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Travel stories - Fucking Greek sausage

In the last two contractions, only bile came out. Still kneeling, no longer squeamish, I wiped the remains of saliva from my chin with the back of my hand and remained in the same position for a few seconds on the thinned grass beside the road. Inhaling the air greedily, I enjoyed the crumbs of grace that my body was currently allowing. I knew that in a few minutes I would feel the nausea again, which would intensify moment by moment, until the urge to vomit became too strong and again forced me to stop the car and stagger out to expel the miserable remains from my stomach. Mia looked helplessly at me from the passenger seat, aware that she could not help me. The first five or six times she tried to calm me down with her touch and words, but now she just stared scared, probably thinking what to do. We left Greece in the morning and were now in Macedonia on our way to Ohrid, and this must have been the tenth forced stop. I walked back inside with a heavy step and started the engine.


"Just to get to a town and a pharmacy," I said shakily, staring at the road in front of me.

"Soon we should reach Bitola. Fourteen kilometers were written on the back board," she tried to appear positive.

"Fucking sausage. What an idiot I am," the feeling of nausea was already returning.

"Don't think about it. We have a little more," she touched my forearm.

I just remained silent, trying to get as much oxygen into my lungs as possible in an attempt to fool my own body.

She held my hand until I suddenly stopped the car once again and almost fell out. This time on rough parking lot gravel.

In the next tour, I made it to the outskirts of Bitola. The wide street bathed in dust was quite empty. A few houses, a couple of parked cars, a train station on the platform of which a half-dismembered train posed, all covered in graffiti, a wide lone tree and one of those birties at the bottom of the food chain. I stopped us almost hitting the tree trunk, opened the door and literally collapsed. I remember how the freshness of the damp clay suited me very well. My wife yelled something and ran outside to crouch down next to me, and her noise piqued the interest of the bar guests and a few of them came out, probably to shorten the afternoon.

Lying on my side, in the fetal position, with one hand under my head, I watched their disproportionately large shoes from the closest. Two unsightly pairs with open feet, such as are often worn by bus drivers, one once-white pair of tennis shoes with peeling soles, three outdated flip-flops and one brown house slippers. I tried to raise my head to look at the owner of the last ones, but I had no strength, I barely blinked.


Mia asked them something, and they answered her in a strange mixture of Serbian, Macedonian and Croatian, breaking into each other's words. It lasted for a few minutes, and I just remember that, staring at the corns from one of the people in the loafers, I somehow said that I was fine and that I just needed to rest a little.


It seems they didn't fully believe me because the next scene I remember is the deafening sound of an ambulance pulling up next to us and two guys in white pants pushing me onto a stretcher and then transferring me to a lounger inside. I also remember the rough voices of smokers wishing me luck, Mia's entry with a loaded photo backpack, a fast drive full of jolts that didn't really help my condition, bitterness burning in my throat, stopping at a hospital, an angry woman telling the driver to take me somewhere elsewhere, Mia's fingers squeezing my shoulder, another wild ride with the sound of a siren, banging my head against the metal frame, dirty metal grooves in the bottom of the van, someone's green sock under the bed on the other side.


I must have passed out or thoroughly shut down at some point because suddenly I was lying in a real hospital bed watching the IV hypnotically slowly drip and feed my pierced forearm. A nurse in her early forties, bundled up in a too-small uniform that accentuated her maternal bust, looked at me with satisfaction as soon as I turned my head. "Great, you decided to wake up. Nice, nice", she laughed broadly. "So what happened, did you drink a little?"

"I ate a little. Greek sausages,"I unsuccessfully tried to laugh.

"It's nothing for a guy like you. You'll be fine in no time," she said, pushing the thermometer under my armpit. "Hold it here for a while, let's see how you are now," she stood up, pulling her upturned skirt down.


"Honey! You're awake!", Mia entered the room. "Are you better?"

"I'm fine. Extremely tired, but I don't feel nauseous" I answered slowly, looking at her. Her face was contorted in a mixture of fear and relief, and she was still carrying my photo backpack on her back.

