A high-spirited blonde in her mid-twenties kneads a chubby blond boy’s arms in a heavy shade of reed and straw. She turns him over to his stomach and she squeezes his buttocks, leaving red traces of her fingers. It seems to be amusing to her. Her top bikini part is decorated with a handful of fringes, Apache-style, which dangle and move left-right, the way her breasts move.
The panel of experts at my table concludes that she is still breast-feeding.
At one moment she takes the baby-boy under the arm-pits and puts him to a standing position, pressing his baby thighs. The white mother-of-pearl shadow on her eyes clashes with the beach outfit, but who cares. It looks good on her.
On the table there is a pack of cigarettes, a lighter and an ice-coffee in a sweaty glass. Next to it is a book – “Adultery” by Paulo Coelho. With a bookmarker at the very beginning. A mobile. I immediately see her returning the book to her sister-in-law with lifted eye-brows. “I didn’t even have time to open it”. And the sister-in-law shakes her head with understanding. As a matter of fact, neither did she.
All of a sudden, she gets up, putting the baby to the pushchair and straps him so tightly that he barely manages to move, but he is not complaining. A very nice baby-boy, indeed. On the ring-finger of her right hand there is a modest ring. Slightly neurotic, the ethno-lady, she slashes the wet hair strands to and fro, jumping from a chair to chair, she has ants in her pants. I think she is not older than 22.
At that very moment she turns to us her super-cute little bum which is somehow barely squeezed into the bikini and she stands in an F position, staring into the waves and the open seas. She is standing in a “half-pissed-off” posture, posing in front of us, the middle-aged ladies and gentlemen. And we are looking at her, we cannot help it. What is she thinking about, I cannot help but wonder…
Her mane is waving in the breeze and she is standing there, standing, and at one moment, completely unexpectedly, her mouth opens and she starts yelling as if she were in the garden of her weekend house somewhere in Grocka (a suburban area of Belgrade, consisting mainly of weekend houses): “Miškooooooo“. Ooooooooooo.
At the beginning, all the guests, in a civilised manner, pretend not to notice her. Then, again that “ooooooooo“. Now the bar-tender raises her pissed-off look. Ooooooooo. A baby on the left has woken up and it starts crying. Oooooooo. I’m thinking about going to the beach to look for Miško.
The sound gets round the beautiful ears of my elder daughter and she wonders out loud if such bikini bottoms are called half-thongs. “Because thongs are when there is only one piece of string which is not even seen”, she explains to herself, out loud.
The sound slightly scratches the glass shield behind which MyBelovedHusband dwells and he, hearing it, changes his position which brings him an undreamt of benefit: instead of sweaty barbecue-man he is now looking into the scantily dressed daughter of a tribe chief. He turns towards me and asks me if all these pieces of fabric in her butt pinch her. I suppose he is worried.
My elder son says no word. The question is if he hears anything in the first place. A straw is hanging off his lip. A drizzle of snot as well. He has just been enchanted by that witch-mermaid and she is covertly taking out from his open gob the shining thread of life and he consents to it all, half-alive.
The younger children raise their noses from the sand just to see who is shouting so unbearably and they immediately stick them back. It’s not the Mum.
The Oooooooo persists. I feel that an opening in the middle of my forehead is being created. Like a whirlpool, it pulls my whole reality in. Miško is still not coming. I decide to close my nose, my eyes and sink below the line of reality, there, in everybody’s full view. For as long as I can make it. Oooooooo. I plunge down her cry like down a slide. Swooosh.
..... I jump directly into my thongs from ’98.....
How many easy realities have rolled down my back since then. Where were MyWorshipedChildren back then. And where was MyBelovedHusband. And this sand and the reed the sunrays penetrate through and this woman who howls like her father, an Indian tribe chief, enraged by his disobedient village. How old was she back then I wonder?
I can see my child, curled up into the minute light churning its tiny life in an ovum waiting for its moment. I can see the youth of my beautiful mother and her guttural laughter while running nimbly after a bus which she always misses. I can see my father in the garden, at the golden age of 41, decanting rakija (traditional Serbian brandy) in front of his house, not knowing that his days are numbered. And the sky above the house and the trees. And some other people as well, whom I cannot find even on the Internet. They may not have existed in the first place.
I take the “ooooooo” tone and quickly turn it into a telescope. I look at those, now distant, times and slowly assemble a palish picture in which the sweet birth of youth is tweeting, voluble and tailed, multi-coloured as any other falsehood.
Oh, the thong times.
A pinkish portrayal of my youth, my short-temperedness, in a country in which nothing else grows. Except for us, tailed and fast, in thongs. A portrayal of that enormous power and the volcano which in a single day gushed through my palms, eyes, ears and burned down all that I should have done, but I didn’t. Or I shouldn’t have, but I did.
