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Characters / significance
The team behind the book
The fantastic four
Welcome dear reader, the following 210 pages will lead you through the life of Branko, a gay Serbian teenager. This introduction shall serve as your crash course on everything you need to know about Serbia and will not spoil any contents of the plot. If you wish you can start reading, or stay here for some fun facts on the setting of this book!
The story is set in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. Serbia is a country in southeastern Europe with about 7.5 million inhabitants, while its capital Belgrade houses about 2 million of them. Belgrade is a vibrant city full of cafés, bars and clubs. It is the biggest city in the former Yugoslavia and is home to the regions biggest LGBT community.
However, in terms of acceptance towards the LGBT community, Serbia is not such a fun place to be. According to the 2011 census of the Republic of Serbia, 84,5% of the population define themselves as Eastern Orthodox, making Serbia a deeply religious country. The Anti-Discrimination law of 2009 was barely passed in parliament with only 127 out of 250 votes (125 votes are required to pass a law) in favour of it. To date, Serbia has not recognised same-sex unions nor same-sex marriage and the abuse of homosexuals in society is high. Even though things have gotten better of the past few decades, the LGBT community in the country still struggles with a lot of issues on a daily basis that LGBT people don’t have to face in Western Europe.
A little bit of recent history for you: In the 1990s the communist state of Yugoslavia fell apart in a violent civil war. The countries of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and F.Y.R. Macedonia got their independence after years of bloodshed, while Serbia and Montenegro remained part of the newly founded Republic of Yugoslavia. Until today there are hostilities between Serbia and Croatia, even though the two countries share a common language and have shared a country for more than seven decades.
In 1999 after failing to give Kosovo, a southern region of the country which is populated by Albanians, NATO launched a three-month airstrike on Serbia and Montenegro and destroyed many parts of Belgrade.
In 2006 Montenegro declared its independence from Serbia via a referendum which Serbia recognised, however, when Kosovo declared its independence in 2008 Serbia didn’t recognise Kosovo as a sovereign state and claims it as Serbian territory until today. Kosovo is still not a member of the United Nations despite being recognised by the majority of UN member states, it still lacks the approval of the UN a whole in order to join. Tensions between Serbia and Albania have been steadily hostile until today and the political turmoil between the countries rests until today.
When reading Zašto? you will encounter a lot of these issues and you will see how it influences the lives of the characters. Branko was born in 1997 so he and his peers were born after the civil war and were babies when the NATO bombardment occurred. However, the parents of the characters have all lived through that period which is reflected in their lives, views and actions. I really hope that you will enjoy this book and dive deeper into the themes and problems this book attempts to address. If you wish to know more about Serbia and the LGBT community in Serbia, I suggest using the internet for more detailed information, what you got here are just the basics. A great movie I can always recommend on the subject is “Parada”. You can also find it in English.
Anyways, I really hope it will be a good a read for you!
Branko Jovanović / serbian Teenager
Bojana Jovanović / his sister
Mr Dragan Jovanović / their father
Nenad / his brother
Diellza / his wife
Mrs Jadranka Jovanović / their mother
Milenko Jovanović / his brother
Marija / his girlfriend
Vesna / his girlfriend
Katarina / her best friend
Petar / his best friend
Ivan / his other best friend
Dejana / a friend
Sara / her friend
Jelena / her friend
Milica / a friend
Ms Prosetović / social studies teacher
Bojan / ministry worker
Luka / competitor from Croatia
Alex / competitor from Hungary
Daniel / competitor from Austria
Dušan / the one
Mr Radulović / psychiatrist
The scene opens at the Kalemegdan fortress in Belgrade, Serbia. The date is February 14th, 2016. Branko, an 18-year-old, is sitting with his girlfriend Vesna at the edge of the wall, overlooking the district of New Belgrade, which is conveniently snowed in for Valentine’s Day. Vesna is resting her head on Branko’s right shoulder with his right arm around her. Branko stares into the distance. There’s silence for a moment.
Branko: When you look around, what do you see?
Vesna:(confused) Uhm, well. I see the river, the city, the sky, the people, the fortress (turns her face to him) you. (kisses him)
Branko: And do you see any further meaning in the things you see?
Vesna: Well, not really. Some things are just the way they are. Why, what do you mean?
Branko:(focuses his look into the distance) You know, when I look around, I see a world which is constantly moving, everybody busy with themselves, and me as a tiny part of the entire picture. I wonder what is behind the scenes and what the meaning of what we see is. I wonder what I could find in the mind of others.
