The Day That Last For Days
Written by: Bojan Savić Ostojić
Translated by: Ljiljana Pticina, Mihajlo Stojković
Dearest Marijana Nikolajević,
After many second thoughts, still I am answering your call to write something for “Libartes”. You told me that the theme of the new issue was “awakening”. I interrupted you and asked: “awakeness?” It is not the first time that I hear what I please in that which is asked of me. Why is, you wonder, “awakeness” infinitely more important to me than “awakening”? Because awakening is but a moment, an unbinding trigger after which one can, unpunished, sink back into blissful languor. But awakeness is a practise, an effort to keep the morning, still uncomposed, attention during the whole day, and to keep the composedness which we give to details of a recently ended dream last, a dream which we try to translate, in extraneous detail, into pictures or sentences, while we have not yet redirected ourselves to the mechanisms of reality.
I asked myself one morning after a recorded dream, how would the one appearing in reality feel being gifted such unscrupulous attention? Has even that which we see every day not deserved a detailed, subjective description, rid of all civilised considerations which we keep to daily, but with all the arsenal of prejudices by which we observe dreams?
The fragments I am sending you arose from that question. I did not separate records of dreams from records of the seen, although even the unengaged reader will immediately know which is which. I hope this is convenient for you? I did not adapt the records at all. Nevertheless, I am sorry for not writing you a letter as I had planned, to demonstrate the consistency of that awakeness which I advocate. I have only seldom managed to realize the day which lasts for days.
I intended to end that letter with the words: “Why awakeness,but not awakening? Because one can be awake in a dream.”
Bojan Savic Ostojic
A face should be read as a dream.
for Annie Ernaux
Twins in a double baby carriage. I bend down: the boy is sleeping. In the other part of the stroller: a curly girl is awake and curiously, with boredom however, is looking around the moving arch above her, unfortunate indeed that she can’t get up and leave or at least to uncouple her part of the stroller from the other one.
And who would describe that sight of touching childlike boredom as “cute!”, except me?
I am staying in someone’s bedroom. The interior layout resembles the living room at Djosic’s in Mionica1Translator’s note: Mionica is a town and municipality located in the Kolubara District of western Serbia.. I am a guest of an unknown female, but her father expresses hostility towards me. There must be a good reason or an excuse that I am staying at their house. But, the more my stay is justified, her pa – or just some male in the house – is more hostile. I feel like my every move may cause a small catastrophe.
When I come back into the room after the walk, the complete interior has changed. Right next to the unmade beds, some kind of lumps are lying on the floor. I dread that I left them there, but I am relieved since I am supposed to leave during the day.
She is focused on her smartphone. She scrolls it with her right hand with an imposing ring (a two-part silver band, the upper part thicker than the lower one). She supports her cheek with her left hand clenched into a fist. An oblique glasses frame has fallen on the back of her hand. Her whole body is motionless; only her right wrist is moving. She is not even touching her phone with her fingertip, scrolling with her ring fingernail instead. When suddenly she needed to type something, she put her right hand down and freezed it next to her left hand, moved her glasses and looked over the hall.
Interesting: before, until she raised a glance, she seemed chubbier and younger, almost resembling a teenage girl. Now it turns out that she is a middle aged, well preserved lady, with brownish curly hair tied in tail, chubby, but not as much as I thought at the first glance.
Under her black cardigan you can spot greyish t-shirt emblazoned with Klimt’s Kiss. She put her phone down. Now she is only jigging and waiting for the waiter, leaning on her right hand, bored. A blonde now occupies the place that she left, taking the wall-facing chair.
I am in “Paris” (while I’m dreaming, the most important thing is where I think I am), wandering around some steep district. I want to find a road line that will lead me to the dorm or canteen. Twice there are obstacles coming down my way in the form of construction zones. When I first find myself at the end of some street, in front of white-painted balusters, I don’t mind. Passers-by who are in a hurry can climb the stairs. But when I come upon the exact same place for the second time, I pause and ponder.
The stairs lead onto the scene. You can barely climb them. A children’s play is being performed on the scene. The actors, wearing white togas, are on the locations marked with chalk. But there are also avant-garde elements. Somewhere in the crowd there is also a writer Ljubivoje Rsumovic2Translator’s note: a famous Serbian writer, openly talking with the actors, like a professor surrounded by his students.
There is no other way, I am forced to cut across the scene. No one gives me trouble, but I feel uneasy. In the meantime, I have lost my orientation completely.
