If I would fly to New York, I wouldn’t do it by my own Learjet, but probably by some chartered flight (payable by six post-dated Zagrebacka banka checks), a ten days round trip. Ten days is enough time for an agile man to find some vantage points in an alien town. The first thing to do is try to sell the return ticket, paint the town red, and after that, make sure that you are left with at least a quarter. Why? To enter a phone booth and call Mile Rupčić in New York. Our man would surely find me a job to start.
In two or three months, I would earn some dough, quit the job, and be ready to start looking for a chick. I reckon that some nice and fine Puerto Rican girl from a moderately suspicious neighborhood would appear. I’ve been fond of Spanish for a long time, and my less than perfect English wouldn’t be so conspicuous in her company. Not much time would pass, and we would arrange a modest ceremony in Puerto Rico.
(In the meantime, some checks would be due, but nobody can find me here – Jerzy Kosinsky wouldn’t devise a better plan. I still live on my Master card and I never intend to pay the bills.)
My mother-in-law cares only for me being a Catholic, although I haven’t been visiting Pope’s building for years, except to satisfy my artistic urges. By way of marriage ceremony I take my wife’s last name – say, Morales – and I add an ‘o’ to my first name, to make it sound Spanish; that is, Roberto Morales. Of course, Puerto Rico is a land of great opportunities, so I immediately ask for my new papers. For a reasonable sum that ends in a pocket of a local clerk, I suddenly find myself born in Cayey, Puerto Rico, a town well-known by its tobacco industry. This accomplished, any trace of my previous life is eradicated.
Now, with all the papers, we return to New York and provisionally move to the apartment that my wife had rented before our marital bliss. I apply for my place in the welfare system.
In a local store that I usually visit, they kindly warn me that the computer says my “European” credit card is no longer valid. I utter some words of bewilderment, and I say to myself: Not bad, four months of living rather leisurely! I fake deep distress.
After I receive the first money from my new homeland, I make my way to the nearest university and make inquiries about the state grants, so I could begin to study Slavic languages. I take the entrance exam and, of course, make almost maximum score. By this, I earn a substantial grant. Then I copy my matriculation book and compose a letter containing my biography. I write about harsh life on the island (Puerto Rico, of course, not Vis or Hvar) and my destitute family, and I attach the results of my test. I mail the letters to Croatian, Bosnian, Montenegrin, Macedonian, Serbian, and Slovenian embassies and organizations of emigrants, asking them to help a stranger who wants to study their language. Then, I beg the Community of Puerto Rican Intellectuals to help a penniless peasant countryman; I don’t forget the World Jewish Congress (I mention that they could investigate my roots), Catholic Help (I send them my wedding certificate as proof that I belong to the Church), Islam Today (Islam Today! Organization), assuring them I do support the good aspects of Mohammad’s work, and some other funds.
And soon, the poor student of Slavic languages gets more support: the Slovenians were the most generous; they sent a bunch of books for good measure, because they probably saw a long-term interest in cooperation with Puerto Rico (pineapple, cigars and rum for the sunny side of the Alps!), and the Jews and Bosnians followed. The Croatian Embassy responded that they had already spent their money to finance a film that proves they had their own culture, while the rest of the Balkans didn’t even bother to respond.
We move to a larger apartment, closer to the University, and I buy myself a gift, a Compaq PC, using my student loan. Esmeralda finally quits her job of a seamstress, and we leave for a two-week cruising on the Antilles. I ponder if I could eventually fall in love with her, after all. I learn Spanish, my native language.
Our honeymoon is over soon. We still get along reasonably well.
Autumn in New York is wonderful. The leaves on the trees in Central Park remind me of colors of Medvednica in October. But, here we live freely, although on somebody other’s money.
I read, but I don’t study. In fact, I write a novel about New York.
Translated by: Goran Vujasinovic