A portrayal of running away, of quests, of travelling with 7 suitcases out of which at least one was full of these supposed underpants. And of bras that pinched, but looked wonderful. And of dresses in which you couldn’t actually breathe in, not to mention laugh. Of all the shoes that were beautiful, but hellishly uncomfortable. And of powder conversations. Of Kisses with men I did not even like. And hugging with people-wispy smokes, the ones who show themselves and disappear leaving absolutely nothing behind. Of encounters which only struggle to get free.
Oh, the thong times.
Enduring somebody else’s pain, exchanging square apologies, eating bestowed meals and sleeping on pillows of some aunts and women who even didn’t know my name. Laughing on the stairs at midnight until furious neighbours chase us away with a broomstick in their hands. And above our heads there is, dangling, the very same moon, yellow and wackily hung against the sky. Liking somebody and falling in love with somebody, dancing to the “Strangelove” which echoes on the Sava wharf, am I the only one who remembers this. And where are you now, you, the middle-aged, you the mature, you the employed, the defined and well-informed. You with a loan and a wonderful father-in-law. With a plantain-spouse, aged parents and a watch which works tree times faster than back then. Do you remember how we used to run nimbly across Branko’s Bridge, like scalded, to catch the last bus. Soaking wet with rain which always showers Belgrade like a bucket of water slung by an angry kitchen-maid. Bare-foot on a night bus, without a ticket, of course, laughing till we cry.
My thong times.
Acknowledging the hierarchy. Being silent when one should, small badges of approval. Behaving oneselves in front of the guests. Deep conviction that behind the entrance door of my house (which is not my house at all) there are no stairs hiding, but a teeming ocean full of magic awaiting only me. Hidden paddles – plans which I take stealthily, while putting on flippers and leaving quietly “like a prairie fox” (Winnetou), once I have made certain that all housemates are breathing the night sleep. Pampering and conjecturing. Eternal youth, I’d say now.
In which what first falls down are – the thongs.
And uncomfortable shoes. And bad relationships. Greedy friends and unreasonable habits.
Followed by the disappearance of all other narrow and uncomfortable details of life which, until that moment, would twinkle every summer and every night. Or longer. Sloppy marriages and leaky promises.
But, please, the first ones are the thongs. Historically unnoticeably, still slim legs get out of that small piece of fabric, since these few centimetres, suddenly start to – pinch. That thread of fabric, unnoticed that far, starts to yell and prick, to irritate and to be so redundant, no doubt about it. Therefore, the thong times fade into the eternity.
I have no more of my own, personal time to think about my butt, which is annoyed by something. I want it to be ok. I don’t want anything to prick us. My mother is no longer young, my father has been dead for a long time, all the children have already bloomed out of my stomach, I have started loving you all, but before all, I have started loving myself.
I am waving ruefully at my thong times, we had a great time together. I’ve turned into an aunt, man. I am laughing. Soon, the hair of other girls in thongs will be lying on my cushions. Most certainly, their mothers and me would understand each other very well. And their dads, by all means.
Gone with the thongs, the passing time has taken away the understanding for fools, for the angry, for the rude. It has taken away compassion for bad and self-centered lovers. It has taken away the sound which I carried in my head for decades, it seems to me. The sound of striving for some sort of perfection, other peoples’, everyone’s, which, in fact, I never really understood. It has taken that silly feeling of tolerance for the underpants that pinch so terribly.
A merciless sunray penetrates through all these pictures and takes me back to that July day, directly to the butt of the young woman in the half-thong or thong, whatever it be. I take a deep breath, packing the telescope. We are all still staring at her, professionally avoiding the cutting edge of her voice whirling above the guests in the tavern. While her baby son is chewing a rubber rabbit, Pocahontas from Šumadija is crackling with nervousness – Miško is slowly appearing on the horizon. Striking, long-haired, handsome as any other fine-looking fellow who has married an Indian girl.
Every “o” note in her yell has wilted under the brightness of his smile. So easily. She has put her arms down her body, and she is standing there, perfectly shaped. Oh, they are feeling great at this very moment, it strikes me.
I turn to MyBelovedHusband. Knock-knock on his glass shield separating him from the reality. Excuse me for interrupting. We should be leaving, we communicate with eyes. And I tell him, knowing that he is still worried: “Nothing pinches her. A hundred percent.”
P.S. I hereby formally inform the dear visitors of this blog that this is not a story about what type of underwear I wear, as well as that it is not necessary for us to tell us what type of underwear you wear. The thongs are a metaphor, you know. At the same time, I am hereby apologising to the Public Transport Company for taking night bus rides without tickets.