Blogbox | War

Dad, I need to piss

By - 14.11.2023

From the collection “The Moment I Knew the War Started.” 

You don’t speak even then, though your bladder is like water-filled balloon. You are hemmed in by bulky men who talk incessantly. There are three of them on your sides and another one in front of you. They reek of the men’s deodorant that your bedridden aunt uses to chase away cats. You can’t join in the conversation, because your father is the chauffer and chauffer is in charge. On top of that, before you left, he told you not to ask questions or reply in more than one word. Your world has been so restricted that it cannot contain anything more than your father’s commands. Also, your age won’t allow you the full comprehension of what they’re saying. You don’t even care, because you are too anxious about your bloated bladder. You gaze out of the window and imagine yourself torrentially releasing this foul yellow liquid from the tank. You wonder when you are going to stop already. Yet you only hiss past deserted plains. Isolated patches accommodate vegetable gardens, then you see scattered multi-storeyed houses. Trunks of trees surge by you, blocking the view for a moment. More plains and more houses. You don’t see anything unusual, some reminder of war, except for the general lifelessness hovering over every village you have ever passed, anyway. Then a huge prefabricated aluminium structure occurs, as if it was built by error at that spot, or dropped there from outer space. Sometimes people appear. They peek out of cracks and follow the passing cars with their gaze. They know you will take a detour from the road, should you need them. Frankly, you don’t like the atmosphere, or your father’s mates who push you recklessly as they speak. You catch a trace of something eerie in their rough voices. However, you feel safer as you’re driving with your father, your thoughts occupied with the foul water in your lower stomach. You leave it to your father to be scared for you. Though your father is not scared. Because he looks like a wise, clear-eyed falcon clawing at the steering wheel. They all listen to him, since he takes the lead. It is not only his possession of the steering wheel. He also negotiates car trade. You are not the only people from Montenegro who buy cars from a war-beaten country. For you, the war haven’t even started, when you hear that it’s over. You say that you have to urinate only once. It’s your only utterance during this trip. These five words. Dad, I need to piss. Then a moment of complete silence ensues and you wait until you come round the bend. Once you have reached a clearing, father steps on the break wordlessly, then he warns you against going over the road barrier. You crave to see the mines up close, or at least the place where they are buried, yet you never come even close to the barrier. You urinate on the main road, nervous that a car might come. You’re hoping that it would never come. Father honks so you’d go faster. That is your father, a gloomy figure at the wheel. He communicates by glances and the sounds at his disposal in your common environment. You close both your eyes as this makes the stream go faster, and you prolong your solitude with this darkness. Then the sound finally comes. You don’t open your eyes. The humming of the engine becomes louder, then you hear clanking of the door. You know that you’d have to keep your excuses for yourself before a torrent of assaults. The policemen question your father, and they don’t even look at you. You are too young to say anything of importance. They present themselves as some benevolent coppers who would show you the way to the market, even though they know that you know the road very well. Then they’d cash in their benevolence in metal marks.

The car market is enormous, with billions of parked vehicles and people slithering between them like vipers. Your stomach hurts because you didn’t empty your bladder fully, but your father is silent. Bolts of lightning flicker in his grey eyes. You relieved him of a couple of marks. You follow him and scan his reactions. You try to understand how the trade is conducted when you’re surrounded by hyenas. When he nods, you nod. You prove your kinship with mirrored gestures. Father pats you on the back for being a good son, for having learned to keep silent, for doing everything as he pleases. Now you’re even buying cars with him. These are going to be your cars too, even though you won’t be able to go out them when you wish to. But you’ll also become a father once, and you’ll be saying that he was right. You walk through heaps of piled up iron, like you’re in the midst of a gigantic crash, the punch line of some end-of-the-world anecdote. In this apparently endless chaos you chance upon a tap house with a decaying awning put together out of the parts of some old kiosk. Its name is Summer Garden. You have known different gardens. From your father’s short monologue, you find out that the establishment does not have a restroom, yet some people come and take you to a place where stomachs are relieved. You’re exposed to looks that go down to your crotch. You’re immobile as a stone sculpture. In low voice, they comment on the foreskin of your penis. You’re petrified like two stone statues. Then they laugh and pat you on the back.