Closing time in “Polet”. After she gave and charged me for a beer, the addle-brained waitress takes out a slice of pizza from somewhere. I tell her: “Oh, you serve pizza after the gig!” She resignedly shakes her head as if saying “I have heard that before from those hanging on the bar table.”
A female guest is approaching her. The waitress hides her pizza, asking to be allowed to finish her meal, but still takes the order. A colleague, who takes her place, takes out her own slice of pizza. (It seems to me: hers!)
Both waitresses’ white shirts are completely ill-fitted, so big as if the owner intended to wipe away any sign of sexuality from them.
A white lobby with Radio Nostalgie. The hostess is carefully coming out of the room with a mug, making sure not to open the door too much, so that I won’t see the female patient on the operating table.
The chairs, plastic cups and tea spoons are white, as well as the club table and the clock, even the hands, the frame and the numbers. The hostess has a white bandage on her thumb, white splint across her shoulder. What is happening inside that is so horrifying? If I were to design hell, the entrance door would be white. (With the polite doorkeepers saying “Good afternoon” to guests.)
Dua Lipa is making a movie in Serbia. The director is totally in love with her. I take her away from him, tell him that I saw her record (at Metropolis), she loosens up and starts telling me how she wandered around in Pazova looking for “poaetry”.
My ally is grey short-haired woman, who, while wearing a bulrush bag on both shoulders, is twitching with her whole body as a gymnast; at the same time it seems like she is calling out something to the one who causes those twitches. Why is she my ally? Because she is not shy.
A tall guy enters the first bus door, comes to the middle and throws a glance to the back seats. Behind his back there is a girl, looking like a backpack herself, invisible and tiny, not even looking in front of her, but only sticking to him. He turns around and says: ”There are no seats left.” He takes her into the section right behind the driver’s cabin, places her onto the seat next to the window and hugs her. With his huge left hand he rounds up her forehead. Just for a second it seemed like he is controlling her not to move her head from the certain position, like he is preventing her from taking any step he did not foresee.
I am getting married to Ivana Djordjevic during the day. In a hotel I also meet Vox. Me and Marjan are looking at some redneck as he is holding a chainsaw-shaped welding machine. M. says that he will not be able to weld like that, he can only tear apart. And it is the truth: Gypsy tears the facilities on purpose and he slams down, so huge, in that big yard.
The restaurant where the wedding will take place is, of course, a cantene. The invitation, which I am composing on the wedding day, in a notebook, among other things says that the wedding will take place on “Bosphorus”. Everyone asks me: isn’t the wedding tomorrow? No, the same night, at seven o’clock, I am proclaiming and thinking about how to get enough invitation-notebooks and if it would be better to invite the guests in some faster way, like Facebook or email.
A blonde in her prime has taken the seat next to the window and with a coffee in her hand, after having read the newspaper, shortly and quickly rises her eyebrows, wondering.
But her expression is not addressed to the newspaper only, but to everything her eyes land on. And when she saw me (who has to peep out from the corner of the front door to see her), she had that twitch. She takes a sip of water, she uprights herself so I can see her – she is showing how attractive she is and that the years did not mow her down – and she is making some kind of a shocked face.
I understand: she acts like she is being observed all the time. She feels like in a reality show while sitting in a cafe and she expects that her every move is given a proper attention.
I instantly notice that the man (the older one, Gypsy, who has taken my seat just in front of my nose) is also watching her, furtively, but persistently. She stands up, significantly perks her boobs and passes my table towards the toilet. He goes after her.
That kind of women shouldn’t be observed, or maybe just indirectly, through the mirror, so they don’t even know that they are being observed. She is the one who thinks all the time: “How do the others see me?” I am annoyed by this fact: that question reflexes on her constantly.
The old Gypsy has returned from the toilet alone. Is the blonde a whore?
After the literary evening. You can see something has happened by the women sitting around the table taken probably by the star of the evening. The old and the young, they are piled up, without any structure. The chairs are all over the place as if they got rid of the tables. The star of the evening is first invisible because all eyes are on her. When the back of the organizer (I know him and I am glad that I sat outside his view) has finaly moved, I am accidentally watching the focus of all the looks and I can’t restrain myself.
It turns out that the star is Ljubivoje Rsumovic. Although he behaves as a remarkable conversationalist, the eyes on him are still more interesting. It seems to me that, being so famous forces even those people who can’t stand him to watch him as well, just to make sure right on the spot that he is there, to memorize him.
