First a song by a Serbian band that I have translated for the occasion, then a true story, which is how I like them the most.
Riblja čorba: Dva dinara, druže / Two dinars, comrade
Translated by Manja Maksimovič
We were coming up with names for our children.
I loved her more and more every single day.
I was certain that I’d finally found the right woman.
We were saving for an apartment together.
I was sitting alone at our table.
Everything worth a damn had gone down the drain.
A woman made an ass out of me again.
I was just supporting cast.
I wished to howl, I ran downstairs.
I wasn’t able to hold it much longer.
A social case in front of the toilet said:
“Two dinars, comrade.”
“Number one, one dinar, number two, two.”
My glance pierced him like a sword.
“Excuse me,” I inquired.
“And how much is it if I cry?”
Should one drive from Ljubljana to Rome, out of one home into another, this means 7 to 8 hours highway time with many pit stops. Not only bestia but also I have to use the toilet on several occasions.
The first one comes soon, because amore needs an espresso to see the day clearly. This means a cappuccino for me. Immediately upon tasting it, my tummy makes a rumble and I cringe in pain. What a godawful broth. I almost have to run.
The toilet of the bar is next to the gas station. There is a bus, with people smoking in front, obviously travelling great distance, south to west.
When I reach the toilet, there is a line and a woman is collecting coins. Obviously the bus women have invaded the premises. They occupy all the sinks too, performing morning ablutions, watering their faces and cleavages, gurgling, making horrible-sounding attempts to clear their lungs. Like at home. Don’t you just love sleeping on the bus.
The scene worsens my pain and to think that I’ll have to pay for the experience makes me make an epic eye-roll.
The coin-collecting woman throws me a glance and mumbles something in the cursing way of a gypsy, possibly convinced that I cannot understand. But I can.
(She, in one of ex-Yugoslav languages:) Rolling eyes, are you?
(Me, repeating after her:) Rolling eyes.
(She, aghast:) You are Macedonian!
(Me, looking her in the eye:) Do I look it?
(She, laughing now in disbelief:) You are Slovenian!!
Since we are in the middle of Slovenia, this shouldn’t come as such a surprise but I know, Slovenia is a transit country. And Slovenians would rather not discuss nationalities with a coin-collector. Instead they would stare dead ahead. Or check their nails.
(Me, deciding to be jovial:) You can tell me, what on earth are you putting in these coffees so that everybody needs to come in here and pay you? What a market niche!
She grins widely now. A booth empties and I run in. Upon exiting I’m even happy a little and ask her how much she thinks it was worth. She says: “Daj šta daš.” Give what you give. I give her 50 cents to make it level with the toilet in Pisa where I was similarly appalled that I had to pay, but there the price was fixed, and greet her goodbye, still grinning. Obviously I made her day.
When I have to pee again, it’s hours later and we are in a service station somewhere in Italy. Off the highway it’s all rather the same until you start to climb the Apenini. I have to walk up and up and up to find a toilet.
As soon as I see there is no line, I decide to dash for the closest booth, when I pass another lady employee. She looks at me in something like horror but I choose to ignore her and proceed, thinking: “Oh no you won’t, goddamnit. You don’t even speak my language. You don’t need these bloody coins, your make-up costs more than my bra.”
Then I stop listening to my internal monologue and while peeing have a listen around me. Something is off.
I buckle up and just before making my exit I realise what is happening.
I only hear male voices.
She did try to warn me.
Featured photo: Off the roof this morning. Photo: MM