| Diwan Special issue|

Ferida Duraković

Born in 1957 in Olovo (B&H), lives in Sarajevo (B&H).

TITO HAS ARRIVED IN SPACE

As soon as the text SPECIAL BULLETIN appeared on the TV screen on May 4th 1980, around two in the afternoon, I knew: Tito has died.

Something snapped in my throat. Something tiny, imperceptible, delicate, but it was there. It seemed both sad and funny at the same time, but I was ashamed to tell others, so like every other clever village kid I waited to see what they would say about it, and then I would follow their lead. Just so I wouldn’t be different, dear God, just so I wouldn’t be different! Just react like all other, normal people, don’t be a misfit – that’s what my mother called me every time I embarrassed her by not wanting to act like other children.

I looked around the stuffy untidy student room: everyone was quietly staring at the screen. As if something was going to happen.

”Is that it? Is it over? Poor us,” Vinka finally spoke. Vinka the Babe, Vinka with the infinitely green eyes that didn’t know where to look with all their greenness and beauty; Vinka the fool, the lost provincial little bird. I always fantasized of her, rurally beautiful and common as she was, not in bed (which was amazing in my case) but walking somewhere in the English countryside in a lambs wool sweater, with wide white trousers, in high riding boots, and with hounds sniffing behind her and waiting for her to bare her white teeth and shout, ”Tear him apart!” pointing at a man that did not respond to her charms.

”It’s over, thank God,” said Boro, Dana’s boyfriend; Boro-Around-Ten-A.M., a lazy bum that could not be matched by any other in the whole of Yugoslavia. He took a sandwich and started to chew it and digest it at the same time. Like a fat worm, I thought with derision (like a fat limp dick that he is, I thought a light second later), and I saw how the crumbs fell into his beard, and how important this special bulletin was to him – not because of Tito (”Fuck Tito,” he would say, ”What is Tito to me, and what am I to her?” while watching half-naked Lepa Brena on the screen), but because now Dana is going to catch a train to Čajnice to see her folks, and he will be left alone, without any hot soup or clean underwear, and how is he to manage like that, in any case…?

”Shut up, Boro, will you? I have to call my dad, he’ll have a heart attack,” Alma said. Alma, kind Alma, Alma-Little- Body -Soul-This-Big: that was our pet name for her until she became mean and crossed over to join the dragons, because she had read somewhere that one must become mean not to die young, and she was afraid of death as if it was death itself.

Her dad was truly something. ”Listen, young fella, he would say to me, I’m no communist, I’m no anarchist, I’m no capitalist, none of that shit. I’m a photographer! But do I love Tito – I do. He pulled this country out of peasant shit! Only pray to God it doesn’t drag itself back into peasant shit all over again! And when I was taking Tito’s picture, on official duty in Jajce in ’43, I realised that it was such a beauty that you can’t even look at it. And my camera takes in everything, and I made beautiful pictures, but to put Tito in the camera – nope! He was such a great man that he couldn’t even fit into my camera!”

Alma picked up her cigarettes off the table, her lighter and the small piece of paper she had written Adem’s number on that morning with her fatty little fingers. She hadn’t forgotten Adem’s number after all, I thought, thinking at the same time how mean I was. That much about me. For now.

Then Alma disappeared from this story. Ten years later she told me about how she had telephoned her dad, how her dad had said nothing into the receiver, how he was quiet and quiet for so long that she thought he had died with the receiver in his hand. But he didn’t. See, even Tito’s death can be survived, she said.

Outside, through the slightly opened window, I saw my plump landlady hanging up the laundry and humming. Just like in some fucking folk song about the Balkans, I thought. What a race it will be when our writers start competing who will be quicker and who will be better:

The giant is dead. Women hang up the laundry and hum: Comrade Tito, we swear a solemn oath to you…

”Well, he is old, and it was about time for him to go, when you think about it,” I say, almost not wanting to, as if I didn’t care and as if that snap in my throat from awhile ago never happened.

”Well, yeah, but I would’ve given him more,” Vinka said, completely unaware of what her statement can cause in male heads. And that’s what happened.

”Oh c’mon, Vinka, you could give it to me instead!” - Boro, who else, smacked his fat lips covered with crumbs. To him, Dana was a cover so that he could pinch her girlfriends wherever he could, fraternal-like, bawdily, comradely. ”I need it more than Tito does, at the moment! Hehehe.”

Vinka looked at him with that un-aware look of a calf and for a moment I felt kind of sorry for her. Does she really not understand what he’s saying? Hardly. Maybe not the essence, as our philosophy professor would say, the one who pushes his gaze underneath Vinka’s skirt while talking about Plato, but the gaze breaks away and returns to his pale useless hands.

”God, Boro, you’re really an idiot sometimes!” There, finally, was the voice of Dana, quiet Dana who, instead of caring for her father and two brothers in Cajnice, was now taking care of Boro, and her whole life she was ridden and used by some free-loader, from her drunk father to Boro, this Boro, the way he makes even me, a man, sick to my stomach when I just think of the depth of emptiness in that ox’s head of his.

”Oh c’mon, Dana, I didn’t mean it like that, hey, you are the one who studies literature, at least you know the traps of language, fuck it,” Boro straightened up, realising that he had gone too far. He wiped the crumbs off his mouth with his palm and stared at the screen.

”Anyway, you say you believe in reincarnation, so why all the fucking misery? There’ll be Tito even when Tito goes away, the soul moves on, as far as I know, right?”

I decide not to say another word. I’m waiting to see what will happen next.

I now leave the cramped student room by a method of literary transfer and focus solely on the TV screen years and years after the event.

And the screen shows the same letters: SPECIAL BULLETIN. And I’m still waiting.

So, the nation is under control, the suspense is growing, and the old farts are deliberating what to gobble up from tomorrow onwards, and who will walk over dead bodies to his home made of human bones.

Is there anything new in this world, my father says whenever they tell him the news. And here I am, feeling somewhere deep inside that everything that will happen has already passed, and that this moment of my life has already passed, and that even my whole life has passed waiting for these new bulletins, that come with delay and in limited doses; that somebody has spent my life instead of me without even asking: I have been sitting this whole time in front of the screen and now it is 2001; I have been through a number of wars, I’m an invalid in my soul and body, I am old already, too soon, I sit and listen to the announcement of a bulletin that makes something snap in my throat:

TITO IN SPACE

”Fuck all of you,” I realise all of a sudden and say to myself, i.e. to that hoard of people that has settled in me since 1980, ”all of you can go and fuck yourselves, because TITO HAS ARRIVED IN SPACE! HE CAME FROM AMERICA, PAID THE RUSSIANS WHATEVER IT COST AND SOARED INTO SPACE!”

Translated by Ulvija Tanović

 

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