Drawing in a deep breath filling my lungs with the country’s rich and viable oxygen, I looked across the landscape and seeing the swaying green grass and trees meeting a vast blue horizon. In the far distance, you could see the massive concrete building tops of Siget, the neighboring hood of Anela’s youth. The morning was orchestrated with a symphony of birds singing passionately and gleefully. It looked like the finest impressionist piece my eyes had ever met, or at least I was tricking myself into believing so. I was looking out of our bedroom window in our small apartment situated in Sveta Klara. We were very lucky because our view faced the east, which wasn’t developed – nature still remained. It was quite an escape from the city’s chaos; it was simple and tranquilly blissful.
Having settled in a bit, it was a great place to think and reflect. I needed much time to do this as I was still subconsciously in shock. The return had gone as planned. The four of us under one roof: Anela, Jasmina, Bella, and myself. I was outnumbered severely: 3 to 1. The estrogen level was through the roof, but I got used to it quickly. I learned to just agree. The biggest adjustment was Jasmina’s introduction to Bella. Jasmina was a wonderful person. She was kind, compassionate and she always saw my good quality; she and her family were some of the best people I had ever met. However, she dreaded something more than anything; it was our four-legged furry friend, Bella. Jasmina had an extreme phobia of, well, almost anything. Dog’s were no exception. Even the small type, she would approach with great trepidation. When Ms Bella came trotting through the front door, Jasmina scaled the wall like a cat. She wouldn’t go home alone without someone being there. However, in time Bella’s persona infectiously grew over Jasmina. Her spell of love and affection won Jass’s heart. They soon became the best of friends, even sharing the same bed. This was inconceivable to us all; moreover, Jasmina couldn’t believe it herself.
Life in Klara was simple, and I adored it. Growing up in America, I had been used to the lifestyle of hurry – everything was on the go. In Klara, I walked everywhere I needed to go. I had time to think about things, to absorb nature and to appreciate the simple things in life; I had always overlooked them before. I started noticing new and simple things like the beauty of a budding tree or flower, and I simply felt happier and more at peace than ever before; I was living, but more importantly, I was aware I was living. There I saw people living without worry – only doing the day to day tasks. This provoked my thought of the liberation of having less. There was not a worry or burden I shouldered. All the superfluous material things I had before were no more. I only had love for Anela, and I had love from the people close to me. That was all I needed.
I started working immediately, and I was extremely fortunate for that. The people whom I worked for were kind to me, and I thank them for that and will always remember them; they gave me an opportunity of employment in Croatia in the time of “the crisis”. We had fun at work, and we enjoyed each other’s company. It was a great opportunity to meet many different Croatians, gaining insights into their culture and way of thinking. I would go to the center from Klara sometimes twice a day, and this served as good exercise as I wasn’t comfortable with public transportation. Anela was always busy during the day, so we usually didn’t see each other until the evening. It was this time she always relished the opportunity to make us all dinner. It was a feeling of being together as one – as a family.
As the Autumn leaves were turning into their beautiful array of colors, so were our thoughts about our future. We were engaged and comfortably living together, but we hadn’t specifically discussed a date. After giving it much thought, we finally decided. Our plans of becoming husband and wife were really on the horizon. The thought of this brought along with it the utmost euphoria one could imagine. The things we had discussed and talked about for so long were materializing before our eyes – We were really getting married. It felt like a dream, but it was not; it was imminent. Before us lay the biggest event in our lives. November had come and we decided to make our vows on its 23rd day. The day was approaching and the butterflies in our stomachs were multiplying exponentially.
So then it came – the day of our union as one. Our wedding day wasn’t the one you see in a beautiful cathedral with hundreds of people – this was for obvious reasons. Instead, it was held in the city’s municipal court building. We both dressed – Anela wore a tight dress fitting halfway up the thigh – anything but conservative; she looked like she was going to the club and how foreshadowing :). But she looked like the most beautiful woman I’d ever laid eyes on. Not by her wardrobe, but within in her eyes. When I looked into them, I could see a soul of warmth and compassion. A heart wanting love and wanting to give love. I was only the lucky guy to be on the receiving end. I wore a simple light blue suit represented by the fine Croatian brand, Galileo.
The weather wasn’t agreeing with our plans, but we really didn’t have any plans to begin with. We had arranged to go downtown, get hitched (as we say in the South), and have dinner at Sofra. So we set out to the center under soft droplets of sprinkling rain. We hadn’t thought to bring umbrellas, but Anela’s friends happened to have some, and luckily these umbrellas coordinated beautifully with our wardrobes; it looked as if we had planned it perfectly. After entering the building we waited nervously for the people ahead of us. Only Jasmina and Anela’s close friends attended. My family also attended with the aid of some modern technology, Skype. It was finally our turn to go. At this time, we had to hire a translator for me to say, “da.” and what a ripoff that was 🙂
So there we stood in front of each other, in front of our family and friends. Our hearts beating like thundering war drums, the feeling of joy and pure ecstasy overwhelmed not only us, but everyone in the room. Rain droplets were falling outside these walls, but inside droplets of tears glazed the oak floor. This moment was the product of all events leading up to it. From the first mentioning of Anela’s name, the request on Facebook, the wild texting and talking, the trip to Zagreb, the night on Vir, Anela’s trip back to America – all of that was solely for the next few moments and the words of, “I do.” or in my case, “da.” We knew exactly what we were doing, we couldn’t have wanted it more. We were drowned with so much love and feeling toward the other in that single moment – more than we had ever been in our lives. It was our time.
