On the plane I finally read The Argonauts. I’ve been meaning to for at least two years. I suspect I’ll need a second or even third reading to really wrap my head around it. I think I like Maggie Nelson’s brain quite a bit. Being a poet, her prose is a bit, well, poetic for my tastes, but reading outside one’s tastes seems like a great way of staving off that whole feedback loop mess. Mostly I appreciate the total absence of shock value in her story.
As we land the two young women next to me express uncertainty about what the airport will be like, saying they haven’t seen it in almost a decade. I tell them it’s still quite small, that customs is very quick, and that they should have plenty of time to get to their connection. I say something jovial about border control being polite and organized compared to, say, JFK.
The young woman closest to me says “I’m hoping the US doesn’t decide to put Bosnia on the banned list before I get back.” She doesn’t seem jovial at all. She has startlingly blue eyes. I rattle off some comforting geopolitical babble, saying the US would have major egg on it’s face if we changed our tune regarding Bosnia now. Leaving out the part where the Trump administration doesn’t seem to care what metaphors it might have on its face.
I hope the two women get where they’re headed, and return home without any hassle.
The sky above Nikola Tesla airport is grey. When I exit customs I see one man holding a card with a friend’s name on it. I should text them and see if they’re in town.
Another man walks up and asks if I need a taxi. I know better than to take a random driver waiting outside the baggage claim, but I’m in Belgrade. I know the city well enough to tell if he’s screwing around with me. I can get out and order myself a new taxi if necessary. So I agree to have the man drive me.
His name is Zoran. He dives into the fact of his two sons and asks how close they might be to my age. Then he points out that we’re all in our thirties with no family decided on yet, that he already had children at twenty-five. I’m struck by how closely this mirrors a US headline I saw last month, something about the millennials taking longer to buy houses, to produce children.
From this angle our generational concerns appear global.
I don’t want to waste the money on an extra night at the place I’m renting for the first couple of weeks, so I loiter on the sidewalk until the restaurants open, using my suitcase as a stool. The sky gets lighter but remains overcast. The leaves seem extra bright against the gathering clouds. I open Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple’s Brothers of the Gun.
After a couple of hours I move to a second restaurant. A few more hours pass. I return to loitering, this time on the stairs of the building I’ll be staying in, waiting for somebody’s son to come let me in. I finish Marwan and Molly’s book. The son appears. I begin to really feel the lack of sleep.
But the sun is up, and I know if I allow myself to rest now my sleep schedule will be utterly out of control and require a hard re-set. So I move on to the fourth book of Laura Antoniou’s The Marketplace series. I’m partially into the fifth before bedtime becomes reasonable.
I wouldn’t recommend The Marketplace for anyone who is trans or queer and going through a rough or extra-sensitive patch. I would absolutely recommend the series—especially the later books—for anyone who wants to think about BDSM and power. And Brothers of the Gun requires a self-bracing, a preparation to vicariously experience horror. But generally I just recommend that you read.
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Also published on Medium.