We’d just returned to my apartment from a museum. They turned to me and asked “If you could do anything you wanted to right now, what would it be?”
I didn’t even have to think about it. I would go to Belgrade and walk in a spiral.
Belgrade makes me vibrate. There’s no other way to describe it. Every time I enter the place it’s akin to a religious experience. I miss it when I’m gone, flipping through my cyrillic flashcards as a poor substitute.
(Not to imply that learning another alphabet is wasted time.)
The first time I went to Belgrade I remember thinking there was a brittle sort of joy. Mine or theirs doesn’t matter so much as the fact that the second I landed at Nikola Tesla airport I wanted to hug the concrete sidewalk.
The weather was cold and I kept to the new side. All I did was walk around the residential area, talk with the hotel’s bartenders, and breathe the air.
Belgrade makes me feel more alive. So alive that other times in other cities feel like a disappearing dream, or some lukewarm pantomime of living.
The second time I went to Belgrade the weather was warm and I stayed around the corner from the former US Embassy (it was vacated after being set on fire a couple of times during a war.) I was happy to just lay on the floor in the late evening, listening to the city wind down.
Frankly, Belgrade makes me feel like I do when I’m fucking—the sensory input of something as simple as a gentle breeze lights up the nerve endings in my skin.
I remember noticing that I was free to walk around without harassment, that catcalls and wolf whistles were (delightfully) absent. It was the same in Greece and Turkey.
During my third visit I felt so safe I finally was able to fall apart, something that had been a long time coming. I had responsibilities at home, but leaving as scheduled is one of my deepest regrets.
I want to know the city deeply, memorize its streets and small landmarks, be able to visualize its monuments when I close my eyes.
Beograd volim te, will you ever feel like mine?
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