In the summer of 2001, I ran into an old childhood friend while I was walking around my hometown of Borovo Naselje. This guy was my play buddy when we were very little. Even after we each found different buddies, we remained friendly, all throughout the first 17 years of our lives. Then the war started (in 1991) and I fled, while he became one of the youngest volunteers in the Croatian army. What kind of a military tells a 17-yr boy, "yeah, don't flee this hell, don't go to back to high school, but rather, grab this gun and kill and be killed"?! He didn't get killed, but he did get hooked on all kinds of drugs. I believe heroin was the drug of choice in the military then and there, but that's not so important.
I don't think my buddy ever finished high school, and he lived on the pension checks from the military--retired at 27. I was able to piece together that much out of his monologue that summer of 2001 when we ran into each other, and then went for a drink at a nearby watering hole. He did most of the talking, and a lot of what he said was horrifying. Killing old ladies ("collateral damage"). Him trying to kill himself by deliberately walking in minefields all over Bosnia, where he fought wars for 3 years.
He had an ambition to volunteer for youth peace groups in our town, but he never got around to that. I wonder if he'd still be alive had he had gone into that kind of activist volunteering. All I know is, he died around the age of 30.
I probably remember most often what he said about romance, in fact, I'd always remember that in the years since the summer 2001, while listening to romance complaints by friends. My friends' complaints always boil down to: 'I desperately want romantic bliss and yet I constantly get disappointed (sooner or later).' Those same friends typically are always either dating or actively, systematically, pursuing someone. It reminds me of how they actively, systematically, pursue professional success. But an approach that works in the professional world doesn't seem to work in the romance department. What I've observed is this: you're much better off if you spend time just being alone, having fun, at peace with the fact that romance is uncontrollable.
"I've been happily in love before. I'm not in any kind of love now, but I'm not worried. I've been there before, and so I know it can happen again." That's what my war veteran buddy said. He was in many ways a ruin of a human being, but his head was clear about that one thing.
Monday, June 11, 2012
Me: leaning against a railing that surrounds a tree & some flowers on Montrose & Walcott in Chicago, (re)reading A Megaphone. A group of women (older than me; not sure how much, I'm bad at age-guessing) approaches the car parked right in front of me, they start getting in. (A big car, I want to say it's an SUV of some kind, there's four women.) One woman goes, "What's the book about?" "It's about women poets around the world and how they're struggling. And yet plowing on." Most women already in the car, the one talking to me says: "It's a thick book." "Well, the whole world is in it. Well, half of it." Already in her seat (next to the driver), she goes, "Okay, bye!" I had a feeling she was done with this conversation before I even said anything.