The lady administering this procedure couldn’t have been more amiable and compassionate. She versed us with warmth and resonance, and even though I didn’t understand her words, I could feel her. It was time for me to take my vow. I did so and then placed the ring on Anela’s finger as tears of happiness were falling from both of her rosy cheeks. We ended the small ceremony with our lips locked and inseparable, eyes gazing into the others. We were then met with a cheering roar from our small audience. It was now official and we were husband and wife! It went by so quickly, we didn’t really know what to do next, so we rushed out of the municipal court and immediately drove to Sofra located at Green Gold.
We celebrated with the usual starters of rakija and feasted on the typical mixed meat platters accompanied with the more than occasional shot of nešto kratko. The table was surrounded by a quintet of music in which Anela danced the remaining time. She definitely stole everyone’s attention dancing so effortlessly and flawlessly to the sweet sevdah melodies. She loves dancing and it’s in her blood. When there’s a rhythmic song being played rest assured Anela is somewhere moving her hips swirling back and forth. She’s also been known to end up on the table which wasn’t the case at Sofra thank God. So with our bellies full of food and drink and our hearts content, we departed back to our beloved Klara.
Arriving back to our apartment, we settled in and took a moment to digest the events that had taken place. I took a cold mug of beer, sat back in the chair, breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly. Reality still hadn’t set in for any of us, and we were all gathered around a bit confused for we hadn’t planned anything after Sofra. We sat around the table looking at each other with blank faces when one voice spoke up and said, “I know of a place.” The voice was Anela’s mother and she did indeed know a place; a place located nearby called Dallas. Anela nor her friends had been so we cordially agreed. At that point, I had never been to any club in Croatia, so I honestly I didn’t care where we went. I did question the name of this club to make sure I had heard correctly, and indeed I had; It was Dallas.
So off to Dallas we went and upon reaching the parking lot, its appearance lived up to its name. Honestly, it looked like a shithole, but within its walls, you could hear music echoing toward the neighboring villages in the dead silence of the night. We were met with security guards carrying metal detectors searching for weapons – I felt as if I were back in America entering a club; I was right at home. I guess this was foretelling of what was to come.
The moment we walked in, my jaw dislocated and dropped to the floor. A huge crowd covered the inside as music shook the foundations of the building. It was dark and smokey with strobe lights painting the walls and floor in sync to the rhythm of the most “beautiful” music I had ever heard in my life (hint of sarcasm). Furthermore, a raised platform with a shiny chrome pole situated the far end of the dance floor. Keeping this pole company was a fully animated woman wearing a thong bikini of the United States of America – they must have known we were coming. But wait, it gets even better! After finding a table closer to the front (in case of an emergency evacuation) and away from the dangerous bikini woman, another woman holding a microphone made her way directly toward our table like a lioness preying on a gazelle. But this was no ordinary woman! She had the stuff that some consider “very thick” and her clothing fitted so tightly, it was squeezing her upper half almost to the bottom of her chin. I honestly didn’t know how she could breathe, but how this woman could sing; she had a set of pipes. She came directly beside me with the microphone! I had to lip sing until our company informed the lioness that her prey couldn’t speak Croatian. We ordered a bottle of Jager cheaper than you could buy at the local grocery store and had a couple shots to celebrate and absorb the shock of Dallas.
Anela didn’t need Jager; she had song and dance. Wearing this tight white scandalous “wedding dress”, she looked to be in her natural habitat. Through the smoke and lighting, you could see flashes of this white bride, The Queen of Klara, spinning around with her long black hair flowing hypnotically like waves in the sea. She impressed the audience, to say the least. It was announced that we were celebrating our wedding, which resulted in more saluting, singing, dancing, and drinking. I was growing wearisome, and my head began to ache, so before leaving, I headed toward the bathroom. As I was washing my hands I was confronted by two young men looking very intrigued at me or maybe possibly confused. The next thing that happened is still a thriving joke between our family today. They asked me in a hesitant manner,” Is your wife a…a..a…gypsy?” I replied with a dead straight face, “why yes of course, don’t you see how she dances?” They looked amazed and then started speaking about other nonsensical matters before I politely ended the engagement to leave the premise of this legendary night spot, Dallas.
So this is the story of how we, two ordinary people split between thousands of miles, met and simply just followed our hearts. With a mixture of luck, good timing, but most of all determination we achieved something beautiful and unforgettable. Nothing we did was special in any way; we just simply followed our feelings and planned our future accordingly. Life is simple and I say it’s best to keep it that way. Don’t think too much, just do it 🙂
P.S. The following summer we had a real reception. We concluded that we could do just a bit better than our Wild West Ending:)