Lamija Begagić


Sarajevske Sveske br. 34

translated from Bosnian by Irena Žlof

- Why do you women always have to name everything?
- Name what?
- Well, everything! Every single fluffy toy of yours has a name!
- But that's for practical reasons: so that I can remember who I got them from.
- Your laptop has a name!
- So I can tell it apart from yours.
- What do you call mine?
- Toše.
- What?!
- Toše. Short for Toshiba.
- I see. And yours?
- Simo.
- As in Siemens?
- Correct.
- There, you see, neither one of them is simply a laptop. You even named our car, though we only have one.
- That wasn't me, that was Ena.
- Ena is female too. When she grows up she too will acquire that sick need of yours to name everything, including him.
- Who?
- You know who. Gale.
- That's for practical reasons too: we can't always, in front of Ema for example, refer to him by his name, and we want to avoid using hypocritical euphemisms such as "your thing."
- This wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for all those other names that derive from ‘Gale’: Galić, Galijašević, The Invincible Gaul, from which you will naturally leap to calling it Asterix or Obelix, and if you are in a particularly good mood, Dogmatix.
- It kills monotony.
- And occasionally the erection too.
- Why?
- You baby-talk him to sleep!!!!

Our days invariably end with such conversations. We fall asleep tired of ourselves. We wake up in the morning and, as if programmed, we pick up exactly from where we left off:

- Why don’t men ever name anything?
- Why should I. I named my daughter, the rest are objects, they don't require first names.
- You didn't even name your dog. He wasn't an object.
- I did. ‘Doggy’.
- That's not a name.
- He responded to it. Presumably that's the whole purpose of a name.
- Gale responds too when I call him.
- Right...

We get up and get our coffee. We drink it in silence. We drink it for a long time. We slurp, we dip our fingers into it, we drop sugar cubes into the cups. We're clumsy. Ena finds us agitated.

- Why do you adults drink coffee every single morning?
- Because you eat breakfast every morning.
- Well you do too.
- Because coffee calms us down.
- Why then do you shout every time you drink coffee, and you curse the sugar cubes, the dregs, the foam, the cups...?
- Because we are edgy until we've had our coffee.
- Why then do you continue cursing through breakfast, at the plate, the mug, the milk, the cheese...?
- Because.
- Because is not an answer.
- Ena leave me alone, please, I've got a headache.
- Why?
- Because I haven't had my coffee.
- Why do I never get a headache even when I skip breakfast?

I go to work. My head is throbbing. My director barges into the office.
- You're going to use your daughter again as an excuse for being late?
- I won't. It's my fault.
- Honesty isn't going to help you.
- Neither will a lie, apparently.
- I suggest you take a break. And look for work somewhere else.

I leave exhausted by all my daily dialogues.
The key to my failure to communicate is the fact that for Dado I'm always a female, for Ena always an adult, for my director always a subordinate.
I'm trying to decide between a pub and a park. I go to the park. In the pub I would be a guest.