She bent down to hug me and as I moved I felt how my thermometer slip. It fell to the floor at an odd angle and the top broke. I couldn't see if I had a fever.

"Alas! You break it!", The nurse shouted, bending down to pick up the remains that Mia was already collecting.

"Sorry, it just fell out," I whispered in discomfort as I slumped back onto the pillow.

"It's the only one on our floor. What will we use to measure the temperature?"

"Really? No more thermometers?"

"No. You broke the last one. Let your bride go buy it. There's a pharmacy across the street."

Mia looked at me confused, and I just nodded. A fucking hospital with one thermometer, I thought.

"And what is she to you? Surely a lover?", nurse expertly concluded, noticing our age difference.

"Wife," I replied with a reassuring glance at my wife, who was sensitive to doubts about her status.

"She's not your wife, I can see," she grinned, tapping the IV tube with her index finger.

"She is. Do you want to legitimize us?", I managed to laugh, giving up the persuasion of the ridiculous nurse.

"Honey, you go outside and right across the street. You can't go wrong," she was already giving instructions to Mia, who was pulling out her wallet from backpack, still looking at her nervously.

"How much longer?" I asked nurse, pointing to the IV. "I'm much better," I added unconvincingly.

"An hour, maybe an hour and a half," she said, looking at the remaining liquid. "Rest a little more and we'll let you go."


The same nurse called us a taxi about two hours later. It was getting dark outside, and we were waiting on the road under a nervously flickering lamp. Just standing made me tired. It wasn't until we got into the ancient Yugo that we realized we didn't know where our car was. The taxi driver looked at us palely as the two of us stated what we knew about the required location, as if in a guessing game. I was already thinking of giving him a description of the slippers from the guests of that renowned cafe, when the mustachioed taxi driver did react. "And the tree? Is there a big oak tree next to the station? And the bar Stojan?"

"Yes, yes!", we answered him almost in unison.

"So what didn't you say right away," he said, shaking his head at our big mistake. Maybe his second job is forestry, it crossed my mind.


Our car was still there. Unlocked. Everything inside untouched. Seeing that we were hanging around him, people started coming out of the birtia "Stojan" cheerfully greeting us as if we were their relatives. We were surrounded by smiles, trying to briefly answer their questions and describe what was happening to us. I don't think our parents would be that interested.

Now I could match the shoes with the faces. At least five of them were there five or six hours ago when we ran aground. The one with the slippers was a spitting Javier Barden, only with a slightly bigger head. He also asked us where we would sleep.

"I don't know," I looked at the clock and saw that it was almost ten. "We'll manage, don't worry," I told him wearily. I was no longer sick, but my energy was at the bottom.

"Come to my place? To my son's room. Just to call my wife," offered the one in the knickerbockers.

"No thanks," Mia interjected, perhaps a little too aggressively. "We'll find something," she added more conciliatoryly.

"Where are you going to find a room at this time? Well, Bitola is not Paris," Javier joined in again. Not Paris. Really?, I thought wickedly, looking next to me at the dead traffic light, which I guess was working for the last time when Francis Ford Coppola was filming The Godfather. If I wasn't so dead, I would have asked him why he was walking around town in house slippers?

"I know, there's a place nearby. Now I'll show you, just follow me," he said quickly and headed towards the parked car. We said goodbye to the rest of the team and got into the car to follow him.


He stopped not even a kilometer away in front of a dark building. We parked next to an overturned container and a former planter with flowers. Javier pointed through the window to the half-open door. "You can sleep there. It will be fine."

"Thank you very much. Say hello to your friends," Mia answered him as I only had the strength to nod. Even these few minutes of driving were too much for my physical condition.


We looked at the five-story building that Javier showed us. A discreet light could be seen through the glass door, but nothing to indicate sleeping quarters. Two discarded broken chairs and scattered plastic bottles near the entrance did not help us in our decision.

"Let's go find something? Something where we can actually sleep," Mia said as Javier's car pulled away.

