Who says magic isn’t real? Indeed, it may not be the way people imagine it to be, but in the end, magic does exist. It’s hidden somewhere people don’t look, somewhere people forget to be. Do you want to feel it? Do you want to see it? I must say, I don’t know if you can. But, I will still try to show it to you…
My family, all the relatives I can remember back in the time, everyone is from Croatia – or, as it used to be called, Yugoslavia. Why is this important, you may think? Well, one of many places where magic exists is actually here, in my country, the place on Earth we call Balkan. How do I know this? Let me tell you a story, a story that’s not mine, a story that’s just a small fraction of my father’s memory. I will slowly walk through this story and tell you all about it.
I open my eyes. Everything around me is pastel yellow and brown. Only the simplest details are glowing in a bright color, one that may not be important in your eyes, but are very dear in mine. I am in a small house which walls are already marked with time. I’m sitting in an uncomfortable wooden chair at a table that’s placed right in the middle of a small kitchen. A certain smell is flowing around the room, one that belongs only in that time, a smell that’s hard to explain, but one I am sure I would scent if I was truly there. I like to call it the smell of Yugoslavia, even though one may argue with me a place on map can’t have a smell. I guess we will never find out.
As I am sitting at that table, I can feel under my fingertips the rough material of the white plastic table cloth with light-blue and soft yellow flowers on it. Just like in every story, this cloth has a hole, a place where I would place my finger inside and feel the softer, cotton-like material, one that tickles my finger. The table is filled with dishes and a single, small vase that has a few violets soaking in water, the violets more purple than ever. And there it also is, that one line of the sunlight hitting the table, filled with the dust floating in the air, seeming almost as if the starts started to shine right there. I, the spectator, am playing with a fork in my hand, those type of forks that have a plastic, blue end, a fork that bands so easily in my tiny hands. It’s cold in this room, but my body is warm, the prickly jumper and thick undershirt making me feel that way.
When the scene finally establishes itself, I start to hear sounds. The first, most loud one is coming from outside. It’s the sound of a chainsaw, one that’s my grandfather holding steady as he is sawing the tree. His tall posture is slight bent and his gentle lines on his face are getting together as he is concentrating on that single tree, as if it was the only thing he can see in that moment. Slowly, the tree starts to let out a crackling sound as it starts to break where my grandfather is pushing, and then, the slow sound of the tree falling starts, ending with a loud bash of the treetop hitting the ground. Even the leaves are letting out a special smell. I can hear my father, his heavy boots walking through the grass and breaking the small branches beneath him. He is wearing his blue worksuit stained with mud and cement and a red cap, wet from the sweat on his forehead. His voice is distant, one I don’t recognize as the voice of my father, his words shy and conscious, floating to my grandfather as their strong hands carry the now fallen tree.
Inside, my mother is sitting on a chair by the window, looking outside. Her figure is hidden behind the smoke of her cigarette, the heavy smell filling the room. She seems tired, drained, sad, but also glad at the same time. Something about her smile makes me want to ask her what’s wrong, but also smile with her together. Her eyes are glowing when looking at my father outside. It almost fills as if she will scream his name, loudly, in any second. Soon. As my eyes focus on her, the room fills with another sound. This time coming from the sink. The water quickly starts to fall down, hitting the dishes that are clanking against each other as my grandmother sorts them around. She is wearing her black robe which length stops right above her ankles, her old clogs showing through. Her legs are heavy, pulsing with pain, her hands rough and wrinkled, her back awkwardly bent over the sink. But still, she is washing the dishes slowly, making sure each one of them becomes clean. Her lids are half-closed, the brown eyes behind them seeming lifeless and filled with grief. But something about her still says standing strong.
As my eyes glance away from my grandmother and continue around the room, my hands twitch as I try to imagine how it would feel to touch some of the surfaces. The white furniture in the kitchen, that old, lacquered wood. It looks so smooth, but still filled with ridges where my fingers would go up and down. I can almost fill the glass under my hand, that golden glass in the door in front of me, one that has those diamond-like shapes engraved in it. The sound of that door squeaking against the tiled floor goes through my mind and I can see the walls slightly shaking as my father closes them after entering the room. I brush my legs against the prickly carpet underneath my naked feet, the cold air from the outside tickling me. My grandfather sits beside me and my father goes beside my mother, gentle going through her hair with his big hands, her not minding them being so rigged. The water stops dropping and the room fills with silence. I can see everybody’s mouth moving, but no words are coming to my ears. All I can are smiles and gestures of love and sorrow, a storm of emotions. The chair under me suddenly starts to feel so comfortable. Gods, does it feel real. I am there, with them. I became a part of this story, of this short and simple memory. And even though everything looks so wrong and long gone, it all feels so right and close. My eyes are watering from the tears that are coming just from writing this simple scene, a scene where nothing truly happens, and time flows so slow…it makes my chest ache painfully.
I don’t know what it is about stories and memories like this, about those small pieces of my father’s past, but I wish I could stay there, sitting in that wooden chair forever. Somehow, I know people can’t understand this story, they may not feel it the same way I do. There is this voice telling me that only my home, my country has those colors and this smell in the past. And those feelings, those tingles that many people around me feel when they remember their past…oh, it’s so familiar. But this feeling in me, which boils through my veins when I recall scenes likes this, it just doesn’t seem like it belongs in this world. Something that can’t be explained with words, nor a smell or with a feeling, now if that’s not magic, then I don’t know what it is.
Do you want to feel it? Do you want to see it? Tell me your story…