Vesna:(pouts at him) You still haven’t figured which drawings you want to submit for the competition?
Branko:(bursts out) It’s so annoying! There are so many good ones and I have to choose five, and I can’t even decide on one and the submission is tomorrow! (he puts his head down and smiles) My sister wants me to take the one with her on it.
Vesna: You mean the on where she’s sitting in Tito’s garden? (excited) I love that one! Pick that one, it’s so cute. Bojana will, like, literally die if you decide to go with that one, it’s awesome, she’ll love it.
Branko: And family does come first.
Vesna: You can also take the painting from Thessaloniki you did last summer! I am literally obsessed with that one.
Branko:(stutters) Uhm, well I haven’t really thought about that one yet.
Vesna:(pouts again) Come on, do it for me, for Valentine’s day.
Branko:(smiles) Alright, alright. I’ll take that one as well.
Vesna leans in to kiss him, but Branko is still staring into the distance so she opts for his cheek instead.
Vesna: You know, you could ask Ivan and Petar which one they like most. They’re your best buddies after all and know you better than anyone else outside your family.
Branko:(puts his hand on the back of his neck) I guess I could call them over tonight since they only need to cross the street.
Vesna:(smiles) See, they do know you best. I still need some time to figure that thing you call your mind out.
Branko: We’ve only been together since the 8th of December, take your time, (turns his head towards her) and yes, I remembered the date. (finally kisses her)
Vesna:(pulls a face at him) Good for you. You’ll have the 8th of March as one of our anniversaries. (smirks) I expect double the effort!
Branko:(devoted) I’ll take care of everything you want!
Vesna: Well, my current need is to get out of the cold.
Branko:(in a heroic voice) Then we shall get you a cup of your favourite mocha.
Vesna: Ooooh! (gets excited) Somebody’s taking his girl to Coffee Dream!
They stand up and leave the wall as they slowly start walking into downtown Belgrade.
The scene opens in the evening at the Jovanović’s flat in central Zemun, a district of Belgrade. Branko is sitting with his parents and his little sister Bojana at the dinner table. His mother made sarma, a traditional Serbian dish, which is usually made on special occasions.
Branko: Uhm, mom, dad? Petar and Ivan wanted to stop by to help me with my selection for the competition.
Mr Jovanović:(smiles) Ah, sure, I haven’t seen them in ages. (looks over to his wife) We saw Petar’s parents today day in church. They invited us over for coffee tomorrow.
Mrs Jovanović: We were just talking about you guys and how much you’ve grown. It’s still unbelievable that my second baby is graduating from school this year.
Branko:(raises his eyebrows) Yeah, because that’s never been done before. It’s not like-
Bojana:(interrupts) Speaking of the second baby. I texted with Milenko before his shift today. He said he’s fine, and the weather in Malta is nice.
Mrs Jovanović:(worried) Oh dear, I really hope that he doesn’t work too hard.
Mr Jovanović: Oh please, Jadranka, the boy is a man now. If he didn’t have the brains to study he does have the brawn to work!
Mrs Jovanović: You know constructions sites aren’t safe!
Bojana:(in a soothing voice) Mom. He’ll be fine. He’s just chasing his dream! Just as Branko is chasing his, and just as I’ll be chasing mine. (pauses for a second) Given that I find one.
Mr Jovanović: I hope at least you plan on studying something proper.
Branko:(upset) Contemporary art is a proper field of study!
Mr Jovanović:(in a sceptic voice) To me it’s just a bunch of colours, but you know what? If you manage to succeed at this competition and get to the finals in Budapest. Who knows? Maybe you are truly gifted. Maybe you’ll be able to achieve something with your art after all.
Mrs Jovanović:(enthusiastic) Of course he’s gifted. He might not get to the finals, but he will get a good score!
Branko:(quieting down) Thanks, mother.
Mr Jovanović: Boki, what are your plans for tomorrow?
Bojana:(looks into her sarma) I’m going out with the squad, there’s this new café downtown and we wanted to check it out.
Mrs Jovanović: Oh, that’s nice.
The doorbell rings.
Branko:(runs to the door) I’ll get it!
The scene opens in Branko’s relatively small room. His works are all over his huge desk and his bed. Ivan and Petar are observing the displayed stuff. They’ve been discussing it for a while.