"I can't. I'm really dead. I have to lie down somewhere."

"But we can't sleep here. You see it's a hole. There's no living soul."

"Let's see, I really can't go on. Maybe it's not that bad."

She looked at me and I guess saw that I was currently more of a ghost than a living person and nodded. Her face looked like she had bitten into a lemon.

There was no one behind the half-open door. The light was a tiny reading lamp that someone had attached with thick duct tape to an old chipboard wardrobe that was missing one wing. A short yellowish beam illuminated only a part of the large room of the former lobby of a hotel or perhaps a student dormitory.

The turquoise wallpapered elevator door was open and held up by a gas bottle, and crumpled pieces of discarded clothing lay on the floor, along with scattered magazines and old newspapers. We just looked at each other and headed towards the wide staircase which seemed to be the safest way up. We went up to the second floor, lighting ourselves with an old battery, and decided to enter one of the rooms. Surprisingly, the light worked and we could look around the simple space with two beds, an ancient, fat television set on a table covered with a checkered tablecloth. There was a strong smell of dampness. We threw everything we took from the car onto the carpeted floor and sat down on one of the beds. Above us, voices and shouting could be heard, probably from squatters or local drunkards. There was even a key in the lock from the inside, but the lock itself was torn when someone once forced his way into the room. From what I saw, probably by foot. Mia now seemed as tired as I was, as if a hard and stressful day had finally caught up with her. She was so exhausted that she didn't say anything about the broken lock, the shouting from above and the separated beds which definitely meant she was done. With the last of my strength, I somehow lowered the ton heavy television and pushed it sideways against the door. I learned that locking technique once before, in the interior of Turkey.

In complete silence, as if words had completely lost their value, Mia, fully clothed, crawled under the blanket and wished me good night. Looking at her with a comforting smile, I turned off the light, stripped down to my boxers and lay down. Upstairs, on the fourth or fifth floor, someone yelled at someone to fuck his mother, I understood because it sounds similar in Croatian. Then I heard the sound of a glass or bottle breaking and the sound of footsteps.

I covered my head and fell asleep like a baby.



Jebena Grčka kobasica


U zadnja dva trzaja izletjela je samo žuč. Još klečeći, više nimalo gadljiv, nadlanicom sam obrisao ostatke sline s brade i par sekundi ostao u istoj poziciji na prorijeđenoj travi pokraj ceste. Grabežljivo udišući zrak uživao sam u mrvicama milosti koje mi je tijelo trenutačno dopuštalo. Znao sam da ću kroz par minuta opet osjetiti mučninu koja će se iz trena u tren pojačavati, sve dok poriv za povraćanjem ne postane previše jak i opet me natjera da zaustavim auto i isteturam van da izbacim jadne ostatke iz svoje utrobe. Mia me nemoćno gledala sa suvozačkog mjesta, svjesna da mi ne može pomoći. Prvih pet, šest puta me pokušavala smiriti dodirom i riječima, ali sad je samo prestrašeno zurila vjerojatno razmišljajući što da napravimo. Ujutro smo krenuli iz Grčke i sad smo bili u Makedoniji na putu prema Ohridu i ovo je valjda bila već deseta prisilna stanka. Teškim korakom sam se vratio unutra i upalio motor.


"Samo da dođemo do nekog grada i ljekarne", drhtavo sam izgovorio zureći u cestu ispred sebe.

"Uskoro bi trebali do Bitole. Na zadnjoj tabli je pisalo četrnaest kilometara", pokušavala je djelovati pozitivno.

"Jebena kobasica. Koji sam ja idiot", osjećaj mučnine se već vraćao.

"Nemoj razmišljati o tome. Imamo još malo", dodirnula me po podlaktici.

Samo sam šutio pokušavajući u pluća ubaciti što više kisika u pokušaju da zavaram vlastiti organizam.

Držala me za ruku sve dok još jednom nisam naglo zaustavio auto i gotovo ispao van. Ovaj puta na grubi parkirališni šljunak.