You return and see your father surrounded by chums. They shout out words of welcome intended for those coming from afar.  We are somewhat outnumbered, and on their faces there’s an expression of what could be scorn, you imagine. Nevertheless, they appear to be friendly with you. This is not what you thought the trade in illegal cars would be like. You imagined the territory ravaged by the war differently. You don’t know what you expected exactly, but your assumptions were a far cry from the forced smiles, strong handshakes and the underhanded exchanges of money. You follow them to a clearing where there are four tarpaulin-covered cars waiting for you. Once the logos are revealed, you become glad that you’d be driven in an Audi in the following months. Everyone in school would respect you much more. They still don’t pay attention to you, as if you’re a lizard perched on a rock, soaking up the sun. But you don’t care about that. Your father really knows his business. You’re proud to even be in his vicinity, and that it’s your father that they speak to with so much veneration. You’d be just like that one day, once you grow up. It’s time for handshakes once more. The deal is obviously closed. The chums separate, they take one car each and drive back. The two of you watch black fumes rising in the wake of these black furies. Your business partners say you should wet your whistle before you go, to finalise the deal. You return to the summer garden, but they suggest you should take a short walk. You believe that this is a set of rules that must be executed from start to finish. One of the men, the one with the gloomiest eyes takes out a stash of photos. You can’t see anything of them, but the changed expression on your father’s face tells you that something important is happening in that moment. You don’t slow down with your walk, you just keep on going in silence. At that point, your father utters for the first time that you’re his son, and that you have one brother and two sisters. The people are still not looking at you, they just take you on the side and tell you to wait there, on a mound protruding above tall vegetation. You watch them moving away from you as the lump of your stomach rises towards the throat. You watch them besiege father so that you can hardly make out his head. His lips quiver while he waves his hands in an attempt to explain something. His eye is moist and you can recognise his fear. Soon, the fear engulfs you too, as you prove your kinship. You just stand there immobile like a cane, believing that this is the way the trade works.  No one says anything. You just want to leave this fucking place. You want to leave the planet, but you don’t know how. Your first step is heavy. As you make the move, a line of pain cuts through your stomach. The one with gloomy eyes slaps your father’s face. Then the rest do the same. So he’s on the ground. You follow your father’s course, a couple of meters of his aimless crawling, as shoe soles push his head down to the ground. You wish you could feel your father’s pain, but it doesn’t go that way.  They kick him harder and harder, until the one with the gloomy eyes finally pisses all over him. You watch his jet losing strength and you feel relief. They pass you by and thank you for the successful business.

You drive in silence. Gloom has thickened below mountain tops. You drive slowly. The plains and houses that you have whizzed past today, now could be seen more clearly. On the facades of the houses you perceive traces of shrapnel. You can count the holes. There are no longer heads peeking out of the cracks. The wind whistles and the front of the car drifts slightly. You wish to ask your father many things, but you once again decide against it. Father doesn’t like when you ask too many questions, and you postpone waiting for his explanation for another lifetime. He casts a short glance on you in the review mirror and tries to assume the falcon look that no longer exists. You move your thoughts to the German engine, hundreds of horsepower that you’d be riding on soon, far and away from the troubles. You haven’t had the chance to see whether the vehicle has leather seats and electronic lifters. You’d be the top dog in school even without them, and they’d all be watching you for a long time as you are driven to school. Once again, on your way home, you will think about what has been on those photos and what was it that your father did. Then you will stop. He will grow a sharp beak once again and he will spread his recovered wings. Then he will lurk and lurk, before he surges down from the cliff to grab whatever has been left of the world.  


Feature Image: Anka Arsenić

This story was originally published in “The Moment I Knew the War Started,” a collection of short stories originally published in BHSC, to contribute to more inclusive culture of remembrance. The stories were written by renowned post-Yugoslav authors, who answer the simple question of their memories from the tumultuous 1990s. Albanian translation includes three more stories from Kosovo writers, and is published by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights and forumZFD Serbia. The editors are Vladimir Arsenić, Ana Pejović and Anton Berishaj.