I don’t know exactly why I’m falling for men who have experienced some sort of violence, in the senseless wars, in reality or on the Internet, and who become heroes, by the predictable cultural scenario, not victims. I’m not sure why I was in love with rebels who have never been able to provide the love, care and happiness for me. Maybe the relationship with my father, who could not express his feelings, a father that never opposed my mother who hated him, and whose hatred went through me, could be some sort of explanation.
I was born in Bosnia, and the war marked my whole childhood. It ended when I was 11 and it left behind a tearful parents, mass graves, destroyed houses, PTSD, emotionally unavailable people. And of course it left those who have profited from the war, who stole humanitarian aid and sold it to the survivors. With peace deserters who came back in their expensive cars and too much money.
Before the war my father was an interior designer, and, like any other girl, I adored him. From his business trips he used to bring me shoes, colorful dresses, dolls, and during lunch time I was sitting in his lap and we ate like that. We laughed all the time together. Our home was a fun house. After the war my father didn’t eat with us anymore. The kitchen table was silent as those meals after the funeral. He never got a job again. His company was destroyed, and no one wanted to hire him. He was in his 50s and nobody needed him. There were no homes or hotels to decorate after the war. We were poor, and hungry most of the time. My mother, who worked odd jobs so we could survive, started to blame my father for our misfortune and so she began to humiliate him. Once she peeled oranges and after she ate, she turned her back at her husband. “You eat as much as you earn” she said. My father just sat in the corner of the living room and looked blankly out the window.
I become frustrated by this situation, because I wanted him to wake up from this terrible spell he fell in. I wasn’t angry at the circumstances that he could not control, but I was mad at him only. A man-shell – as my mother used to say.
Then I started to hate him. I hated his indifference that was killing us all. I remember, one day my father signed a document for a man who wasn’t on the front lines so this man could get pension and other benefits. He didn’t say “No” to him.
I didn’t say: “How could you do that, daddy?”
There was no point to say anything. As we cared about losing our city, our house or people we once were in love with we didn’t even notice that we have lost ourselves.
The first summer after the war Ado came into our house. He was a distant relative in his late twenties who lost his family. He remained with us until he got the papers to go to New York where he was killed in a park. We never found out who was the killer. In his apartment police found 50.000 dollars. No one asked where he got all that money, which was not unusual. Ado was known as a winner of a street fights, and as a man who secretly fought the new government. His arrival was like a miracle. Our house began to look like a home. He used to seek help from humanitarian organizations, and, because people were afraid of him (they thought he was crazy), he always get us something. Firstly, we did some repairs at our new house: we painted it, we replaced broken glass and fix stairs that were destroyed. We also fed healthier and more varied, and we even made a trip to the lake high in the mountains once.
Slowly, I began to liberate myself from the hatred I had toward my father. I was helping out around the housework, but not because I felt sorry for my parents, but because I felt better by that. Almost every day I’ve met a part of myself that I didn’t know existed. I thought I can relate with someone only through suffering. Ado and me – we both suffered from serious losses. But, due to his suffering mine seemed less and it gave me solace. Naturally, I wanted more, so I asked him to help me with my homework.
One day, I was already 14, he told me I should start wearing a bra. Soon after that we began to meet in a collapsed house. At first we just kissed, after some time we started to have sex. He was much older than me, and he could get in a serious trouble for this, but he didn’t care. His social apathy and secrecy of our relationship filled me with such energy I never felt before! That energy thrilled through me from early morning till midnight. And, of course, I kept my mouth closed.
My youth and my innocence kept my power, and I knew very well how to use it. Ado and all the other rebel men I dated, become my weapon I retaliated a rotten society for injustice that was done to my family, to my father. I was a skilled manipulator who knew exactly what she wants.
None of these relationship didn’t last long, because each of these men I dated had his own story where I wasn’t foreseen as a happy ending.
By the time I met Harry I worked shitty job as a sales agent. I sold a variety of things, like self-help books or wonder creams that remove up to twenty years, vacuum cleaners and other small stuff. Harry was in his fifties and his daughter was killed in the war. He would always bought some of the shit I offered in front of his door, but I never dared to ask him why he was buying that. I was afraid there was a terrible truth behind it. My inner voice was telling me I shouldn’t go back to his place, but I had no choice. I needed that job. Harry was not handsome. He had a big round belly and he smelled as a stump after the rain. „Horny Stump“, I nicknamed him. Suddenly, one morning he called me inside. And I went in. Soon after, I left my job and kind of started to work for him. We multiplied VHS recordings and other confidential documents from the war, and than we would sent them anonymously to a different addresses. Unlike Ado, Harry actually was a real criminal. He blackmailed people for money. Well, people we blackmailed were no ordinary people, they were wealthy (after)war criminals. Money we collected was later donated to the orphans and other humanitarian purposes (well, not all of it). I thought I was in love with him. He become an obsession to me. And sex with him was amazing. However, he got arrested, and I run away. It was actually good, because he was emotionally damaged, as well as my father, and even if I wanted to save him I couldn’t. He could be saved by the truth only. The truth made him feel free in the end. Not me.
Sure thing, I dated men my age too, but it was unbearable for me to listen up all those small talks such as the football team score or where should we go for a lunch… I didn’t want to belittled those things, I just couldn’t relate to that stuff. I tried, but I often was frightened by this guys kindness. There is always some bad intention hidden behind kindness. I learned that from war.
That’s why I always went back to my outlaw lovers ravished by their rails against western imperialism. Lovers who say that any information we have was false, simply because it’s based on one man’s perspective. Lovers who are looking for a third face of a coin. Lovers who made me believe that even though we can’t change the world, we can always choose the way we look at it.
Naida M. has published two books of poetry. She has a master’s degree in humanities. She survived the war in Bosnia. And loves to make cakes.