U idućoj turi sam izdržao do predgrađa Bitole. Široka ulica okupana u prašini bila je poprilično prazna. Nekoliko kuća, par parkiranih automobila, stanica vlaka na čijem peronu je pozirao napola raskomadani vlak, sav išaran grafitima, široko usamljeno drvo i jedna od onih birtija na dnu hranidbenog lanca. Zaustavio sam nas zamalo udarajući u deblo, otvorio vrata i doslovno se srušio. Pamtim kako mi je svježina vlažne zemlje jako odgovarala. Moja supruga je nešto viknula i istrčala van da čučne do mene, a njezina buka je izazvala interes gostiju iz birtije i nekoliko njih je izašlo van, vjerojatno da malo skrate popodne.

Ležeći na boku, gotovo fetusno skvrčen, s jednom rukom pod glavom, promatrao sam iz najveće blizine njihovu nerazmjerno veliku obuću. Dvoje neukusnih koledžica otvorenog rista, jedne nekada bijele najkice oguljenog đona, troje zastarjelih natikača i jedne smeđe kućne papuče. Pokušao sam podići glavu da pogledam vlasnika zadnjih, ali nisam imao snage, jedva sam i treptao.


Mia im se obratila nešto pitajući, a oni su joj na čudnoj mješavini srpskog, makedonskog i hrvatskog odgovarali jedan drugome upadajući u riječ. To je trajalo par minuta, a ja se samo sjećam da sam buljeći u kurje oko od jednog u natikačama, nekako izgovorio da sam dobro, i da se samo trebam malo odmoriti.


Čini se da mi nisu u potpunosti vjerovali jer je iduća scena koju pamtim zaglušujući zvuk vozila hitne pomoći koja se zaustavlja pored nas i dva tipa u bijelim hlačama koji me guraju na neku nosiljku i onda prebacuju na ležaljku unutra. Pamtim i grube pušačke glasove koji mi žele sreću, Miju natovarenom foto ruksakom kako ulazi unutra, brzu vožnju punu trzaja koji baš i nisu pomagali mom stanju, gorčinu žući u grlu, zaustavljanje u nekoj bolnici, ljutu žene koja govori vozaču da me voze u negdje drugdje, Mijine prste kako mi stišću rame, novu divlju vožnju uz buku sirene, udaranja glavom u metalni okvir, prljavih metalnih žljebova na dnu kombija, nečiju zelenu čarapu ispod ležaja na drugoj strani.


Očito sam se u nekom trenutku onesvijestio ili temeljito isključio jer sam odjednom ležao u pravom bolničkom krevetu promatrajući kako mi infuzija hipnotički polako kaplje i hrani mi probodenu podlakticu. Sestra u ranim četrdesetima, sapeta u broj do dva premalu uniformu koja je isticala njeno majčinsko poprsje, zadovoljno je pogledala u mene čim sam okrenuo glavu. "Šta je, odlučio si se probuditi. A lepo, lepo", široko se nasmijala. "Pa šta je bilo, malo se popilo?"

"Malo se jelo. Kobasice", i ja sam se pokušao nasmijati.

"Ma nije to ništa za takvog momka, za čas ćeš da budeš dobro", rekla je gurajući mi toplomjer pod pazuh. "Drži to malo ovde, da vidimo kakav si sad", ustala je povlačeći nadignutu suknju prema dolje.


"Dušo! Budan si!", i Mia je ušla u sobu. "Jesi bolje?"

"Dobro sam. Beskrajno umoran, ali nije mi zlo", polako sam odgovorio pogledavajući je. Lice joj je bilo zgrčeno u mješavini straha i olakšanja, a na leđima je još uvijek nosila moj foto ruksak.

Sagnula se da me zagrli i pomičući se osjetio sam da mi je toplomjer skliznuo. Pao je na pod pod čudnim kutem i vrh mu se razbio. Nije se vidjelo imam li temperaturu.

"A jao!, Pa šta ga razbi?", retorički me sestra pitala saginjući se da podigne ostatke koje je Mia već skupljala.