Ivan:(points around the room) So, if we figured it out properly, we’ll take Thessaloniki, the one with your sister, one from Višegrad, preferably one with the Drina bridge, the one from Amélie and one we haven’t decided on yet.
Petar: I kinda like the one with the bombed buildings.
Ivan: Why on earth would you want to choose that one? It’s just plain violence!
Petar: It represents our history. It shows what the world has done to us in 1999. It symbolises the strength of the people. I’m sure they’ll want someone who cares about Serbian cultural heritage to represent us.
Branko:(inspects the piece) I don’t know. They might take it the wrong way.
Ivan: Exactly! I’m against it.
Branko: I’m actually in favour of it.
Ivan:(weirded out) You what now?
Branko: Petar is right, we need something that represents the violent parts of our history. (walks in circles) Each piece gains its meaning in the selection. The bombed buildings represent our suffering. The Amélie one is for our social connectivity, our coffee culture. The Drina bridge our literature and cultural heritage, Andrićs mastermind. And the one with Bojana stands for the importance of family.
Ivan: You forgot Thessaloniki. The one that stands for love?
Branko: Huh (is irritated) Ah, yes and that one.
Ivan: Is something wrong?
Branko:(slightly shakes head) It’s nothing
Petar:(taps him on the shoulder) Come on, don’t fuck with us, somethings off.
Branko looks his friends into their eyes, takes a seat at his bed, while the two take chairs
Branko:(shaky voice) It’s about Vesna. I… I don’t think I can keep on doing this anymore. I’m simply not happy, and I know that she isn’t either.
Ivan: Doubts this early into a relationship are never a good sign.
Petar:(shakes head) This is bad. Very very bad. Are you really going to let a girl like Vesna slip? Most of the guys would sell their left testicle for her!
Branko: She is a great girl. It’s just that she’s not the one for me.
Petar:(interrupts) Stop it! You two started off so well.
Ivan: Chill. She might not be the one for him.
Branko: I’m so confused. Nothing seems clear to me anymore.
Petar: Did you have sex?
Petar: Did you fuck her?
Branko:(in a disappointed voice) No… We didn’t! I never managed to get that far. Her parents were always at home, and the one time they weren’t home, her dog was watching.
Ivan: Understandable, weird as fuck, but understandable.
Petar:(confused, irritated, lost) How can you not bang the hottest girl in class? What kind of fag are you?
Branko:(annoyed) Oh, come on.
Petar: I just want to help you.
Branko: And I think that it’s not the help I need.
Ivan:(looking out of the window) Maybe you need to see a therapist?
Branko:(raises an eyebrow at him) The last time I checked, I was fine. I don’t need a therapist, just because I didn’t bang my girlfriend yet.
Petar:(dements) Ah, Branko’s not nuts! He’s just confused.
Ivan: Oh, trust me, I figured that out on my own.
Ivan:(turns his head towards him) Just sleep on it.
Petar: Come on, don’t be so sensitive. You know you can always call us if you need anything. You’re like a brother us.
Branko: Thanks, guys.
Petar:(punches him in the shoulder) And we’ll help you get some!
Ivan:(starts laughing) And here we go again.
They quickly switch the topic, talk for another 15 minutes, after which Petar and Ivan leave. Branko is left alone in his room.
Five minutes later, Bojana knocks at Branko’s door and sticks her head through the door slip. She has a worried look on her face.
Bojana: Mind if I come in?
Branko: Uhm, sure.
Bojana enters the room as she closes the door behind her and takes a seat on the bed next to her brother.
Bojana: I… uhm, I…
Branko: Boki, what’s wrong?
Bojana: I overheard you speaking. It didn’t sound as if you were fine.
Branko:(tries to avoid eye-contact) What exactly did you hear?
Bojana:(looks to the floor) You said that you couldn’t keep things up with Vesna as they were and that you weren’t happy. (looks him directly in the eye) Is that true?
Branko: It’s true, I’m not happy with my life as it is right now. And it’s been like this for a while now.
Bojana:(worried) Why didn’t you tell me anything sooner?
Branko:(looks up to the ceiling) I just didn’t feel like addressing the issue was relevant. Sometimes it’s the times I’m saddest where I behave as if everything was alright.
Bojana:(frustrated) That’s not helping and it doesn’t solve the problem.
Branko:(rests his head against the wall) Well what does solve the problem?
Bojana: Talking about it for instance!
Branko: This is Serbia. Men don’t talk about their feelings.
