Translated from Bosnian: Elizabeta Bakovska
“In my past.” She turns around. She looks at the dump, dark walls in silence. “This is the apartment of my grandparents.” She asks me where they are now. “Dead”, I say. I push a box from the corner to the middle of the room and I offer her to sit down. “You see… I’ve let them down. They died in another city. Alone.”
She doesn’t ask anything more. I move another box, I sit down as well. We are quiet. She takes my hand and puts it in its palm. My nail polish is cracked. I try to pull my hand back, but she would not let me. I explain: “Nermina and Hana polished my nails the other day. I couldn’t refuse. They went to half of the pharmacies around the city to find a quality transparent nail polish. And I told them it would not work. Not on me. Everything cracks on me.” She puts my palm to her cheek. She kisses it. “How did this apartment used to look?”, she asks with curiosity.
No look has penetrated me as hers. And I was looked by people who were lost, fucked, enraged, joyful, happy, crying, psychotic… Her look enters my bones, finds the most distant places. “There was a couch, made of fabric, in three colours”, I show the wall with my hand. She smiles. She encourages me to continue with her look.
“The dinner table here, and three chairs, for the three of us.” I lead her to the other room through the hall, then to the kitchen. I paint a lost world with my words. She listens. She listens so well.
We have been coming here for ten years. We enter the hollow insides of my childhood. She helps me clean the floors. She runs after me when they call me for a flood, when the black water bursts and spills down my neighbours’ walls. She stands next to me as I apologise. She stands my me when the old neighbours stop me and ask me: “Lejla, hon’, why don’t you move in?” And I answer them for how knows how many years in a row: “I can’t. I have no papers. They won’t give them to me.” I only have a key and a pile of memories that I have nowhere to place. She nods when they describe this government and these times. “’Cause hon’, they had nobody but you.” Or she takes out the thorn that stuck into my finger as I tried to close the holes in the rotten windows. I return to the room, as quiet as I can. I stand by the window. Downstairs, in front of the building, the reflection of the moon crumbles in the puddles. She jerks all of a sudden, she sits up in the bed, she calls me. “I’m here. Go back to sleep”, I say. She won’t, she’s awake, scared a bit. “Shall I go?”, I ask.
“What is it again?” “I’m afraid, look at this storm. The windows might crack. The glass will break. Shall I bring some tape, to put it around the corners? Who knows what the wind might bring.”
She calls me by my name. I sit on the edge of the bed. She hugs me from behind. “It’s OK”, she whispers. She promises that we will go together in the morning, check, fix whatever is needed. And now I should go to bed, I can’t stay up all night. Here, Kiki is a bundle again. I get in under the blanker. I kiss her. She hugs me, and I press harder against her body, against her image of the world. I feel her smell and I realize that life does not pay you back as you deserve. Because I haven’t deserved her with anything. And then, as lightings are on fire and thunders roam outside, I fall asleep, believing now a bit more that I have survived it after all.