prose

Enver Krivac: The Waiting Room

It’s hard to pigeon-hole Enver Krivac, the multidisciplinary artist whose unique artistic vision and expression have garnered him critical acclaim across several disciplines. Born in Rijeka in 1979, Krivac splits his time between writing fiction, composing and producing music for both theater productions as well as for the musical collective he belongs to, Japanski Premijeri (The Japanese Prime Ministers), and drawing comic strips. His collection of short stories, Ništa za pisati kući o (2013) (Nothing to Write Home About), won the national Prozak award, which honors talented young authors. His writing style has been described by critics as playful and imaginative. (Krmpotić, Marinko, “Ništa za pisati kući o: Vedrija i tamnija strana života”, novilist.hr, 28.8.2016). His short story, Čekaonica (The Waiting Room), is a surreal meditation on the experience of the doctor’s waiting room, a world one involuntarily enters and dedicates ample time to when participating in the public health system. The story is part poetry, part keen and often humorous observation, all seen through the eyes of a seasoned artist whose original perspective jolts the reader from the banality of everyday experiences into the realm of the extraordinary.

Read Krivac’s short story, The Waiting Room, below.
Translation by Martin Mayhew.



 

This is the waiting room.

When it stops ringing for someone, it starts ringing for someone else. It rings for everyone.

The ringtone of a lady across the hall, her prettiness hidden somewhere beneath the irresponsible weight, is a Dalmatian chanson. The melody pretends to be Mediterranean, but it is, in fact, Turkish. But Turkey is also the Mediterranean. Yes, yes, it is, says the man sitting next to me, and the following half an hour of an altogether four and a half hours of waiting is spent on discussions about the sultanate. Fuck Turkey, diachronically and otherwise. I cheer on the inside because I share these Turkey-thoughts with him. It rings again and there’s one less.

I’m only going to see the nurse. I’m the last one in the queue. No, we’re here to visit the other doctor. I’m only here for my test results.

An old gentleman in a light blue Polo shirt and a cheap pair of trainers has a ringtone of the William Tell overture in an 8-bit version. It takes him a long time to find his phone in a tiny man-purse, so the overture plays the whole intro and reaches the equestrian theme celebrated by animated shorts about a cat and a mouse. Sleazy dance hits, songs right out of amusement parks. The phones are playing. Around the corner – more phones are playing, the sounds of messages incoming. You can hear the sighs, phased passive-aggressive exhalations, demands for recognition. I am here, I exist, I’m waiting. I wait, therefore I am.

The waiting room is dominated by perms. The smell of chewing gum stuck to someone’s rubber sole. A combo strike of two different gums odouring together. People cover their faces with palms and huff. Cheerio, matey, and get well soon, son! Who’s last in the queue? Kindness has become so rare it is easily mistaken for flirting.

A lady in a flowery sleeveless shirt which is also a dress cools herself off with a ring binder filled with test results, her recent medical history. She cools herself with her own diseases. Medical history is written by medical winners. People here wear spots, stars, baby swastikas, smileys and frownies, they are stamped and resigned, upset, impatient, they shake their heads, stare at each other, silent, fat-chewing, shit-eating, champing and slurping for they eat their shit with a spoon.

I understand you completely, ma’am, I’m almost a doctor, practically. I mean, I was in a first aid team.

A nun is being allowed to jump the queue and she stays inside for 45 minutes. The initially delighted cross bearers are now nervous and lip-smacking. The nun finally comes out. She has prescriptions for vaginal suppositories for herself and all of her lady colleagues. Tonight she will sleep in peace, just like God during the Holocaust. Expectation is resentment waiting to happen.

Guys who walk around during the summer in exceptionally multi-coloured shirts, their junk dangling in khakis. Flip-flop abominations on their feet. Is your life a constant beach party? That’s the kind of music your phones are blaring out, appropriate only for beach parties. On the waiting room table there are seven-year-old magazines, brochures about Adriatic islands and autoimmune lung diseases.

An elderly woman in a crocheted dress too thick for summer, emphasizing her body. I scrutinize her, she’s maybe a couple of years older than me. I keep forgetting I’m not so young anymore. Behind every good-looking prominent woman from a marketing agency there are at least three fat ones with thyroid problems who are doing her job. I’m only here for my thyroid. I’m only here for new bandages. I’m only here for dying. Oh, alright then, go, go.

