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Korana Serdarević: Birdcage

Korana Serdarević was born in 1982 in Zadar. Several of her prize winning stories are included in her first published book, a collection of short stories, Nema se što učiniti (2015) (Nothing Can Be Done). She received her degree in Croatian Language and Literature and Comparative Literature from The University of Zagreb. She previously worked as a reporter for the culture section of the national daily newspaper, Večernji list, and for the weekly paper, Forum, as well as writing for online publications. Currently she is a high school teacher and also does freelance translating from English into Croatian. She lives in Zagreb with her family.



 

BIRDCAGE

 

This evening, too, she goes out onto the small balcony and watches the shared yard. One step through the glass door, and already she escapes the apartment that has defined her names and functions all day long. Inside, things are being prepared, children are being kissed, voices are being raised, people are sitting, lying down and getting up. It’s always the same, yet beautiful, she thinks. Outside, as she steps out onto the balcony, the sounds are settling down, pressed by the soft darkness that still hasn’t begun to stink like drunken human elation, like rule of instinct and physical passion. Even now, she can hear a church bell, someone loudly calling a friend or first love, the sound of a lonely horn. She sees lights scattered in irregular patterns on the buildings (she imagines the people inside), and trams, the tin boxes that are always passing by, there behind the buildings, coming and going.

A look to the right, and dozes, perhaps a hundred lights flash in front of her from the nearby hospital, the silhouettes of nurses passing behind the window frames like waves. She sees swift hands washing between the legs of a woman, exhausted by labour, bloody, stretched, sewn. Someone’s laughing (or is it a cry of pain?); men are drinking inside the bar near the hospital, happily confused or drunkenly stupid. Yes, that’s how it is for some, and yet, there, bodies are torn from each other, their liquids spilled on the green tiles of the operating room. There, the tiny and helpless are getting sick and dying, struck down in their first hours of life.

The husband needs twenty minutes to unglue his gaze from the screen. There, meaningless spectacles follow one after another, and he controls them attentively, dedicated to the game, as he feels his nerves calming and the spot between his neck and shoulders relaxing. When he finally glances towards the balcony, he sees her between two blue curtains, her mouth drawing in cigarette smoke. The ember glows distractedly, like a calm flicker of a faraway lighthouse, illuminating part of her face. She’s tired; of course, she’s tired. It’s not easy to be alone with two small kids for most of the day, until he finally arrives after work. Then again, her mom would come and help if she called. Whose fault is it that she doesn’t call more often? This female spite annoys him – their complicated relationships, delusional tension and stupid resentments. Every few months, he snaps during one of their long hysterical monologues, waving his hands in front of their faces as he tries to talk some sense into them. And the emotions! Emotions should always be put aside.

 

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