Twenty Years Later

She’s back home. Or is it still her home? She remembers: home is where the books are. Home is where her boys are. Home is where her cats are. But then again, this place is home as well. With no books, no boys, no cats. Still home. Sort of. The idea of home had split apart a long time ago. Now “home” consists of bits and pieces, little shreds, vague memories that attack suddenly and without warning. “Home” is no longer palpable and concrete. It resides in another dimension. It’s no longer physical – it’s METAphysical. Meta = between. She’s a meta-person. She is living a meta- life.

She left these parts exactly 20 years ago, at the beginning of a war she didn’t understand. Now she’s back and all the ghosts are still alive. Nothing had been resolved, neither inside her, nor around her. The war is still present, like a dark shadow, its long never ending reach still powerful.

It’s foggy and cold here. She misses the California sun. People are full of resentment and bitterness. And who can blame them? They feel cheated, betrayed. The fiercest patriots seem to have robbed and sold out the country. It all feels like a bitter joke. She cannot but notice hostility in the quick sideways glances. And she gets it. It seems to the people here that she’s living a charmed, privileged life in the eternal sun while they walk the dusty grey streets in the cold. They don’t want to know about the sense of loss of identity, of humiliations and rejections, about disrespect, disinterest and general indifference that mark the life of an emigrant actress in the land of the free, home of the brave. Over the years, the old war propaganda lies from 20 years ago have become the truth and she realizes that she’ll be forever blamed for lack of patriotism or, in her view, destructive and militant nationalism. The fact that, 20 years ago, she was practically thrown out of her city and her profession with no hesitation and no mercy, now seems irrelevant, old and worn out. She’s heard it a million times: “Get over it already! Nobody is interested in these old stories any more. Nobody cares. Nobody remembers.”

That and precisely that is the problem, it seems to her. The fact that nobody remembers, that nobody wants to remember. If they remember her, they have to remember themselves, face themselves, confront themselves. And that’s painful. And unnecessary, as they managed to convince themselves. Even more, it’d detrimental to their lives. She’s blamed for remembering. “C’mon, lighten up! Forget all that!”, she hears their unspoken thoughts. But she can’t. She won’t. Remembering, she thinks, is all we have. If that’s gone, everything is gone. Isn’t it our human duty to remember?

Who should blame whom? And for what? And with what right? Who’s a traitor, who’s a hero? As we all know, it all depends on the point of view. But trying to understand a different point of view is not a favorite discipline in these parts of the world (is it anywhere?). Harsh judgments, old resentments and loads of envy and blame are in the air. The so called cultural elites are opinionated, rigid and always ready to follow the official political directives, with eagerness that is perplexing. No dissent is allowed or welcome. No criticism is tolerated, unless it’s minor, done in a group and thus safe.

The so called ordinary people, on the other hand, seem kind and welcoming. They come out of their stores and little restaurants in Sarajevo and give her little gifts. She reminds them of their youth. Of the good times, even if those didn’t seem that good at the time. She reminds them of the peaceful times. A beautiful, wise and kind man who owns her favorite little eating hole, a traditional Bosnian “ascinica”, a kind of a fast food place with the best home – made food, Mr. Hadzibajric, says to her: “There are only two kinds of people in the world, two races, two nations: people and non – people”. ( “Ljudi I ne-ljudi” – sounds so much better in our language.)

Ah, Sarajevo. In that town that suffered the most, she doesn’t feel hatred. She’s thinking: Zagreb and Belgrade should learn from Sarajevo. But then again, she’s just a guest here, a passer through. She doesn’t really know. She cannot possibly know.

She hikes to her favorite mountain, Sljeme, her childhood mountain, for her – the best of Zagreb. She used to hike there with her father, first on his shoulders as a baby, later as a child, reluctantly, constantly asking: “When are we going to get there?”, with her father responding: “Getting there is not the point. The point is in the act of walking.” All her life, it seems, she’s been trying to truly grasp it, this metaphor for life, for just about everything. The point is the process itself. There is no goal, just the act of doing it.

She spends time with her old friends. There is nothing that can replace them. Old friends are the witnesses of our existence. They know who we were before. They are the ones who see the continuity in us. We don’t. We get confused. We lose our thread. We tend to lose a sense of who we are. We let the changed environment influence our very essence. We let the circumstances shake us out of our sense of who we are. Old friends remind us of our essence. They remind us of what we were, what we intended to be (but forgot in the meantime), what we could have been… A. tells her: “I always think of what you said to me once: our goal is to stay curious little girls.” She’s thinking: I never had a problem with that part. I have a problem with the other part, the part that includes wisdom and detachment.

She has some painful encounters with old friends who – she felt – betrayed her at a crucial time, when she got in trouble, without any guilt on her part. She realizes they too feel betrayed by her, by her insensitivity to them, by her self – obsession and self – involvement, by her unrealistic expectations of them. The question: how not to expect anything? How to be humble and grateful? How to see people as what they are? How to learn to stop expecting the impossible and, therefore, being disappointed all the time?

A book, exquisite. Paul Harding: Tinkers.

A film, yesterday. Aki Kaurismaki: Le Havre. A sweet, gentle, lovely gift. A generous gift at a time when generosity is seen as stupidity and lack of business sense.

She’s writing reluctantly and with difficulty. As her writer friend says, it’s like sending a letter in a bottle. Who’s the receiver? Who is going to read it? Who does she want it to be? Why does she want to share her experience in the first place? Why does she want to share it with the unknown addressee? Or does she even? She’s so not ready for Facebook. She so belongs to another era that it frightens her.

She visits a strange and lovely museum in Zagreb, “Museum of Broken Relationships”. It’s people exhibiting little bits and pieces that remind them of their lost love. In her mind she’s preparing her own addition to the museum. It wouldn’t be a person. It would be an institution that broke up with her without explanation after 13 years of a complex and uneasy relationship. The institution, her theatre, never looked back. She did. She still half expects a phone call of apology. As in a love affair gone wrong. But, just as in doomed love affairs, she knows very well that such a phone call will never happen. There will never be a catharsis. It’s not a well written dramatic piece. It’s not a Greek tragedy. It’s just politics.

While she’s putting together her own exhibit in her mind, she discovers that, instead of an exhibitor, she has actually become an exhibit. To her (unpleasant) surprise, she finds herself looking at a “Mira Furlan bowl”. She’s shocked and feels an urge to be insulted by this use of her name to which her person is no longer connected in the minds of the exhibitor and the creators of the museum. But, to her surprise, she discovers that she too feels disconnected from her own name. Her name, as she had learned the hard way, has its own independent life, completely and totally apart from its rightful owner. It’s bizarre. She should be offended but she’s not. The “Mira Furlan” that is forever carved in collective memory here is an entity foreign to her. She doesn’t quite remember that person nor is she particularly interested in her. She finds out she doesn’t really care. And THAT’s what disturbs her.

At a mountain lodge at Sljeme a man approaches her and asks: “Excuse me, are you Mira Furlan? We had a bet.” She (stupidly) asks: “What do you bet on?” He says: “I bet against it. It’s not you, is it?” I laugh: “No, you’re wrong. This IS me.” “Well, sure”, he says “of course it’s you. But are YOU Mira Furlan?” “Well, that’s complicated”, I say. “Not quite.” The man is puzzled. He looks towards his group, shaking his head. The bet cannot be resolved: she is and she is not that person. Both statements are true.

On a cold and foggy morning she’s sitting and writing far away from her home. On a cold and foggy morning she’s sitting and writing at her home. Both statements are true. Impossible? Watch me.