| Diwan Special issue|
Born in 1961 in Sarajevo (B&H), lives in Sarajevo (B&H).
As soon as I met him, he started to be different. Why I separated him from the others, I’ll say later. He had big eyes, long lashes, his skin was thin and see-through, you could see veins through it, even his skeleton. He was too beautiful for a guy and somehow half way up to a woman; so frail and thin that you could almost look through him. From his feet to his hair, he looked like his sister, so I felt like I had slept with him, too.
He put on make-up and did his mails in an attempt to become a genuine substitute for a girl. He liked to go out in a dress, propped up on high-heels, with breast made of hard balled-up socks. In our town that had suffered worse in its attempt to look cosmopolitan, Danijel was an exception. People either laughed or were grossed out, but I rooted for him. For us he was a decoration, for others a freak. When Danijel walked down the street disguised as a female, we had something to admire. We spent the whole day on the corner spitting and swearing and craving for something to happen. It was boring, and Danijel helped us to experience something.
Danijel’s father Aleksandar, masculine and tall, with a beard that smelled of pipe and burnt barbecue, tried to beat the ghost that humiliated the father out of his son. People said that Danijel never cried. He just waited for the macho-man’s hands get tired. Popović wanted for his masculinity to pass into his son at any price.
Danijel’s wish to be a female tortured his fater. From the bottom of his heart, Danijel yearned to seduce. The gracefulness and similarity to a girl that Danijel displayed as a child turned into something that disgusted the father. Danijel’s movements and manner stung him more than a slap across the face. Daniijel grew up, and with him grew his vices.
The father sent Danijel to get treatment abroad for a few months. There they injected him with male hormones and tried to brainwash him so that he would no longer need to be liked. But, in the war with chemicals, his nature secured a victory. He returned thin and full of needle marks, with an expression of someone who had survived a shipwreck.
The father blamed his own mother, Danijel’s grandmother, for the way he was. This thesis was supported by findings written in the cold language of doctors. Right after Danijel was born, his grandmother took him in and started imagining him as a girl. Hiding it from her son, she dressed Danijel in frocks and fancied that she had a granddaughter. His only male prerogative was buried deep in his diapers and was of little importance at that time. Danijel became used to his grandmother’s wish to play a girl. He learned to take advantage of it. The more he pretended to be what he wasn’t, the better off he was. Underneath the magnifying glass of his grandmother’s attention, he felt even smaller and sweeter.
I know nothing about Aleksandar Popović, Danijel’s father, except that he is perhaps still alive. He was dark and rigid. He looked like a pole around which we played tag. I had no mercy towards people of fifty. As far as I was concerned counting to fifty was difficult enough, not to mention going further. I believed that there were many ways to shorten life and halt it in time. I didn’t want to die old and wrinkled, with skin that smells of something sour and of pain-relief ointment. Instead of feeling sorry for me when I die, I wanted everyone to be in awe of me. Once, looking at a friend who had been stabbed to death, I felt envious. He was important because he had died in the peak of his strength, surrounded by people whose only advantage was that they were still alive. Death had snatched him up in the moment of his greatest beauty and strength. The only thing that worried me was that dead Luka, perhaps, didn’t even know how much he meant to us.
The role of Mr. Aleksandar was to beat Danijel and to despair over the way his son was. I did not understand where he got the strength to hope. The drama of the father beating his son in vain seemed ridiculous to us. It wasn’t easy for our fathers either. As soon as the first hairs sprouted on our faces they stopped laughing. Some erected a wall of silence between themselves and their sons, others pretended that growing up and becoming adults was an optical illusion – a play of light that made monsters out of children. Zits burgeoned on our cheeks and foreheads, that even the habit of seeing did not make any less ugly. We squeezed them out of our skin. If we hadn’t made a game out of our zits, we would have been even more unhappy.
I see Danijel and his sister as the last twigs of a tree that has started to rot from age. Everything about them became stretched and elongated; it was just a matter of time when it would break. I was proud to have an opportunity to watch a demise that was more wacky than tragic and that went on with a lot of charm. Just like a butterfly’s.
Of close relatives, apart from the grandmother, they also had an aunt who had learned to eat and wash herself only by the time she was thirty. You could say a lot about her, but you couldn’t say that she was ugly. Her eyes were much like Danijel and Dijana’s, but empty. It was tough to figure out what she was looking at. The aunt had remained a child brought up to be as inconspicuous as possible. Since they had cleaned out her late pregnancy, she always writhed and cried on that day, although she knew nothing about dates. The leash on which they kept her no longer broke. It stretched at most to the outer limits where they could still see her.
Dijana and Danijel were gentle towards their aunt; they were even overjoyed in a way that the aunt had been born crazy. They didn’t hide their pride of the fact that the aunt had gone all the way in something the Ancient Greeks considered a gift. They kissed her and made her repeat the few phrases she knew, and I laughed, out loud even. From the two extreme attitudes brought about by looking at a retarded creature, I chose the happier one. I was overcome by happiness because I was normal and because I could consciously control my features. I used the aunt to feel how good I had it. Next to a creature like that I became even more valuable to myself.
At first it seemed strange to me that Danijel and Dijana were twins and that they differed only by what they had between their legs. I was afraid of falling in love with him, too. He crave with his whole being for someone to embrace him and crush him. He was losing patience and he began coming on to us hysterically, so we started imagining what it would be like with him. He hadn’t become a female yet, but he had come close to the gender that drove us crazy.
That’s how it happened that we all ended up in a basement. To make it less ugly, we plastered it with posters and laid a ”jogi” mattress on the floor. The cold and hard interior of the basement became softer and somehow made for something to be experienced within it. When it was my turn I stopped to think. All of a sudden I lost the courage to cheat on Dijana with her brother. I was seeing up close now that he wasn’t a girl but a guy and that annoyed me.
”What is it!”
”You afraid to get him pregnant.”
”He wanted it himself.”
”Stick it to him!” Gane shouted.
”I can’t,” I said.
”One more won’t mean anything to him.”
Looking down at Danijel’s behind and the thin spinal ridge, I thought about how everything must pass, even this. What else could we do, but be in a basement trying out life. Up above us, in apartments partitioned like a honeycomb, dosed the people we didn’t want to resemble. They warned us of what years can do. They were best at being afraid of something. We did all sorts of things to uphold their fear. We were killing their hope that things would change. We growled and charged at the geezers, so it seemed like we hated them. It was amazing what they were prepared to take just so they wouldn’t feel pain. There was a woman in the building that shivered when she saw us and a man that gave us money to be left alone. We didn’t have any real enemies, so we created them by force. We only liked animals; especially birds because they could fly away.
Translated by Ulvija Tanović
Diwan 2002. Sva prava zadržana.
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