Bojana:(confused) Not when it comes to family! You don’t have to keep up with a bunch of social norms here. I’m your little sister and not one of your bros. There’s a difference there.
Branko: Maybe it’s just an instinct. I don’t want to bother you with my problems.
Bojana: You obviously need help in finding a solution!
Branko: Well do you have one to offer?
Bojana: Break up with her.
Silence fills the room yet another time. This time Branko can’t seem to break it, so the two simply stare at each other without any expression at all.
Bojana: You’re not happy, so she can’t be happy, so your relationship is unhappy, which turns into a toxic relationship and after a while you start asking yourself why you’re torturing yourself, so why not just simply put a stop to this and end your suffering once and for all.
Again, silence fills the room. Branko’s expression is still blanc.
Bojana: It’s okay to be emotional, it’s not okay to be a pussy. Branko:(raises voice) Alright! Alright! (lowers voice) I guess there’s no other way out.
Bojana: So how do you plan on doing it?
Branko:(confused) I can’t decide that right now. I need to think about this for a moment.
Bojana: You seem tired. Get some sleep.
The two hug, Bojana stands up and heads for the door, as she reaches it, she turns around one more time.
Bojana: And remember. Family is always there for you!
Branko:(smiles) Thanks Boki, that really means a lot.
Bojana:(smiles back at him) Sleep well and dream in colours.
The next day, February 15th, Branko wakes up a little later than usual. It’s about 12 am, as he strolls into the kitchen, to find leftover uštipci his mother put on the table. As he’s eating his breakfast he listens to the television playing in the background.
Television:(female news presenter voice) The prime minister wished all Serbs a happy National Day of Serbia. In his holiday speech, he emphasised the importance of political stability in our country and commented on the issue of premature elections this morning as N1 is finding out. (voice of the prime minister) Today we are celebrating the existence of our nation. But we need to look into the future, to keep it prosperous and to keep moving forward. Even though this is the third time in four years that we have to hold a parliamentary election, I believe that it’s in the interest of the people to go vote and to move forward. Let’s leave our past behind! With the Serbian Progressive Party, we’ll put in our best efforts to bring this country back into stability. We’ve done a lot, but we need to do more, and as your prime minister, I promise you, the people of Serbia, that we can make-
Branko switches the channel to a music programme which is far less politically demanding than watching N1.
Branko:(to himself) The people of Serbia. Progressive Party. (he pauses) Bullshit. They’ve done nothing but harm, they encourage the same right winged bullshit that fucked up Yugoslavia. They’ve done nothing to change the law or work on our rights. And how am I supposed to live in this country? How am I going to continue living, if everyone expects me to be something I’m not. And why am I oddly fine with that? In the west, it’s supposedly different. There you don’t need to hide from everyone. You’re safe. You can accept it. Here, I can’t even admit it to myself, let alone to others.
He looks around. No one is at home. So he stands up and walks to the bathroom and looks at himself in the mirror. He washes his face and looks again.
Branko:(to himself) It’s time for you to say it. At least to yourself. No one else will know. It’s just you. And you have to say it. (keeps on staring at his reflection for a while) My name is Branko Jovanović, I’m 18 years old, I was born in Belgrade. And. (pauses) I’m gay. My name is Branko Jovanović and I’m gay.
He lifts his back a little, looks at himself with astonishment. He has known for years, but this was the first time he said those words out loud. His heart fills with joy. He smiles at himself.
Branko:(to himself, with joy in his voice) My name is Branko Jovanović and I am gay.
The scene opens at the Serbian ministry of culture. Branko arrives in the main hall with his five paintings rolled up and with the application letter in his hand. He arrives into a room with tables which are all labelled with the categories. Branko looks for the table with the inscription САВРЕМЕНА УМЕНОСТ (contemporary art) which he finds right next to the table for САВРЕМЕНИ ПЛЕС (contemporary dance).
Branko:(approaches the young woman at the table with a smile) Hello, I’d like to sign up, please.
Woman:(in a hectic tone) Yes, sure. (hands him a paper) Could you please fill out this form? I have to take care of two tables at the same time. (walks over to a girl at the neighbouring table) So, is this the disc with the performance?
Girl: Yes. (friendly, innocent tone) My friends were here a little earlier, so I need to get my name on the collective application.
