As soon as people began to move into the Red High-rise, in Prijedor, in the early spring of 1975, a large number of children roamed the meadows between the two high-rises, the two mine buildings. They made a snowman four meters high, from the left-over dirty snow.
Five years later, after Tito’s death, they once made Tito out of cardboard (imitation of the Tito they had seen during their field trip to Kumrovec) and all in turn received beating from their parents. Tito was made of cardboard, glued all over, so the wind quickly took it and it fell into Taib’s garden, next to the high-rise.
Taib, it seems, has always been alone and old. He wouldn’t sell the little house with the garden at any price. They built a high-rise right next to his house and wanted to pay him to move out and demolish the house, but Taib wouldn’t even talk about it. The girl, his daughter, was killed in a car accident by their next-door neighbour, Hamdija Kurtović, owner of a car repair shop opposite Taib’s house. Unintentionally, ten meters down the street.
So Taib didn’t allow for the house to be demolished and didn’t want to leave the place where his child passed away. He didn’t talk to Hamdija, although Hamdija came to his door several times. He didn’t even open it for him.
And everyone felt sorry for that unfortunate, hunchbacked Taib. His wife also died out of grief for the child, and Taib himself, with the little house and the apple tree in front of it, sank into solitude, as if in muddy waters. He worked all day in the garden and watched from there as Hamdija Kurtovic’s son Amir was growing up.
Tito made of cardboard was falling apart under Taib’s apple tree.
Then, before the war, Hamdija’s son Amir died of a heart attack at the age of twenty-eight, in the middle of a cafe.
I don’t know if Taib thought – Hamdija Kurtovic, we’re even now. He wouldn’t have.
In the first days after the war, one night masked thieves broke in, strangled Hamdija Kurtović и and his wife and robbed the car repair shop. They didn’t even touch Taib, right across the street, although it would be difficult to say that they didn’t know there was a Bosniak inside – they probably thought that there was a poor Bosniak inside, not even worth killing.
Taib was behind the curtain. He was trembling. He was thinking. He was thinking and he was praying, but he didn’t know how, he had forgotten, he had not addressed God since the death of the child.
They killed them, they killed them, he repeated to himself.
They found him ten days later.
Bent over, as if he wanted to pray, but planted himself dead on his head and remained so. Thus, Taib didn’t come to understand that Hamdija Kurtović and his wife were killed by the police officer, the same one present long ago at the site inspection when the girl was killed by the car.
Now the rotten apple tree is the only thing left.
A well-thought-out look at it would lift even the cardboard Tito rotting next to it.
And maybe it keeps the Red High-rise from falling into Taib’s garden, now homeless, childless and empty.