Ivana hasn't got a clue about many things. She has never heard of rims, belts, hubcaps, or brake pads. Ivana hasn't got a clue about cars.
She has never heard of the Internet, she doesn't know what browsers are, she can't tell the difference between a Mac and a PC, and doesn't know the first thing about web mastering. About computers, too, Ivana has got no clue.
But this is all irrelevant now, because Ivana has got more than just a clue about Feng Shui.
Feng Shui is an ancient philosophy. It is a philosophy of living. Just like yoga. Feng Shui opens your eyes. Feng Shui is the sixth sense. Feng Shui is all around us. Feng Shui is not an aggressive philosophy. Feng Shui is the beauty of living. Feng Shui is knowing how to find your happiness. Happiness is in your home. Feng Shui just points it out, and you grab hold of it. Simple.
The position of your bed is not good. According toFeng Shui, yin and yang are not balanced. Your head is on the wrong side of the bed. You need more red on this side of the room. The wall is too white. You need pictures. Not on that wall, on this one over here, that one is alright. You've got to move this closet, it's blocking the way to the energy of the sun. You cannot keep this shelf here, it's way too dark.
Those were some of Ivana's observations when she first came to visit my place.
I was working on my computer, and she was circling around, talking incessantly. My computer was the tool of my trade. That was how I made money. That was how I bought this flat and all the furniture which Ivana has now decided to rearrange according to Feng Shui.
And that computer. It shouldn't be there. Again you're facing the wrong way when you're in front of it. You're facing the wrong wall. And there's too much white again. You need something bright. The computer goes here. That's the first thing. That's urgent. No wonder you're always so gloomy. How often are you in that spot, where you're sitting right now?
How often?
How often do you invade other people's overly white apartments? However long is an average work day. Ten hours? Twelve. Sometimes even fifteen.
Often enough, I reply.
Awful, says Ivana and looks at me with pity. No wonder you're like that, she repeats, and then repeats it again. The last time she says it, she says it to herself. I can barely make out the words.
The computer is not going anywhere, it's fine exactly where it is, I think to myself, not saying anything. I haven't got the slightest inclination to balance the yin and yang in my flat. I couldn't care less about Feng Shui. I'm not going to take any of Ivana's advice. I invited her over just for the hell of it, to let her feel useful. I will of course tell her I am going to rearrange everything according to her instructions. I will tell her that I am going to sleep with my head on the other side of the bed this very evening. I will tell her that I sincerely believe that I am going to wake up the next day feeling happier. In the morning I am going to call her and tell her I am feeling a whole lot better already. That I am no longer like that. That at breakfast I now admire the red details on my wall and the whole thing makes me rather more cheerful. That is what I am going to say. I am going to tell her that happiness has indeed been hidden in my home and that she revealed it to me. I am going to thank her for her selfless act. She will remark that it was not her but Feng Shui that revealed it to me, and I will add that, if it were not for her, I would never have known about Feng Shui. I will ask her out to dinner. She will say that she is an excellent cook and I will go over to her place. She will make us some Japanese dish, she will start to list the ingredients and I will interrupt her, not wanting to find out that I'm actually chewing on shark gums or some other exotic crap.
Having chewed through a bowl of shark gums, we will end up in her bed with our heads on the correct sides of the bed. Yin and yang will be in balance, and Ivana and I will be in unison. After this passionate affair, Ivana will cuddle up next to me. I find it incredible how happy this post-coital intimacy makes women. I will make a little person out of my index finger and my middle finger, and let it stroll along her spine. Her little fingers will feel the red scar on my hip. She will ask the same question that all those before her have asked.

Is this from the war?
No, from barbed wire, I will respond, as I have to all those before her.
The concentration camp?, she will think, just like others before have.
No, my neighbour's garden, I will disappoint her, as I have those before her.
Women harbour a secret admiration for war scars. It is some kind of a modern fetish. I could tell her I got it in the war. That I have shrapnel lodged just millimetres from my penis. That, if she really tried, she could probably feel it every time I penetrate her. I could solicit in her that look of astonishment, a combination of admiration, fear and horror. I could trick her, if I wanted to. I could tell her: you've got no clue, my Ivana. You've got no clue about the war. I could make her go silent and take her little finger off my scar. Make her scared of it. Make her doubt Feng Shui. Make her think that a single scar could destroy forever the balance of yin and yang which took her years to find.
I could, but I will not.
Oh yes, I know. You will put your chair here. Make sure you upholster it with a stripy pattern. You need an oval-shaped object above your computer. It could be a picture or something. As long as it is not rectangular. The angle at which the light falls is excellent, you just need to move your computer over here. It'll be perfect!
Ivana presses on. I continue to stare at my screen.
Ok?, she asks.
Ok, I say.
Great!, she exclaims.
A couple of minutes later she’s gone, but not before making sure I’ve remembered everything she said. Once again I lied and said that I had.
You've got no clue, my Ivana, I whispered after I closed my overly white door behind her. (I should at least paint the door frames red. And definitely change the door mat. It needs to be oval-shaped. Anything but rectangular.)
I went to the toilet. I scratched the scar on my hip. For some reason I feel an unbearable urge to scratch it every time I take a leak. No one knows why.

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