july, twenty

I woke up on a Sunday morning craving dad’s spaghetti and feeling like there was an elephant on my chest. That’s how I knew I was homesick.

I longed for a place that is far away but lives inside me. I longed for a place (one I never knew in the first place) so much it made my insides tighten and my bones ache. I kept the feeling at bay most of that Sunday but I’ve dragged it along like a wet towel for weeks. Heavy and thick, dripping with regret and spite. It wasn’t until I returned to my flat fourteen hours later, halfway through a message to him, that I started crying. Howling and unable to catch my breath. If anyone were to hear me, it would break their hearts. But they did not. As a twenty-seven year old, I still cry like I did when I was three. My lips curl into a painful grimace and large tears roll down my face falling onto the floor. It sometimes takes seven or eight months before I get to this point but when I do, it is always ugly.

Two months earlier, we sat opposite each other with a large plate of seafood between us. La Barceloneta sparkled in the sun. The sea swelled towards the shore in calm waves and backwashed in an even tempo over and over again. There was nothing to it except the two of us spending time together on a particularly beautiful day. After years of absence, it was like being able to breathe again. Because it was my birthday; because his visit was a surprise gift; because I didn’t think I would ever get to spend time with him like that again. I realized why it never worked out with anyone else.

She died thirteen months ago — my paternal grandmother. Since then the concept of death has consumed me. Mental images of her casket lowering into the ground lower and lower until we couldn’t see it anymore. The cemetery is in our street in Banja Luka, next to the tennis courts where both my father and I have played in the past, surrounded by residential buildings. It is absurd. Then the plain concrete top. Her name printed in Cyrillic; next to my grandfather’s. I hated the hierarchy of order, in which we stood around the grave. My uncle, father, and I (the only Tomovic) on one side grouped together, while my mother stood opposite with everyone else. Because nobody else was blood. And that was it. This is how the world buried her. Eighty-seven years, almost a century of being a human being. All of her — gone, only memories remain and I don’t have a whole lot of those either. I keep imaging the way her flesh will have peeled away from her body. A slow, morbid, and terrifying process of becoming a skeleton. We came from the earth, we must return to it.

That afternoon in Barcelona, I told him about life. My own and in general; about death; about good things and bad things; about how people keep disappointing me which is why I am still alone; about places I’ve been to the past three years; about my family. There is still a lot left to cover. Saying it all out loud made me vulnerable, made it somehow more real than it was before. I couldn’t have foreseen though that something about recounting the memories will stir the emotions and push them to the surface at some point. Like floods when they push through whatever barrier was before them. And I didn’t know when that would happen. It turned out to be a Sunday. I often think of that conversation. How perfect the entire weekend was. Even then, he offered much more in return than I would ever be able to convey. We parted ways after and went back to our lives. Sort of.

She is no longer with us and I’ll never see her again. What no one prepared me for is that despite that she’s still my grandmother and it’s something I have to live with. With her photos, with her handwritten inscription inside a book that was a gift for me when I still lived 9,000 km away, with my prominent cheekbones that are hers. Back when I didn’t know her. Back when I didn’t know that I do know her. You cannot make familial blood unknown. This familiarity is what I haven’t made space for; the familiarity of having accepted that this is how it is now.

It scares me so much. It makes me panic. I am scared that I will end up without the only thing that matters — family. But I’m writing to him. I’m sharing my thoughts with him and he listens. And maybe it’s nothing but it feels like something. It means I am not alone.

six, thirteen

I am out of practice; out of breath. The words don’t come easily. I have to call for them, like for a scared stray cat. It used to be that it would all disappear. I’d turn away from myself. But instead, I just need to let it come to me and be quick about catching the right moment. A little bit like a perfectly chilled glass of wine. Tender gyoza for dinner, two nights in a row. Lebanese for lunch, again. I remain faithful to my habits even though I know there is so much more out there. I’ve made a list of neighborhoods in Prague I want to explore, revisit. It’s been far too long. I wish I loved this city the way I love all the others. The rain and gloom have slowed me down. The last few days, perhaps even weeks, have been quiet. Unusually so.

stay see

It’s an injustice. The fact that I haven’t been writing. Letting life move past me without leaving traces behind. I have certain bits and pieces, here and there. The beginning, maybe even the middle.

Day one, not one day.

Life has changed since December. Since London. I’ve been around the world since then; a dozen countries. He met me halfway in one of them when I didn’t know. It almost felt as if the world stopped spinning for a while and then when it started again, it started at a different speed. At a pace that felt right.

I am still finding my way around this new life. But to bottle up the beauty and freedom would be a shame.

without a title

London.

Here’s what I told him when we sat in that basement bar the first night I saw him.

That I am only aware of my emotions and thoughts; I have no idea how they are formed. It’s a serious handicap of mine. It makes me seem inarticulate and illiterate. That my inability to convey an opinion in a way that would move the person reading it is what makes me inadequate. In more than one way. Unless I learn how to remove myself from my own mind, step outside of it, and take a wider look at the world around me, I am going to be trapped in the state of mind that I am in until the end of times.

Is this the reason why I haven’t been writing? Out of fear or disdain for everything that I produce. It’s always one or the other. But of course, it’s all just excuses. It’s hard work. It takes discipline. Grit. I am struggling with both.

You are too hard on yourself.

It has been six months, though, and it’s a disgrace to who I want to be.

the truth

by Harry Browne

The truth is simply this:
No one owes you anything.
It means that no one else is living for you, my child. Because no one is you. Each person is living for himself; his own happiness is all he can ever personally feel.
When you realize that no one owes you happiness or anything else, you’ll be freed from expecting what isn’t likely to be.
It means no one has to love you. If someone loves you, it’s because there’s something special about you that gives him happiness. Find out what that something special is and try to make it stronger in you, so that you’ll be loved even more.
When people do things for you, it’s because they want to — because you, in some way, give them something meaningful that makes them want to please you, not because anyone owes you anything.
No one has to like you. If your friends want to be with you, it’s not out of duty. Find out what makes others happy so they’ll want to be near you.
No one has to respect you. Some people may even be unkind to you. But once you realize that people don’t have to be good to you, and may not be good to you, you’ll learn to avoid those who would harm you. For you don’t owe them anything either.
No one owes you anything.
You owe it to yourself to be the best person possible.

December 25, 1966