An alarm buzzes above the doors to various consultation rooms. No, it didn’t buzz over here, it buzzed over there, at another doctor’s. And I thought it buzzed over here. Good day, here for the nurse. Who’s last in the queue? I only need a confirmation for a driver’s license. I only need my stitches removed. I only need a second head removal, it grows on my foot, it keeps talking me into killing my husband, I can’t listen to it anymore, I need an operation. I just need my life back. I just I just. This lady here and I only need to see the nurse, the rest of the gang needs to see the doctor. We only need test results. We only need new bandages. We only need cold fusion. We’re only in it for the money. I’m the first one in the queue, I came at eleven. They are not slow by default, they’re only restrained by the government. They’re not slow by default, it’s the computer that has broken down. And those computers… We never had any computers before and it all worked perfectly. Who’s last in the queue? We’re only here for prescriptions.

We’re only here to certify the inscription on a tombstone. Please, if mine could just read: Excuse me. Just that. Excuse me. With a beautiful fluted font and serifs made of moss, please and thank you, just write: Excuse me.

My body doesn’t recognize the difference between me just thinking of something or me actually experiencing something, says the twenty-fifth lady in the queue. I’m causing myself physical reactions by imagining scenarios in my head. The nails on her feet look like something that is sent in an envelope together with a ransom note.

People cool themselves with their health cards, even though they are too small to produce any significant flow of air. They talk mostly about politics. Uninformed buffoons on a perennial autofellatic shindig. A lady addresses me: There will be no progress until you youngsters are included in politics. I answer her: Between me and the active inclusion in politics stands a barrier made of 33 vertebrae. I merely tolerate the state, just like you do with a bully on a public bus, you don’t stand up to him, you just wait for his stop or yours, you sit and weather out his tantrums and idiocy. The catch is – this bully never leaves the bus. He is the driver.

And you are a writer? Yep, I’m currently writing the biography of an ex-junkie who became a hay baler and then went back on heroin again because he found a needle in a haystack. Nervous strolls, the sound of flip-flops dragging over tiles.

They’re having their lunch break right now, when it’s my turn to go in – proclaims the man sitting next to me. It’s all fight or flight, fight or flight, he explains. Then he talks about coffee and how you have to let it settle, let it rest a bit after it boils. You can drink it only after cracks appear on the surface. Just like an icebreaker – a coffeebreaker has crossed the surface of the pot and left an even darker trail in the dark foam. In another time and another place, this man would be called a prophet.

He speaks of his worldwide travels and adventures and how he, once in Tibet, smoked a pipe made from a human femur. Wild, dude, wild. On his face the fatigue of a yachtsman, a combination of exhaustion and consecration.

People over 40 mostly share data about their chronic illnesses. I’m only here to see the nurse. I’m only here for some wet chocolate. I’m only here for my mixed anxiety-depressive disorder. I’m only here for my level three precancerous condition. I’m only here for juvenoia, a fear of young people and their culture. I’m only here for this axe in my head, an after effect of a minor family quarrel. I’m only here for new bandages.

A child runs through the waiting room with pixels on his face, just like those who hide themselves digitally in TV interviews. His mother informs us: it’s a witness protection disease.

When will it stop hurting like this, one asks another. Another answers: It hurts until it stops. I have to make an appointment, but you know how it is around here, it’s better to go to a private doctor. They also give false diagnoses that will consume the next few months of your life, but they at least treat you like a human.

After a whole day of life in a waiting room, the doctor asks me: And what’s wrong with you? Nothing, I reply. There’s nothing wrong with me and I don’t feel a thing. I don’t feel a goddamned single thing. All of my idols are dead and my enemies have formed a government.

Go to sleep earlier, look at yourself, she tells me. I answer: Those of us who go to sleep so very very late, we welcome the new day before everyone else. The first days of seasons, birthdays, anniversaries, new freakin’ years. We are before everyone. The night’s watch, the avant-garde, the silent reconnaissance of the near future.

She stares at me and keeps quiet. This day is lost for the both of us, anyway. A noisy scooter passes outside her office.

