It’s 1 am on Wednesday, and I have just arrived to Zagreb. A German family of five is trying to find their way around to get to their hostel; they look happy, and chitchat about all the places they want to see while in Croatia. I look happy as well. I don’t care that I’m tired. That’s what rest is for. I smile at my city. Hello, I say: we meet again. It’s like coming to see an old lover: everything feels so cozy and familiar, and although you know you are not gonna stay together forever, the time you’ll spend together will be exciting, when you touch each other it will feel like coming home. I walk to that home. It will take me 30 minutes, but I don’t mind. I breathe in deeply the smell of the city where I grew up. Walk past my school, the coffee shops where my past has been untangling daily, in some other life it seems, I walk past the parks where I secretly smoked and drank my first beers. I pass the pastry shop with the best pancakes in town, and smile at the fact that I can buy them tomorrow for breakfast. Small things. My shoulders ache from the overweight backpack, and my heavy laptop bag constantly reminds me it needs to change hands.
Exactly five months ago, on December 23rd 2014, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, I was sitting in the bus that was to take me from what was my home in Munich for 9 and a half long years. I was on my way to Zagreb, Croatia. All of the stuff that I haven’t sold, given away or gotten rid of was already on its way there, in a big truck I rented, and all I was left with was a small bag, and my laptop. I have never felt more stripped to the bone in my entire life. I had no idea where my life was headed, and what was going to happen to me from now on. Two days before, me and my boyfriend parted ways for what I didn’t know at the time will be forever. For months before, we were planning to move to Croatia together. Now, I was going there alone, and suddenly I had no idea why. I said goodbye to my friends. They told me I’d be back. I remember thinking: Well, at least someone seems to know what’s going to happen to me from now on, for I sure as hell don’t.
And so it had started.
I’m proud to say I’m getting smarter by the day. I read a lot of Internet ever since I stopped wasting my days on Facebook’s newsfeed with all those unnecessary links there. It’s a good thing, I think: I now know that the female fish called black sea devil swims around with sometimes up to 10 males attached to it: they provide her with sperm, and she provides them with food. Fair enough, I suppose – if you’re into being constantly provided with sperm.
I now also know that jellyfish exist for around 700 million years and are the oldest multicellular organisms on Earth. And that Russians dug the deepest man-made hole on Earth. If you’re Croatian and following the story: Medo, the only Croatian dog that was forbidden to bark by law still hasn’t won the appeal. And some guy who became addicted to masturbating into a squid asked on the Internet how to convince his girlfriend to let him fuck her with the squid attached to his penis insted of a condom. He considered leaving the squid under the bed and then just putting it on during sex and getting on with it, but is concerned the sudden appearance of the squid in the vagina might scare his girlfriend. If she’s not warned beforehand, that is. Whereas, she might be all for it if he just tells her in advance.
I don’t really know much about anything. People who know me would disagree and sometimes try to tell me how that’s not true and I shouldn’t be so modest and whatnot, but people are in general easily fooled when someone is loud, sounds confident, and tends to have an urge to talk a lot in a manner that sounds like they actually have something intelligent going on in their heads. My Russian ex-flatmate, however, once summed me up pretty well when he said: “Vlasta, du hast nur Scheiße im Kopf.” I really tend to believe he might be the only one who got me right.
“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck
IT IS MAY 2015 somewhere in Europe. At the moment, I am sitting in the I-stopped-counting-which apartment in my fifth country since December 2014, and in my eleventh city so far (if we don’t count going back and forth a couple of times). It is warm, the darkness outside my balcony door is surprisingly green and slightly windy, and I am in the middle of a war with a very persistent ant colony in my room that for some reason loves hanging out at my favourite chair next to the window. Accidentally, this is also the city I have been born in, but my return to – or, better said, passing through it has been anything but straightforward. And although the original incentive that made me start living what in time turned into a nomadic life has come from a ridiculously painful, almost nuclear catastrophe that happened at the end of my relationship, in time it turned into an inner journey that I never could have imagined happening to me. I have been lost like I have never been lost in my life. On the most elementary level, I did not know anymore who I was, nor did I care much for it either. I have been running away and around like a silently screaming, headless chicken. When I sat down to rest, I fell through a bottomless pit of sorrow – over, and over again. I wanted out, and wanted back. I wanted everything to go back to the way it was, but also for everything to be completely, unbelievably, thoroughly different. And happy. Oh, please, just finally, finally happy. I couldn’t stand the pain anymore, nor could I stand the fact that I had caused pain to someone I love. I put a question mark above everything I thought I was, or have ever been. I started writing and reading like a maniac. I also started therapy and came to my first session with the statement: I have no idea who I am anymore, but I am so…wrong. I want to be a better person than I was. My therapist suggested I did a collage, writing down all the stuff about myself I was absolutely sure of. I came back to her with “I like to drink black tea in the mornings.”
And then I said: Except, sometimes I don’t.