Woman: Alright. Fill out this form then. (walks over to Branko) Let me see your form. (she takes the form out of Branko’s hand and starts reading it) Please present your five submissions and then sign this release. (she hands him another form) I’ll need to get a confirmation from the office. I’ll be back in a second. (she walks into a hallway)
Branko rolls out the five paintings to check if everything was in order.
Girl:(glances over to Branko’s paintings) They’re really beautiful.
Branko: Uhm, thanks.
Girl:(points at one of the drawing) Who’s the girl in Tito’s garden?
Branko:(smiles) That’s my little sister. She’s my everything.
Girl:(puts a hand on her chest) Aw, that is so sweet. I’m sure she must proud of you.
Branko:(laughs) I even got one of these red hearts from her. You know, the one that says “Najboljem bratu” (for the best brother).
Girl:(grins) What a cliché (she continues to observe the painting) You’re really talented (she looks at the bottom right on one of the paintings) Б. Јовановић. That’s a really cool signature. What’s the Б for?
Branko: It’s for Branko. (stretches his hand) Pleased to meet you.
Girl:(stretches her hand) Dejana, the pleasure is all mine.
Branko:(looks over to her form) Contemporary dance?
Dejana: Yeah. (blushes) Two friends of mine and I recorded ourselves dancing in my basement. We thought we could give it a chance.
Branko: Oh cool! What song did you choose?
Dejana:(rolls her eyes) Oh god, this is embarrassing. Well we did one to “Opasna Igra” by Nikolija, one to “Tri Čaše” by Milica Todorović and we topped it off with Sia’s “Chandelier”
Branko:(nods head) That is some pretty good dance music.
Dejana: Isn’t that like only what girls are into?
Branko: Uh, yes, but uhm, it has a clear danceable beat.
The woman returns with the leftover paperwork that Branko and Dejana fill in. As she releases both of them into freedom from bureaucracy, Dejana approaches Branko as he’s on his way to the exit.
Dejana: Hey, where do you need to go now?
Branko:(confused) Home, why?
Dejana:(grins) I meant the direction.
Branko: Aaah. Zemun.
Dejana: So you need to take a bus from Zeleni Venac?
Dejana:(enthusiastic) Great! I need to go to Novi Beograd, so we’ll both need a bus from there. May I walk with you?
Branko: Yeah, sure.
In front of the ministry, Branko and Dejana are starting to walk towards Zeleni Venac as they cross Nikola Pašić square. The sun is shining.
Branko: The weather’s nice today.
Dejana:(suddenly a bit sad) Yeah, I guess.
Branko: Is something wrong?
Dejana: I’m fine.
Branko: You don’t seem fine. You seemed fine five minutes ago.
Dejana:(takes a deep breath) That’s because, five minutes ago, I didn’t have to walk towards my personal doom.
Branko:(confused) Novi Beograd is your personal doom? Wouldn’t be the first time I heard someone say that. What’s going on?
Dejana: It’s just that. Urgh. (pauses) My boyfriend lives in Novi
Beograd, I’m on my way to break up with that pig.
Branko: My God. What happened?
Dejana:(tries to keep it together) It’s nothing.
Branko: It’s something, but you don’t want to talk about it.
Dejana: Exactly. (sighs) Although my friends haven’t been really there for me either.
Branko: Mine are there for me, but can’t ever seem to understand me, so trust me, I know how it feels to be alone in your mind.
Dejana:(smiles) At least someone who understands.
As there crossing Terazije square in front of the imperial hotel Moskva, Branko considers sharing some advice with Dejana, despite having just met her.
Branko:(takes a deep breath and smiles) It’s funny how the world can be confusing when everything seems fine. I’ve been with my girlfriend for somewhat more than three months and I haven’t been happy. Rather indifferent to be honest. (keeps on smiling) And I’ve decided this morning to break up with her because I don’t want to be unhappy. You should rather be alone your entire life than spending a minute with a toxic person. (throws Dejana a look) It’s something I read on the internet, but it is true.
Dejana:(baffled) How can you keep smiling while talking about this?
Branko:(laughs) Do you know this feeling where you’re so fucked, that you can do is laugh?
Dejana:(smiles back at him) I believe I actually do.
As they approach the station, Dejana looks at the 67er bus which is standing in front of her. Branko pads her shoulder.
Branko:(in a soothing voice) It will be fine, trust me.
Dejana: Well, here goes nothing. (She turns around) Thank you,
Branko, for being so nice to me.
Branko:(shrugs his shoulders) It’s nothing.