By Enver Krivac

Translated by Martin Mayhew

 

panorama

Fall into Zagreb

From unmissable concerts to jazz and art happenings, film festivals, and events for the littles ones, see what early autumn in Zagreb has to offer in the link below.

panorama

Rebecca Duran's Take on Modern Day Life in Pazin (Istria)

Croatia is a small, charming country known today as a prime European tourist destination. However, it has a complicated often turbulent history and is seemingly always destined to be at the crossroads of empires, religions and worldviews, with its current identity and culture incorporating elements from its former Communist, Slavic, Austrian-Hungarian, Catholic, Mediterranean, and European traditions.

review

Review of Dubravka Ugrešić's Age of Skin

Dubravka Ugrešić is one of the most internationally recognizable writers from Croatia, but she has a contentious relationship with her home country, having gone into self-exile in the early 90s. Her recently translated collection of essays, The Age of Skin, touches on topics of of exile and displacement, among others. Read a review of Ugrešić’s latest work of non-fiction, expertly translated by Ellen Elias-Bursac, in the link below .

panorama

Vlaho Bukovac Exhibition in Zagreb Will Run Through May

Vlaho Bukovac (1855-1922) is arguably Croatia's most renowned painter. Born in the south in Cavtat, he spent some of his most impressionable teenage years in New York with his uncle and his first career was as a sailor, but he soon gave that up due to injury. He went on to receive an education in the fine arts in Paris and began his artistic career there. He lived at various times in New York, San Francisco, Peru, Paris, Cavtat, Zagreb and Prague. His painting style could be classified as Impressionism which incorporated various techniques such as pointilism.

An exhibition dedicated to the works of Vlaho Bukovac will be running in Klovićevi dvori Gallery in Gornji Grad, Zagreb through May 22nd, 2022.

review

Review of Neva Lukić's Endless Endings

Read a review of Neva Lukić's collection of short stories, Endless Endings, recently translated into English, in World Literature Today.

panorama

A Guide to Zagreb's Street Art

Zagreb has its fair share of graffiti, often startling passersby when it pops up on say a crumbling fortress wall in the historical center of the city. Along with some well-known street murals are the legendary street artists themselves. Check out the article below for a definitive guide to Zagreb's best street art.

panorama

Beloved Croatian Children's Show Professor Balthazar Now Available in English on YouTube

The colorful, eclectic and much beloved Croatian children's cartoon Professor Balthazar was created by Zlatko Grgić and produced from the late 1960s through the 1970s. Now newer generations will be able to enjoy the Professor's magic, whether they speak Croatian or English.

panorama

New Book on Croatian Football Legend Robert Prosinečki

Robert Prosinečki's long and fabled football career includes winning third place in the 1998 World Cup as part of the Croatian national team, stints in Real Madrid and FC Barcelona as well as managerial roles for the Croatian national team, Red Star Belgrade, the Azerbaijani national team and the Bosnian Hercegovinian national team.

news

Sandorf Publishing House Launches American Branch

Croatian publishing house Sandorf launched their American branch called Sandorf Passage earlier this year.

panorama

Jonathan Bousfield on the Seedy Side of the Seaside

From strange tales of mysterious murders to suspected criminals hiding out to scams, duels and gambling, Opatija, a favourite seaside escape for Central Europeans at the turn of the last century, routinely filled Austrian headlines and the public's imagination in the early 20th century.

review

Review of new English translation of Grigor Vitez's AntonTon

Hailed as the father of 20th century Croatian children's literature, Grigor Vitez (1911-1966) is well known and loved in his homeland. With a new English translation of one of his classic tales AntonTon (AntunTun in Croatian), children around the world can now experience the author's delightful depiction of the strong-minded and silly AntonTon. The Grigor Vitez Award is an annual prize given to the best Croatian children's book of the year.

news

The Best of New Eastern European Literature

Have an overabundance of free time, thanks to the pandemic and lockdowns? Yearning to travel but unable to do so safely? Discover the rhythm of life and thought in multiple Eastern European countries through exciting new literature translated into English. From war-torn Ukraine to tales from Gulag inmates to the search for identity by Eastern Europeans driven away from their home countries because of the economic or political situations but still drawn back to their cultural hearths, this list offers many new worlds to explore.

panorama

More Zagreb Street Art

Explore TimeOut's gallery of fascinating and at times thought-provoking art in the great open air gallery of the streets of Zagreb.

panorama

Welcome to Zagreb's Hangover Museum

Partied too hard last night? Drop by Zagreb's Hangover Museum to feel more normal. People share their craziest hangover stories and visitors can even try on beer goggles to experience how the world looks like through drunken eyes.