Rshum badmouths Davicho and calls him “Oketa”. As the women start going back to their own tables, they are slowly saying goodbye to those still gathered around Rshum and the organizer. Even though not giving senseless replies, they at least give them the same senseless glances, quickly and shortly, just to say: “ah! just a minute ago we were sitting with you!” Then warm wavings, which are even more senseless, start and they will probably last for at least an hour. I am listening to them and longing for a more interesting face.
“Rada, don’t get married! Rada, don’t get married!”, a boy with the glasses yelled taking off the trolley on Slavija. He looked like a librarian who allowed himself to get wasted.
I live next to the Iron Gates in the dorm which is completely submerged, so people walk through the water, and I am waiting to get my dry dinner. The government is following me and they want me to inform them in more details in my little black book. I am, naturally, afraid that it might get wet.
Skinny brunette, whose bordeaux shirt with a narrow V neck and long fingers are the only thing I manage to see, is explaining something to her grey-haired friend.
Her hands are refining her. Now the left one is floating in front of her and the index finger scrambling up as if it was quivering. While listening to her female companion she rounds in her left back of the hand and wrist, touching them as if checking them up, every finger separately. When she needs to show more interest in the conversation, she puts her left hand on the table, but she she can’t keep herself from scratching it with her righ hand gently. As the conversation gets more jolly, her hands are moving towards the face, elbows become upholders and her fingers intertwine again.
Her head (I’d say that she used to be pocky but it is only an assumption based on her noticeable eye bags and sunken cheeks) is almost motionless and her eyes are on defensive. Her fingers are taking the lead. They show all directions. As true assistants, they occasionally move closer to neck just to feel it, do the hair or shirt.
Now the right one flies towards her friend, in front of her nose it transformed into the shell and then suddenly it flew to the right and ended up on her knees under the table. Her companion doesn’t stay uncontaminated. To express how impatiently she is waiting for some joy, she clapped with her palms two or three times on the table, first with her left one and then with the right one.
The very first version of a song I would if I could (Bi mogo da mogu) Haustor3Translator’s note: A famous ex-Yugoslavian rock band has recorded in English. I am listening to it in Mionica on the vinyl record and I feel inauthentic.
She is bored and she wants us all to see how bored she is while her friend is, for the same reason, flipping through some blue guidebook, yawning at her phone – and they have just got seated. The waitress has placed some yellow squeezed juice in front of “my blonde” (wearing grey pullover, platform boots and light blue nail polish)
She is a good-looking, light-eyed 28 year-old. She has had enough of her phone, and is standing up, telling to her friend barely opening her mouth: “I am just going to…
She is dragging herself slowly as if she has nowhere to hurry, to the shelf Art and design. Her footsteps are not that relaxed, it’s more that she tries to present herself as sloppy and lethargic.
Her presumed friend might actually be her mother. That might be the reason for the boredom and the absence of need to talk in the public. The daughter is wearing black trousers with pockets on the side: she is dressed very homely. She is not wearing earrings and it seems to me that she barely has any makeup.
Are they waiting for the dad together? She has got a few small pimples. Have I misjudged her age? She is going back to her table resignedly, as if going back to prison. She pushes her turtleneck up all the way to her chin until her mom speaks to her. Then she puts herself back together right away. Her resistance also manifests in her slow answering of her mother’s questions. The arrangement is: the mother questions, she replies.
When silence prevails, she stretches and, feigning interest, asks her mother: And what does that say? The mother doesn’t fall for that gesture of courtesy and produces a disinterested short reply, which ends the conversation. After scrolling through her phone once again, the blonde turns the book 011 by Momo Kapor, upside down a few times and finally diving into it while keeping her resigned face.
She looks like Marilyn Monroe when posing with a book in her hands. She is just putting it towards her nose. She would prefer to consume it that way. Carefully, frowning, she is scrutinizing the first clapper and then, unsatisfied with the acting, she is making herself comfortable in a chair, yawns, occasionally asks mom a question, precociously in a deep voice. It looks like as she is reading an assignment.
Mommy is expecting that from her. Along with Momo and sparkling wallet, she goes off to short walk and comes back with a small chubby red book, an encyclopedia in which she dives in with her nose.
“Wanna go?” the mom says. She read the guide and gave it to her daughter: Put this thing back! The daughter is putting on grey, fluffy jacket, gives Moma to her mom and says: “It is February 6th, the sixth!”, leering her eyes on her: “How come you don’t know!”
