Even if you're somewhere for decades, you only get the briefest glimpses of most people's lives. Traveling, this is even truer. A glancing brush on the sidewalk can still resonate, however. Walk-ons and extras all, we still deserve to be read.
In Joyce's "The Dead," the coat girl has but two lines, but who can forget this declaration, delivered with "great bitterness," "The men that is now is only all palaver and what they can get out of you."
In Orwell's "Such, Such Were the Joys," there is this frightful sketch, "There was a new boy named Bachelor, a pretty, mother's darling of a boy, who came a little while before I left. The first thing I noticed about him was the beautiful pearly whiteness of his teeth. By the end of that term his teeth were an extraordinary shade of green."
Belgrade in summer is hotter than I expected. Passing Caffe Loža, I noticed an "OLD ROUTE 66" sign and "Times Square" license plate among its decoration, so I entered. Inside, I saw pictures of a San Francisco streetcar, the Titanic, Uncle Sam, James Bond and even Mark Twain, etc., but no Marilyn Monroe, Elvis or James Dean.
"Wow, look at that!" I said to the young waiter.
"It's George Washington."
"I don't know how to explain, but Loža is, ah, like a political organization."
Washington was a Freemason, I think he's trying to say.
Since I was the only customer, we had time to talk, though he couldn't help but look down at his phone often. Real life can't command his complete attention.
Practicing English, he asked me basic questions, "How long have you been in Serbia?" "What do you think of Serbia?" "Do you like Serbian food?"
"I like Belgrade very much," I said. "People here are very relaxed, and there are cafes and bars everywhere."
"Here, everybody drinks every day," he smiled. "After work, I go to see my girlfriend, then I go drink beer with my friends."
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