"Oprostite, samo je ispao", prošaptao sam u nelagodi spuštajući se nazad na jastuk.

"To nam je jedini na spratu. Čime ćemo da merimo?"

"Stvarno? Nemate više toplomjera?"

"Ne. Zadnji si razbio. Ajde neka tvoja nevjesta ode da kupi. Ima preko ulice u apoteci."

Mia me zbunjeno pogledala, a ja sam samo kimnuo. Jebote bolnica s jednim toplomjerom, pomislio sam.

"A šta je ona tebi? Sigurno ljubavnica?", znalački je zaključila primjećujući našu razliku u godinama.

"Žena.", odgovorio sam pogledom smirujući suprugu koja je bila osjetljiva na sumnje u naš status.

"Nije ti žena, vidim ja", šeretski se nacerila kažiprstom kuckajući po cijevi od infuzije.

"Eto, ali ipak je. Hoćeš nas legitimirati?", uspio sam se i nasmijati odustajući od persiranja smiješne sestre.

"Dušo, izađeš van i odmah preko puta. Ne možeš da pogrešiš", već je davala upute Miji koja je iz ruksaka izvlačila novčanik i dalje je nervozno pogledavajući.

"Koliko još?, pitao sam je pokazujući na infuziju. "Puno sam bolje", dodao sam neuvjerljivo.

"Sat, sat i pol", rekla je pogledavajući preostalu tekućinu. "Odmori još malo pa te puštamo."


Ista sestra nam je pozvala taksi nekih dva sata kasnije. Vani je pao mrak, a mi smo čekali na cesti ispod lampe koja je nervozno treperila. I stajanje me umaralo. Tek kad smo ušli u prastari yugo, shvatili smo da ne znamo gdje nam je auto. Taksist nas je blijedo gledao dok smo u dvoje, kao u igri pogađanja navodili ono što znamo o potrebnoj lokaciji. Već sam razmišljao da mu dam opis natikača od gostiju onog renomiranog kafića kad je brkati taksist ipak reagirao. "A drvo? Ima li veliko hrastovo drvo pored stanice? I lokal Kod Stojana?"

"Ima, ima!", gotovo smo mu u zboru odgovorili.

"Pa šta odmah niste rekli", rekao je odmahujući glavom na našu veliku pogrešku. Možda mu je je drugi posao šumarstvo, prošlo mi je glavom.


Auto nam je i dalje stajao tamo. Otključan. Sve unutra nedirnuto. Vidjevši da se motamo oko njega, ljudi su počeli izlaziti iz birtije veselo nas pozdravljajući kao da smo im rod. Okruženi smo se smješkali pokušavajući ukratko odgovoriti na njihova pitanja i opisati što nam se događalo. Mislim da mi ni roditelji ne bi bili toliko zainteresirani.

Sad sam mogao spojiti obuću s licima. Bar petorica su bila tu i prije pet, šest sati kad smo se nasukali. Onaj s papučama je bio pljunuti Javier Barden, samo s još malo većom glavom. On nas je i pitao gdje ćemo spavati.

"Ne znam", pogledao sam na sat i vidio da je skoro deset. "Budemo se snašli, ne brinite", umorno sam mu rekao. Više mi nije bilo zlo, ali energija mi je bila pri dnu.

"Ajde kod mene? Kod sina u sobu. Samo da nazovem ženu", nudio je onaj u najkicama.

"Ne hvala", možda malo preagresivno je Mia upala. "Naći ćemo već nešto", dodala je pomirljivije.

"Ma gde ćete da nađete sobu u ovo doba? Pa nije Bitola Pariz", uključio se opet Javier. Ma ajde?, zločesto sam pomislio gledajući pored sebe u mrtvi semafor koji je zadnji puta valjda radio dok je Francis Ford Coppola snimao Kuma. Da nisam bio tako mrtav sigurno bih ga pitao zašto hoda gradom u kućnim papućama?