She hugs him and enters her bus, as she watches him walk away towards his bus.
The scene opens in front of “Beograd” Department Store in central Zemun. Branko is walking home from the bus station as he sees Ivan who’s just leaving the grocery store with three bags. Branko approaches him.
Branko:(takes a bag out of Ivan’s hand) Mind if I help?
Ivan: My God, Branko, didn’t see you there. Where are you coming from?
Branko: Uhm, the ministry.
Ivan: Ah, yes. Of course, how could I forget? How did it go?
Branko: It went well. I didn’t do much. I Just signed up.
Ivan: Did someone suck the life out of you? You seem extremely expressionless.
Branko: I lost myself in my own thoughts on the bus.
Ivan:(worried) Oh, that bad?
Branko: I met a girl.
Ivan:(totally confused) A girl?
Branko: Yes, Ivan, a girl.
Ivan: But you have a girlfriend!
Branko:(nervous) Yes, dude, I know. I don’t know why Dejana intrigued me so much. She was nice, kind, honest, direct. At least she seemed so. And I didn’t see a threat in her. With Vesna, all I see is boredom, emptiness and a lack of a flame. (calms down, saddens his voice) I made a mistake and I need to change it.
Ivan:(irritated) Are you planning to do, what I’m thinking you’re planning to do?
Branko:(looks over to him) I’m going to break up with Vesna.
Ivan:(happy) That’s my man!
Branko: Ivan, what the fuck?
Ivan: You finally made a choice and it’s your own one! I’m so proud of you!
Branko:(still confused) You want me to break up with Vesna?
Ivan: Yes! The only reason you’re keeping this relationship at the moment are the expectations that are being put upon you. I know that, for example, Petar wants you two to stay together. He only wants that because that’s what he thinks is best for you, and I’m just happy that you developed enough critical thinking to decide what works best for you! And I believe you’ll be happier, bruh!
Branko: Woah, thanks dude. I guess you’re right.
Ivan:(takes the third bag from Branko) All that’s left is to execute it.
Branko: I’ll try to get it done by the end of the week.
Ivan: I know it’ll be tough, but trust me, it’ll all be fine in the long run!
Branko:(smiles) I sure hope so.
Ivan:(looks at the building behind him) Well, this is my place. I’d love to hang, but I promised my parents I would join them for lunch.
Branko: Don’t worry about it, bro. I’ll chill on my own or with my sister.
Ivan: Dope. I’ll see you in school.
Branko:(starts crossing the street, waving) See ya!
The scene opens in Branko’s room. He’s sitting at his desk making sketches of men. As he hears his door open, he quickly puts a blank sheet of paper over them and turns around to greet his sister.
Branko: Ey, you’re back! How’d it go with the squad?
Bojana:(walks over to the bed and lies down) As always. We went to Ušće Mall, crowded as always, you could barely walk through to the shops. So we went to Moritz Eis and sat in the food court for like, hours.
Branko: Sounds cool.
Bojana: So, how’d your day go? All set for the competition?
Branko: Yup, all done. (puts his elbows on his knees and his chin on his hands) Now, we play the waiting game.
Bojana: Yeah, about that. (pauses) You’re going to get the results by post, right?
Bojana:(softens her voice) Would you mind not asking neither mom nor dad about the post?
Branko:(confused) Uhm, why?
Bojana: There will be a letter in there that they won’t like.
Branko: Okay, now you’re creeping me out.
Bojana: It’s about Nenad.
Branko:(slightly shook) Our uncle? We haven’t talked to him in years.
Bojana: Milenko did, ever since he moved to Malta. Turns out Nenad is quite successful nowadays. He runs a business in Tirana.
Branko: I thought he moved to Priština to be with his girlfriend?
Bojana: Yes, that was back in 2013, they’ve been in Tirana for a year now. He got the opportunity to start a business?
Branko: Our uncle is successful?
Bojana: Yes, and that’s not everything. He is going to try to contact us!
Branko: And what does he have to do with my result letter from the competition?
Bojana: The thing is, you know father and him didn’t talk to each other ever since our family denounced him.
Branko: I’ve been sad about it often enough. You know I loved uncle Nenad.
Bojana: Well he’s pulling off what he’s been denounced for. He proposed to his Albanian love and we’re expecting our invitation to “beautiful” Tirana for the wedding.
Silence fills the room as Branko’s eyes widen. He opens his mouth, closes it again. Then pauses for a few seconds.
