BACK – February 1966
There she is, whining again! – Drago mumbled angrily, still not awakened.
– I know – answered Ljuba and sat on the couch listening to the cry from the other room. – Should we call a doctor?
She saw her husband peeking with one eye at the alarm clock ticking in the middle of the kitchen table covered with a crocheted table-cloth.
– What kind of doctor at one and a half in the morning, are you insane woman?
– Well, she’s crying…
Ljuba continued to listen.
– Something is bothering her – she commented caringly. – She’s not sleeping third night in a row.
– Well, I’m not sleeping either – said her husband again. – Go to her already, see what she wants. She’ll wake up the whole building!… It is easy for both of you to snore until noon. You do not have to wake up every morning at five.
Ljuba got up without a word, although she wanted to say Who, than, makes you coffee every day as soon as you wake up?!, put on her slippers on her bare feet and slowly opened the door to the next room.
In the old crib lit by the moon, holding on to the fence, her little Gordana was standing. For a moment she was overwhelmed by fear of that unknown body which she could not or did not know how to help. She switched on the lamp by the crib and stood still for a while, watching her child, all red from crying. Then she leaned over and held out both hands to lift her, whispering softly to her:
– What’s happened Gordana? What’s bothering you, dear?
She stopped crying and raised her hands high.
– Come to me… That’s right.
She felt the pleasant warmth of the mother’s body. And the distinctive scent of her skin.
– It’s better now, right?
She began to push her head left and right quickly, breathing in the folds of her mother’s nightgown, looking for a nipple.
– You want to suck, huh?
She sat on the ottoman and, with already practiced movements, unbuttoned the buttons with one hand, took out the breast and slowly put the nipple over Gordana’s lips.
– Here you go.
At the same moment, she grabbed the offered nipple. She pulled hard, enjoying the sweet liquid slipping down her throat.
– Oh, but you suck! Slow down a little. You’ll vomit everything again.
With her daughter in her arms, Ljuba yawned loudly and for the umpteenth time stared at the wallpapers on the walls in the room. She loved those wallpapers very much! In the rented apartment in Nova Gradiska the wallpapers were not interesting, light brown. Without any patterns. In her parents’ house, in Godinjak, there were only bare white walls. But these in Ruma, these were special! White, with blooming roses and some buds. Roses again! Drago, as soon as he saw them, said that he’ll not set foot in that bourgeois room and that he’d rather sleep on the couch in the kitchen. She joined him there. What to do, he’s her man. They must sleep in the same bed. Although it is becoming more and more difficult for her to make love to him. Every time he comes close to her, he feels a spasm in the chest, and down there she’s completely tight. She doesn’t know why it’s so. Maybe they should wait with those things, as the doctor said. And not start immediately after the delivery. But who’s to explain this to Drago? Especially a thing like that. And after every intercourse in the morning she sees at least one bloodstain on the sheet. That scares her. Even more than Drago does… Maybe she should be more determined? Who else will take care of her if not herself? She remembered her mother who often, while Ljuba was a little girl, went to a woman in the village for those things. After that, she would return with a slow step and lie on the couch in the kitchen for a few days, secretly placing cloth towels between her legs. Later she wouldn’t throw them away but washed them in a basin and dried them in the yard to use them again. Ljuba saw all that. Both the bloody cloth towels and the mother lying on the couch, crying softly until Ljuba’s father rebelled demanding his right as a man. Then her mother would get up and go with him to the common bedroom, closing the door behind her. But Ljuba still heard the creaking of the bed and her father’s groaning. It all seemed strange to her until she got married herself. She felt a little nauseous towards men. She wanted Drago to like her, but he seemed not to see her in bed. As if he didn’t care whose body would be under his. It was important for him to blow his load. He never thought of her. Are all men like that?, she often asked herself, although that question scared her. She felt that she was betraying their marriage by doubting her own husband’s kindness. Still, she could not agree with what her mother had accepted. Those constant pregnancies and abortions. With nausea she remembered her mother’s silent moans. She doesn’t want to go through that. She gritted his teeth. After all, her husband is an educated man, a soldier, not a peasant like her father. He’ll understand when she tells him that she doesn’t want to sleep with him. At least for a while. At least until the little one is one year old. And then they’ll see what happens next. She felt relieved. As if a big stone, which pressed her all the time, had fallen from her chest.
She looked at the wallpapers again. It would be wonderful to sleep among roses instead of besides Drago! Well yes, she’ll move to Gordana’s room. She smiled, forcibly pulled the nipple out of the baby’s mouth and transferred the baby to the other breast.
– Come on come on. You have to suck a little from this one, otherwise your mother’s breast will hurt a lot, you know?
The baby burped as the clear liquid flowed all the way to the back of her ear. And then she got down to working again.
Ljuba closed her eyes, indulging in the beautiful feeling in her breasts. She wanted to breastfeed her, although Drago had called her a primitive peasant several times because of that. Today’s women give powdered milk to babies and feed them with bottles and do not pass the tits like cows! Drago is right. And doctors recommend powdered milk. They say it is healthier and more hygienic. Because the mother can transmit diseases to the child through the nipples. What was its name, the pediatrician in the children’s dispensary already told her… Lactovit. Yes! You buy it in a pharmacy in large cans and mix it with warm water. She’ll really have to stop breastfeeding soon. But, still, a little more. At least in the evenings. At least when Gordana can’t sleep. She sat more comfortably on the ottoman.