"Znam, ima tu blizu mesto. Sad ću da vam pokažem, samo za mnom", brzo je izgovorio i krenuo prema parkiranom stojadinu. Pozdravili smo se s ostatkom ekipe i ušli u auto da ga pratimo.


Stao je niti kilometar dalje ispred neke mračne zgrade. Parkirali smo pored prevrnutog kontejnera i nekadašnje žardinjere sa cvijećem. Javier je kroz prozor pokazao prema napola otvorenim vratima. "Tu može da spavate. Biće dobro."

"Puno hvala. Pozdravite prijatelje", Mia mu je odgovorila jer sam ja imao snage samo za kimanje. I ovih par minuta vožnje je bilo previše za moje fizičko stanje.


Pogledali smo u petorokatnu građevinu koju nam je Javier pokazao. Kroz staklena vrata se vidjelo nekakvo diskretno svijetlo, ali ništa nije ukazivalo na smještaj za spavanje. Dva odbačena slomljena stolca i razbacane plastične boce pokraj ulaza nam nisu pomagale u odluci.

"Idemo nešto potražiti? Nešto gdje stvarno možemo spavati", rekla je Mia kad je Javierov auto odmaknuo.

"Ne mogu. Stvarno sam mrtav. Moram negdje leći."

"Ali ne možemo ovdje spavati. Vidiš da je to neka rupa. Pa nema žive duše."

"Ajmo vidjeti, stvarno ne mogu dalje. Možda nije tako loše."

Pogledala me i valjda vidjela da sam trenutno više duh nego živa osoba i kimnula. Lice joj je izgledalo kao da je zagrizla u limun.

Iza poluotvorenih vrata nije bilo nikoga. Ono svijetlo je bila malena lampa za čitanje koju je netko debelim selotejpom pričvrstio za stari ormar od iverice kojem je falilo jedno krilo. Kratak žučkasti snop osvjetljavao je samo dijelić velike prostorije nekadašnjeg predvorja hotela ili možda studentskog doma.

Vrata lifta obljepljenog tirkiznim tapetama bila su otvorena i pridržavala ih je boca plina, a na podu, po razbacanim časopisima i novinama, ležale su zgužvani komadi odbaćene odjeće. Samo smo se pogledali i krenuli prema širokom stubištu koje se činilo kao najsigurniji način uspona. Popeli smo se do drugog kata osvjetljavajući si starom baterijom i odlučili ući u jednu od soba. Začudo, svijetlo je radilo i mogli smo razgledati jednostavan prostor s dva kreveta, prastarim, debelim televizorom odloženim na stolu prekrivenim kariranim stolnjakom. Osjećao se jak vonj vlage. Bacili smo na tapisonski pod sve što smo uzeli iz auta i sjeli na jedan od kreveta. Iznad nas su se čuli nečiji glasovi i podvikivanje, vjerojatno od skvotera ili lokalnih pijanaca. U bravi je s unutrašnje strane čak postojao ključ, ali sama brava je bila potrgana dok je netko nekada na silu ulazio u sobu. Po onome što sam vidio, vjerojatno nogom. Mia je sad djelovala jednako umorna kao ja, kao da ju je težak i stresan dan napokon dostigao. Bila je toliko iscrpljena da nije ništa rekla za razvaljenu bravu, vikanje odozgora i razdvojene krevete što je definitivno značilo da je gotova. Zadnjim snagama sam nekako spustio tonu težak televizor i nagurao ga bočno na vrata. Tu sam tehniku zaključavanja naučio jednom ranije, u unutrašnjosti Turske.

U potpunoj tišini, kao da su riječi potpuno izgubile vrijednost, Mia se potpuno obučena zavukla pod deku i pogledom mi poželjela laku noć. Gledajući je s utješnim smiješkom, ugasio sam svijetlo, skinuo se u bokserice i legao. Gore, na četvrtom ili petom katu je netko nekome zaurlao da mu jebe mater, razumio sam jer slično zvuči i na hrvatskom. Potom se čulo razbijanje neke čaše ili boce i tutnjava koraka.

Pokrio sam se po glavi i zaspao kao beba.






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