With Love from the Balkans

June 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

When you wrote me from Dubrovnik, on a crazy keyboard that interchanged the letters z and y, I googled the city and imagined the way the Adriatic sun looked on your shoulders, the light brown color your hair turned to when struck with gold. I wondered which quarter, among the rows and rows of red tiled roofs, housed the quaint little computer cafe that charged you 5 euros an hour, where you drafted a funny little email to ask me out, again, from a million miles away, with the only letters you had.

Do you think of me in the daytime? In all the clay and cobblestone, on the cakey island ground wet and dried repeatedly, alternately, by the sea and the sun? Do you think of me as you stand beneath your 3:00 shadow in front of the city’s oldest cathedral, licking an overpriced berry popsicle? You never knew church bells could sound so much like seagulls, singing in the stolen languages of pirates. Does my name, written in cursive on the side of a small Greek speedboat, make you think of home?

Or do you think of me at night, when Dubrovnik is wearing her reddest dress, with flowers in her hair and a long-stemmed glass in her hand? Do you imagine my lips, stained as yours are with red wine and an urge to do one thing that scares you, every day? In Asia, kissing me was not in your vocabulary, but neither was placa, or raznjici, or longing. How thin is the line between yes and maybe? How long before you run out of the fact of my face, my words, my threadbare stories, and move into the fiction of my hands? This world is a lush green forest of possibility, encroaching more and more every year on the polluted cities and industrial districts of reality, vines wrapping their legs around the rustiest pipes. It is impossible not to have set foot in it.

You sent me a postcard in your familiar handwriting, perhaps in a slightly drunken stupor that exchanged the word love for dancing. But it’s the thought that counts. And maybe in yours, we were running down the plaza late at night, hair and white dresses blowing in the wind. You squeezed my hand at the southern entrance of the Old Town, and planted a kiss on my cheek. There was never any dancing. Everything moved in slow-motion, like we were under the Adriatic Sea, and I bought you a bouquet of yellow flowers that smelled like an old library.

I am writing you back. “Why are all Dubrovnik’s streets so shiny? Tell me about all the wars that were fought for that city.”


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