Momo must be a present for her Dad. Actually, no! The daughter has just kissed mommy in her temple gratefully. Momo was for her. With her mom’s inscription.
Eyebrows (thin and slightly sloping upward) and the whole body of a girl in the tram – she lost her eyes in me at some moment – they reminded me of someone who I once had a crush on. Precisely that kind of eye convexity on a skinny face was something irresistible on that person. While I’m peeping into those “familiar” face parts, I feel that I used to kind of circled around “reference person” (at one time), I hugged her, I couldn’t get enough of looking at her; my circling has to be placed in an adequate decor, night club, pub, in which I doubt at the same time, as well as I am not quite sure if I ever managed to express my affection, let alone if I have ever saw the fragments of that face – however, I can’t remember who that was: I am trying to call up the face the same way I try to remember a dream; since I failed, I conclude that I was half asleep (the one usually late in the morning, fabricated).
I am trying to explain to Dejan Aleksic4Serbian poet, editor of „Povelja“ magazine from Kraljevo, while he is climbing up the stairs, why Brkica Vukovic5Miodrag („Brkica“) Vuković, Montenegrian writer (1947-2013). is a genius; and another woman with the same surname, but is not in any relation to her.
Coka is talking with her mother.
—What’s the matter, Marica?
— I am watching.
I love Annie Ernaux. She is also in the book Atelier noir as some small, more familiar Virginia. When there is no one around, describe how someone sees me. This waitress? When she doesn’t move or even when she is passing by, she can only see my left shoulder or my back. She can see a man sitting on a bar stool who is watching through the window. He is reclined on a club chair, his left leg on the rod under the bar and the right one between the chair and woodwork on the wall. He is writing, occasionally he looks up, licks his lips and checks out something or someone on the street. His eyes are never looking towards the hall. He has probably disengaged when she treated him with nicknames “honey” and “sweetie” while serving his order. Maybe he is arrogant and maybe just thoughtful. She has noticed that he likes color red. Both his pullover and the notebook in which he writes are red as well as the pen. Since he did not react in any way when she nicknamed him, she told him: “your pen is really nice” and “here you are, while writing, you can have some biscuits”. Nothing.
Although she placed in front of him a full bowl of speculaas, when she passed him by once again, he addressed her indifferently: „can I have a glass of water?“ She told him, “here you are sweetie,” but again, it did not work.
Will she, while he pays the bill, call him sweetie? (He would win the bet. She told him “Thank you, sweetie!”)
Not only face, but also describe scenery, describe it as devotedly as a dream, and sky, and light, the thing that is being still – it should be the next task for the meticulous and simultaneous tally-man; FACE=SCENERY
Original text: Dan koji traje danima
Bojan Savić Ostojić (1983), the author of book of poetry (Stereorama, Heretical dativ) and collection of autobiografical esseys (Aleatorius). He also published a booklet of fragments (Evil evil psalms) and a novel-sentence (Point). In preparation is a novel Nema oaze.
He translated twenty-five titles from French. He writes in his blog Za sve pare, „a flea market barometer for bookeaters” (zasvepare.tumblr.com). He lives in Belgrade.
Ljiljana Pticina (1985) has graduated from Faculty of pedagogy in Sombor and obtained master of philology degree at Faculty of philology in Belgrade and Faculty of philosophy in Novi Sad,related to general and comparative literature and theory of literature. She is currently a PhD student at Faculty of philosophy in Novi Sad. She has attended the summer school at the Andric Institute. She is into writing, literature criticism and she translates short stories. A few of her scientific papers and translations of short stories have been published. Her literature work has been published in different magazines and collections of short stories and poems (Trag, Koraci, Kult, Avangrad). She organized two literary contests in 2012 and 2013 as a part of the event Carnival In Sombor. For one year she was a literature and literary criticism editor as well as a columnist at Konkursi regiona.
She has worked as an English language teacher at center for foreign languages for 6 years and she is an online teacher of Serbian as a foreign language. She was one of the founders and coordinated the group “Translator’s Heart” that specializes in humanitarian medical translations. She is fluent in Serbian and English, whereas Russian and Spanish are at intermediate level and German at beginner’s level.
The letter translated by Mihajlo Stojković – was born on the 20th of March 1998 in Pozarevac where he graduated from the High School of Economics and Commerce. Despite the fact it being a vocational school, he decided to continue his education at the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade, where he is currently a third-year student of the English Department. He participated and was a finalist in the English Department Short Story Competition. Upon finishing his studies, he wish to become an English language teacher and eventually write a book.