona na baterije. ‘Kuća izlazećeg sunca’ premotava se još jedan put, pa još jedan.
Svo to vrijeme, u svojoj sobi, ja suzama natapam jastuke. Svi su ukućani znali za suze, niko nije pitao za razloge, a da su i pitali, ja im razloge ne bih mogla definisati. Znam da sam imala velike planove i snove, u tim godinama, kada još uvijek vjerujemo da smo djeca sreće, i da tu sreću treba samo povremeno, poput reflektora, prema sebi okrenuti, i – rođena je nova diva.
Pa zašto onda tolike suze?
I prije nego što se hormoni počnu meškoljiti po tijelu, u nama postoje slutnje. Sjećanja koja i jesu i nisu naša. Zbog njih čak i djeca na pragu ulaska u svijet zbrkanih emocija mogu razumjeti kako lako ‘kuća izlazećeg sunca uništi dušu sirotog mladog momka’, ili zašto je ‘kockar zadovoljan samo kada je pijan’.
U polumraku svoje sobe u Lenjinovom bulevaru, snažno sam osjećala baš sve što su osjećali velikani umjetnosti, pa još stranci.
Ipak, mislim da su suze više tekle zbog drugačije slutnje: da sam predaleko od tog svijeta, da su mi, ukoliko mnogo toga ne žrtvujem, nedostižna oruđa realizacije pretakanja osjećaja u remek-djela; oruđa poput lokacije, jezika, tržišta, šansi, ulaganja, ili sebičnih poriva. Rijetkima od nas, iz ove malene zemlje, ništa se nije činilo nedostižnim. Takvi su već od rane mladosti bili očito različiti od ostalih. Sve su podredili svojim planovima i snovima. Od početka su išli protiv glavne struje tadašnjeg vaspitanja koja nas je svakodnevno, iako gotovo neprimjetno, podsjećala da je vulgarno isticati želju za individualnim uspjehom. (Sada je, na zapadu, ta premisa trendi, što samo znači da će za nekoliko generacija tako relaksiran ego zaista postojati, čak i uz svijest o ličnim talentima.)
Neočekivano, u sred epidemeje sivila, u Londonu osvanu sunčano jutro. To ne može potrajati. Zato grabim prema Piccadillyju dok se jutro ne ukisjeli. Sunce najbolje pristaje Mayfairu.
I, naravno: čak i na Myafairu, gdje slavuj pjeva i u sred zime, i gdje skitnja ne mora uključivati kupovinu hrane, u rukama mi se ubrzo stvoriše dvije ružne plastične kese – moj zaštitni znak, kako tvrde ukućani.
Prolazeći pored aukcijske kuće Sotheby’s, vidim da slučajni prolaznici – ‘civili’, kako nas jednom okarakterisa neka od selebritija – bez snebivanja ulaze unutra, i ne bivaju istjerivani. Well. Usudiću se da uđem i ja, mogu se uvijek izvaditi na naglasak. ‘Sorry. Tourist.’
Zaposlenici Sotheby’s-a smiješe mi se, štoviše, pokazuju put kojim treba ići, uz stepenište pored ogromnih fotografija sa likovima Basquiata, Rothka, Richtera, Bacona, pa lijevo. Velika aukcija remek-djela savremene umjetnosti samo što nije počela. Ulazim bez aktivacije alarma. Nikada se ne zna; ja, sa pletenom kapom, u starom kaputu i sa plastičnim kesama iz Waitrose-a u rukama, možda sam kakva ekscentrična finska milijarderka. Uzimam ilustrovani vodič kroz aukciju i ne usuđujem se sjesti, mada još uvijek ima slobodnih stolica. Očekujem da me svakog trena neko kucne po ramenu i zamoli za ‘legitimaciju’. Ausweis.
Nisam znala da se na bilo koju aukciju može tek tako ušetati i biti dijelom života (ili, života-nakon-smrti) umjetnika zbog kojih sam još kao dijete plakala u sobi. Zašto mi to niko nije rekao? U Londonu su, i prije sam to primijetila, ljudi škrti u dijeljenju informacija korisnih za novajlije. Ovdje, gdje svaka je ‘privatna škola’ mnogo skupa, sve sam učila na sopstvenim primjerima i greškama.
Prije početka aukcije skenirala sam lica posjetilaca. Lijepo sređen svijet, ozbiljnih godina, izgrađenog stila. Mnogo se njih međusobno pozdravlja. Najviše je Francuza. Na desnoj strani prema izložbenom prostoru, dugački pult sa telefonima i prodajnim osobljem sa po nekoliko slušalica u rukama. Mnogo je eksponata prodato preko telefona. Arapi, zaključila sam, Arapi kupuju preko telefona, čak i ako su u Londonu. Među ‘mojom’ publikom nije ih bilo.
Da, odmah se srodih sa publikom. I sjedoh, sa srećom, i sa kesama. Povjerovah da zaista jessam ekscentrična finska bogatašica. A što ne bih bila, makar na jedan dan? Samo da ne napravim nesmotren pokret rukom. Bolje da ne ispuštam svoje kese.
Stariji čovjek pored mene neprestano je nešto pisao po vodiču za aukciju, ostavljajući pored gotovo svake fotografije, šifrirane, nečitljive tragove svojim Mont Blanc nalivperom.
Na red dođe eksponat broj 166 (Cesar 1921-1998, Personnage, procjena od 8-12000 funti). Do tada sam se već osjećala poput iskusne posjetiteljke aukcija. Čovjek pored mene diže ruku na deset hiljada funti. Neko drugi odmah ga preteče sa jedanaest hiljada. Čovjek pored mene ponovo je reagovao na dvadeset hiljada funti. Opet ga je neko pretekao sa dvadeset jednom. Čovjek do mene više se nije javljao, a Cesarova Personnage, neupadljiva, mršava statuica od pola metra visine, prodata je za 24000 funti, duplo premašivši procjenu. Previše.
‘Too much,’ prošaputah svome razočaranom susjedu, koji mi se uljudno osmijehnu i opet nešto zapisa u svoj vodič. (Možda: ‘Čudna žena pored mene došapnula da je Cesar precijenjen.’)
Odlučih da među umjetninama pronađem svoga favorita. Kada bih stvarno bila ekscentrična finska milijarderka, za šta bih se borila? Definitivno, eksponat broj 218: Banksy, b. 1974, Think Thank, grafit procijenjen na 120-180000 funti.
Finska milijarderka u meni ima dobar nos. Banksy je bio pobjednik ove aukcije. Prodat je nekome preko telefona, za skoro četiri stotine hiljada funti! Predpostavljam nekom naftnom monarhu. Ili, nekom reformatoru koji se napušio moći i ne može ga više niko sa te droge skinuti. Naš Banksy, misteriozni buntovnik, angažovan, opasan, direktan, pun prezira prema marketingu i konzumerizmu, dvostruko premašio već visoku procjenu za samo jednu od varijatni svoga grafita Think Tank.
Je li to dobra ili loša vijest?
Najvrijednije djelo nosilo je dobru poruku, kao i sva Banksijeva djela. Otišlo je u neki prebogati dom, kao i sva Banksijeva djela. Banksy nikada neće otići u neki podgorički sobičak, gdje bi se savršeno uklopio. Ni-ka-da.
Počeše da se nižu savremeni umjetnici rođeni deset godina poslije mene. Vrijeme da se napusti aukcija. Osim toga, finska bogatašica (u meni) svoju djecu iz škole uživa lično da pokupi, ne šalje neku od dadilja. To joj je gušt, njeno malo finsko ludilo.