It was a bright sunny day in May, and I was walking around Zagreb, Croatia. Nothing seemed strange, except you were on my mind. We had spoken the night before and both, though struggling through their own mental breakdowns, were quick to comfort and advice each other.
So, I had you in my thoughts as I walked right in the middle of the Dolac market.
Buzzing in the morning hours, the market was jam-packed with vendors and producers from Zagreb and the surrounding areas. From cheese, meat and poultry, fresh produce, fruits and all other market foods, everything seemed colourful. If only I could bring some of that colour in our lives. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we shared an apartment just around the corner from here? Buy fresh produce, have lazy brunches and let our conversations spill from one coffee cup to another?
But then I remember, you are not here.
Also, you are not a coffee drinker. You would take a sip from me, make a face, make me laugh and then make some tea for yourself.
I smirk at this elusive, illusory picture I have painted in my head.
I am cynical enough to believe that the next few steps I took towards the Petrica Kerempuh’s square, were a sign of some sorts from the Universe. Do I laugh or cry at our fate, I ask, standing in front of the statue of Petrica Kerempuh – a fictional character that Croation folklore have created, depicting a sarcastic, unconventional individual through which they would laugh at their everyday misfortunes and expose the vices of evil people (presumably, the rulers of that time).
As a character, Petrica depicts Croatian vulnerability, but also shows the country’s determination and will to resist. I quickly capture the moment and send it across to you, wondering if the vulnerability of my heart, will also travel across the miles between us.
We speak of everything under the sun, but when it comes to talking about us, we both shy away. Cryptic messages, like this one, are sent and received. And hours are spent, tossing and turning it over in our heads.
Drawing some strength from Petrica’s statue, I move on to find some quiet time and meditate in the 13th century wonder, that is Zagreb Cathedral.
With many Gothic architectural elements, the cathedral’s towers stand out from nearly anywhere in the city. The afternoon summer light bounced off the angelic faces of the statues of the Virgin Mary and four angels at the fountain in front. For a second, I forget about you. About us. About what could have been…
I have such a clear picture of that day. Do you remember it too? How we’d hugged each other and held on to each other’s hands, your fingers entwined in mine, my eyes locked with yours. Everything felt right, except the awkwardness that was the goodbye.
What hurts me are the unsaid words. Did we miss our chance of being us? Could we have been? Or will we ever be?
With these thoughts, I enter the Museum of Broken Relationships – Whether a relationship ended in love lost, death or even cultural circumstance, the museum displays an ever-growing collection of items, symbolic possessions, each accompanied by a personal story of its contributor.
The metal cap from a champagne cork that told of a love story, intense, albeit one-sided. A small piece of pottery with a house painted on it, which represented the future house of a teenage love. An audio poem about a brief romance that happened on a road trip. A postcard from a 70-year-old woman who reminisces of the love that could have been. A ceramic rolling-pin that described the hurt and confusion of maternal separation. A collection of various strands of old barbed wire, submitted by a broken girl who never had a relationship with her Dad. A stiletto shoe, telling the tales of a submissive partner. A 45rmp single that the owner had kept for 40 years holding on to the memory of teenage romance but finally decided to let go.
From one exhibit to another, as I read each story, from poignant to humorous to heart-breaking to bitter, I couldn’t help feel grateful of what I have with you. Whatever it is. We aren’t lovers, but we are friends, we are soul mates. The treasures I hold of you, the watch of yours that you casually slipped on my wrist, your badminton racquet which I don’t remember how I came to have but I do recall the one too many games I won with it, I am not ready to give them up. Yet.
Feeling almost therapeutic, knowing that I am not alone in the world, who does not know how to define this very important relationship that I am in, I bid Zagreb goodbye.
Twenty years since Croatia emerged from its war of independence with Yugoslavia, and not one echo of conflict in its capital, Zagreb. I’ll try and be more like the city Zagreb, not broken but forever grateful and growing of the relationships that I have and of those that could have been.
Howdy folks! This december starts with a bang on my blog as I run a unique bloghop with 28 bloggers to write guestposts for me and each other all this month. I hope my readers will catch all the action and support this drive with their comments and feedback to encourage the writing. To know more about this blog hop in detail, you could catch this post here.
Aditi Kaushiva is a compulsive traveller, dancer, author, an eclectic writer and co-founder of The Dance Bible, an Indian based dance management and networking platform for dance lovers. She dabbles in travel writing, arts and culture, and fiction on her blog Aditi’s Pen and is working on her second book.
In this piece she has explored travel inspired storytelling. This is a work of fiction inspired by her travel to Zagreb, Croatia in May 2017. All pictures are her own.
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