panorama

Jonathan Bousfield on the Future as Imagined in 1960s Socialist Yugoslavia

How will the futuristic world of 2060 look? How far will technology have advanced, and how will those advancements affect how we live our everyday lives? These are the questions the Zagreb-based magazine Globus asked in a series of articles in 1960, when conceptualizing what advancements society would make 40 years in the future, the then far-off year of 2000. The articles used fantastical predictions about the future to highlight the technological advancements already made by the then socialist Yugoslavia. Take a trip with guide, Jonathan Bousfield, back to the future as envisioned by journalists in 1960s Yugoslavia.

panorama

Untranslatable Croatian Phrases

What’s the best way for an open-minded foreigner to get straight to the heart of another culture and get a feel for what makes people tick? Don’t just sample the local food and drink and see the major sights, perk up your ears and listen. There’s nothing that gives away the local flavor of a culture more than the common phrases people use, especially ones that have no direct translation.

Check out a quirky list of untranslatable Croatian phrases from Croatian cultural guide extraordinaire, Andrea Pisac, in the link below:

panorama

Jonathon Bousfield on the Museum of Broken Relationships

Just got out of a serious relationship and don't know what to do with all those keepsakes and mementos of your former loved one? The very popular and probably most unique museum in Zagreb, the Museum of Broken Relationships, dedicated to preserving keepsakes alongside the diverse stories of relationships gone wrong, will gladly take them. Find out how the museum got started and take an in-depth look at some of its quirkiest pieces in the link below.

panorama

Cool Things To Do in Zagreb

Zagreb is Croatia’s relaxed, charming and pedestrian-friendly capital. Check out Time Out’s definitive Zagreb guide for a diverse set of options of what to explore in the city from unusual museums to legendary flea markets and everything in between.

panorama

Jonathan Bousfield on Diocletian's Legacy in Split

Diocletian’s Palace is the main attraction in Split, the heart and soul of the city. Because of the palace, Split’s city center can be described as a living museum and it draws in the thousands of tourists that visit the city annually. But how much do we really know about the palace’s namesake who built it, the last ruler of a receding empire? Jonathan Bousfield contends that history only gives us a partial answer.

interview

The Poetry of Zagreb

Cities have served as sources of inspiration, frustration, and discovery for millennia. The subject of sonnets, stories, plays, the power centers of entire cultures, hotbeds of innovation, and the cause of wars, cities are mainstays of the present and the future with millions more people flocking to them every year.

Let the poet, Zagreb native Tomica Bajsić, take you on a lyrical tour of the city. Walk the streets conjured by his graceful words and take in the gentle beauty of the Zagreb of his childhood memories and present day observation.

panorama

You Haven't Experienced Zagreb if You Haven't Been to the Dolac Market

Dolac, the main city market, is a Zagreb institution. Selling all the fresh ingredients you need to whip up a fabulous dinner, from fruits and vegetables to fish, meat and homemade cheese and sausages, the sellers come from all over Croatia. Positioned right above the main square, the colorful market is a beacon of a simpler way of life and is just as bustling as it was a century ago.

panorama

Croatian Phrases Translated into English

Do you find phrases and sayings give personality and flair to a language? Have you ever pondered how the culture and history of a place shape the common phrases? Check out some common sayings in Croatian with their literal translations and actual meanings below.

panorama

Discover Croatia's Archaeological Secrets

Discover Croatia’s rich archaeological secrets, from the well known ancient Roman city of Salona near Split or the Neanderthal museum in Krapina to the often overlooked Andautonia Archaeological Park, just outside of Zagreb, which boasts the excavated ruins of a Roman town or the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe, Vinkovci.

panorama

Croatian Sites on UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List

A little know fact is that Croatia, together with Spain, have the most cultural and historical heritage under the protection of UNESCO, and Croatia has the highest number of UNESCO intangible goods of any European country.

panorama

Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb

The National Theater in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, is one of those things which always finds its way to every visitor’s busy schedule.

panorama

Zagreb's Street Art

So you're visiting Zagreb and are curious about it's underground art scene? Check out this guide to Zagreb's street art and explore all the best graffiti artists' work for yourself on your next walk through the city.

panorama

Zagreb Festivals and Cultural Events

Numerous festivals, shows and exhibitions are held annually in Zagreb. Search our what's on guide to arts & entertainment.

Authors' pages

Književna Republika Relations PRAVOnaPROFESIJU LitLink mk zg