prose

Davor Mandić: Romi

Davor Mandić was born in 1976 in Pula. During studies in Rijeka he started writing poems, short stories and book reviews. After graduating he started working for the national daily newspaper Novi list, based in Rijeka, where he still works as a journalist and commentator, covering Croatian literary and culture scene. He has published: Mostovi (Bridges), a book of poetry (2009), and Valjalo bi me zamisliti sretnim (One Should Imagine Me Happy), a collection of short stories (2014).



Romi

 

(...)

 

"Sis!" I yelled through the closed door of the apartment toilet. "I'll be out in a minute, stop annoying me!" "Not that, I have to ask you something when you get out." "Well then wait for me to get out!" And I waited.

 

"Listen", I started cautiously, "I know we've got a date with Romi today to go swimming, but I'd ask you something." "What?" "To be sick." "What?!" "Look, it's real important to me, I want to be alone with her. You can go swim on the other side. C'mon, pleeeease, I'll be your slave until the end of my life." "You're insane. Now I can't hang out with my friend because you're not brave enough to approach her or make a move. You want me to ask her on your behalf?" "Come on, don't be like that! I'm not asking for nothing, what's one day to you?" "You're insane. Just go. But you owe me big time!"

 

(...)

 

We walked together. Sometimes our hands would barely touch. I wondered what she was thinking about. I was all tightly wound. I couldn't figure out why I was so tense, and she seemed completely relaxed. Was it always like that with men and women, I wondered. And maybe she wasn't interested in me at all. Maybe she didn't like me at all. Besides, I'm not exactly a movie star, and actresses were always with movie stars. I started to get mad. And sweat out of misery. I told myself: "Say something! Say anything, just don't be quiet!"

 

"Hey, we're going to the old spot?", I finally muttered. "Well, yeah.", she said. That went well, I thought, I've really got her going. "How's your Mom?" How's your Mom?! Was I really a complete moron asking about her mother, I thought as soon as I uttered the dumbest question. She turned her head towards me and looked at me with confusion: "She's fine."

 

Alright, we were close to the rocks and the sea, now there'll be undressing and beaches and some new story, so this agony of silence would end, I supposed. I almost wanted us to meet one of her acquaintances, but then it occurred to me it would be disastrous. Rely on your own wits, I don't know why I thought of the stupid proverb Mom used to repeat back when she was really into proverbs.

 

The sun was ruthlessly scorching as we took our clothes off. Sweat poured into my eyes so through my closed eyelids I imagined Romi undressing completely, that we were totally alone, husband and wife, I brought us over in a big land rover and now we'll swim naked in the sea, make love for a long time and live happily ever after. Reality was nevertheless a bit different, so I began to curse my stupidity when I realised I wore speedos instead of bermuda shorts. The erection was impossible to hide so I swiftly laid down on my belly.

 

"You're not going swimming?", she asked, puzzled. "No, you know how they say it's not good to go in straight away when you go to the beach", I replied and almost started crying out of embarassment, Now you're a real hotshot, I thought, that's just what she wanted to hear, advice from Grandma and Grandpa, it would be better if she'd seen your erect dick than this.

 

When she swam out far enough, I slipped into the water. The erection had finally deflated so I went out to prepare the field. Now or never, I encouraged myself.

Soon she was out too. She started draining her bra and I was afraid I'd get an erection again so I looked away. She sat on a towel. I came closer. I felt my heart beating hard, and looked to see if it showed on my chest, and really, it looked like it would explode, or at least pack its bags, take its toothbrush and depart this cowardly moron for greener pastures. Maybe I won't be able to speak, I thought, better not to try anything. But my mouth is so dry, how will I kiss her, I thought as I desperately attempted to summon some saliva.

 

She sat next to me, calm like there was no drama unfolding right next to her, a drama worthy of all those movies Mom watches. She was calmly tying her hair into a ponytail and looking into the distance.

 

"Romi", I finally uttered in a hoarse voice, sure I would kiss her when she turned her head even if it killed me. "Yes?", she turned and smiled. "Nothing, you've got something on your face there."

 

I hated myself, I couldn't understand how I could be such a dork. But obviously I could. Obviously I am. No land rover, then, no and they lived happily ever after.

 

And then suddenly some cold wnd started blowing, pulling up papers and leaves and dust from the road. We started looking around and from the sea, diagonally, came an incredibly thick black cloud sandwich. Like someone carved it with a knife, it was that regular. And quick. But it didn't seem edible, more like it would devour us all. Still, I knew something about summer storms. I didn't sail with my Dad for nothing, even if it was on a boat with a small cabin. It would blow over in half an hour tops. It will be great to swim in the sea, everyone will run, and we'll be the only brave souls. And we'll ride around in a big land rover and live happily ever after.

 

"Hey, I'm going home. See ya!", she had already gotten dressed as I was staring into the oncoming sandwich. "But..." I limply held out my hand, but she had already turned and started running as large rain drops started falling around us.

 

I sat on a rock. The rain fell over me, and then the hail started. The wind blew, the temperature dropped and the sea was stormy. People were running all over, parasols were flying...

 

I don't know how long it all lasted, but then the sun shone, just as it should. And it was warm. Nice. Then the night fell. And things changed. Or they didn't. Crickets replaced grasshoppers, but the sounds remained. The morning came, and soon years went by. And decades. Full of changes. Or perhaps not. I'm still here. So are the hairs, although they've migrated from my head into my ears. It's strange, how everything is the same, and yet it isn't. Because if it's the same, then it'd have to be identical. And it's not identical, it's different, and yet somehow same. It's funny, that. Actually, I don't think too much. I'm here, on the rocks by the sea, I'm turning into a rock myself a little bit. Once I could throw up on that moment lost in eternity. But now I feed on it. One should imagine me happy. 

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