How Marshall Tito and I Shared the Same Psychiatrist
And none of us actually needed one! Talking about the waste of human expertise. Professor Ristic was a kind man, so he went along for a ride. It was by the end of 1979, I just came back from my visit to Macedonia, where the most of my relatives lived. Six months prior I decided to stroll there for a week or two, have some good time. All I could remember later on was the memory of being sober at least few times, but I won’t swear on it. It’s always like that in life, a choice: either you have a good time, or you spend your time clear-headed; no gray area there.
Broz was ailing for a while, gangrene already claimed his leg, or it was about to, but mentally he was as strong as ever. As I mentioned before, I really liked the man: everybody else seemed to complain about him, mostly weak Serbs and weak Croats. Predrag Milojevic, a legend among Belgrade’s journalists for decades, a spit and image of Walter Cronkite, once wrote that when both sides in a conflict agree to stone the third man, he’d always have sympathy for him: something had to be right there. And it was obvious to me while growing up that Yugoslavia was one healthy, abundant entity. You needed no better proof than all those Romanians, Bulgarians, Hungarians jumping the border, and after a short asylum continuing their freedom quest to Italy or Germany, into civilized world. The only mistake Broz made was opening border to Albania, so Kosovo transformed from being 95% Serb populated to 5% Serb inhabited within a few quick decades, ending up recently with the official separation. There went the sacred Serbian land, there went the medieval monasteries.
At my end of the bargain, I was well into my 25th anniversary of well-being, doing whatever pleased me but not being pleased with anything I was doing: I was at the crossroads and I knew it. My parents seemed to be worried, surprise! so they asked if I’d visit with professor Ristic. Since they approached me politely, no pressure involved, I agreed. Ristic, a gaunt seventy year old man with dark circles around his eyes, with a stare that comes handy if you can’t light a fire on a deserted island, didn’t waste much time with me; we refused to insult each other’s intelligence, and ten minutes later parted our ways.
Well, with Ristic or without him, I had to do something. As my close friendships faded away, and camaraderie went missing in action, and action went missing in the jungles of self-questioning, I stood alone within my sein und zeit. Not that I felt lonesome or anything, not at all, but the breeze of existence was breathing down my neck. It was an awkward feeling, one I never experienced before: there I was, exposed to all the forces of my intuitive universe, vulnerable yet utterly keen, piercing through my own substance like a hunter packing up for a long, one-way trip, choosing what to take and what to leave in the house he’d torch before departing, throwing a Zippo into establishment well-soaked in high-octane gasoline and whistling In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.
Few months later, on May 1st, the International Labor Day holiday, my sister Gordana, my good friend Gorazd Radakovic, and yours truly were hanging around with no particular agenda, when they suddenly asked me about a girl I met just after returning from Macedonia. For whatever reason, they remembered how impressed I was with her, judging by my rare outburst of intuitive cognition bordering epiphany. ‘She brushed me off,’ I shot back, ‘case closed.’ ‘Cases could be reopened,’ Gorazd said,’police files are known for that.’ Funny that he mentioned it, she did work at a police station. ‘Just give her a call, man, don’t be weak; you don’t wear it well.’
When people have nothing else to do, they could just sit there and apply pressure on you ad infinitum. Gets even worse if they have drinks in their hands. It was a long holiday weekend ahead of us. I stood up in disgust, itching to end this abuse, grabbed the phone in the other room, and – being lucky as I often was – not only managed to find her at home, but begged out a mickey mouse date, more of some kind of reunion, for the coming week.
Few days later, on May 4th 1980, Marshall Josip Broz Tito died, and country went into an emotional turmoil – a perfect backdrop for warming up an old flame. ‘You must be kidding!’ she said. I was serious like a shark attack; the wheels, heavy and slow while fighting the inertia, were accelerating.
Eileen and I got married on September 20th the same year.