Branko:(in a low, worried voice) Dad is going to freak out.
Bojana: I can imagine that they don’t want to tell us about the wedding, so please don’t ask about the post, they might know something’s up. I’m sure the first thing mom will do when she sees your letter is call you. So can we keep quiet about this?
Branko: Of course we can. It’s just a lot to take in right now.
Bojana: Trust me, I was shocked too when Milenko told me. (pauses) You know, he will be attending the wedding without telling our parents.
Branko: What? He said he can’t afford to visit us, but he can afford flying to Tirana?
Bojana:(calming him down) Nenad is taking over the costs. In his letter, he’ll offer us the same.
Branko: We might be going to Tirana?
Bojana:(laughs) As if our parents would allow us to do such a thing.
Branko: Only God knows.
Bojana:(smiles) The only thing I hope for is that our family will get less disturbing.
Branko: I’ll light a candle for that next time we’re in church.
Bojana smiles as tension is eased, they then start gossiping about the people from church, their neighbours and friends. Basically, everyone’s a target.
Sunday, February 21 st, 2016, 4:51 pm, Coffee & Factory in central Belgrade, in the basement floor, with no one but Branko and Vesna sitting at a table, and Vesna’s blank expression.
Vesna:(speechless) You’re not serious?
Branko: I believe I am. It’s for the best.
Vesna puts her hand over her face.
Branko:(reaches his hand out) Please don’t cry.
Vesna: I’m NOT going to cry! (throws him a sharp look) I’m just mourning at how pathetic this is!
Vesna: Yes, pathetic! (puts both her hands on the table) Listen, I know that this relationship wasn’t going to work out. I mean, our “date” on V-day. What the fuck was that? What kind of terrible telenovela is this? I knew we were going to break up, but I thought that at least we’d try to make this work. Otherwise, I would’ve given up a long time ago!
Branko: You would’ve?!
Vesna: Yes, of course! I was doing all the work at the end. Before you always wanted to hang out and planned the cutest dates. I fell for you Branko! And as that happened, everything stopped. Now I was the one who was pushing for us to hang out, to do stuff, I started cancelling plans because of you, I wanted us to work. How can you not see that? And then you come, and tell me that you want to break up, because you don’t feel the spark anymore, well duh! That spark was long gone.
Branko:(in a loss for words) I… uh… I…
Vesna: Oh, so now your confidence is gone? (pauses) Tell, me, what’s the real reason you’re breaking up with me?
Branko:(confused) What do you mean by “real reason”? I told you that I simply don’t have feelings for you anymore. The spark is gone and I can’t see this working out. Trust me, it’s not easy for me either.
Vesna:(stands up) Oh, this is really easy for you. (throws 200 dinars (1,65€) on the table) Pay once you leave. And I hope you’ll get it up when you do it with her.
Branko:(stands up as well) I already told you that there’s no one else and that I couldn’t disrespect your parents like that.
Vesna: Bullshit, you were never that into me from the start. (raises her arms) I give up, this is so pathetic. Can I leave? I really need some time for myself.
Branko:(takes the money on the table) Sure, no worries. I’ll get the bill. (gives her her 200 dinars back) Don’t worry about it.
Vesna:(rejects it) Keep it. Get your next one a coffee. Whoever she may be.
Branko: I told you there’s no one!
Vesna:(starts walking away) There might not be now, but there will be some day.
As she leaves the cafe, Branko puts the 200er bill into his pocket and takes a 500er bill from his wallet as he goes over to the waiter to pay and commence his walk of shame.
The scene opens at the Zemun Gymnasium the next morning at 9:35 am, as Branko exits his French class and is walking over to his classroom for social studies. He gets halted by Ivan and Petar.
Petar:(grabs both his shoulders and shakes him) What have you done? Are you nuts?
Branko: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Ivan:(worried) It’s about Vesna. You should talk to her.
Branko: Did she tell you that we broke up?
Ivan: Uhm, no. She didn’t say anything. I assumed it though, she was nervous as fuck.
Petar: Katarina told me that she told her yesterday but that she didn’t want to make a big deal out of it in front of everyone.
Ivan: She barely spoke to anyone, sat all by herself and just looked at funny Instagram clips. She’s obviously distracting herself.
Petar:(disappointed) What the fuck did you do?
Branko: I… (pauses) I wasn’t happy, she didn’t seem happy either, so I sat her down yesterday and I broke up with her.