Azemina did not have any hobbies, but she loved to watch boxing more than anything else on TV. Because of her, I started to watch it also. I was amazed to hear how she learnt all those boxing terms by simply listening to the commentators and watching the matches. For the first time in my life, I heard from her words like uppercut, straight right or cross. She became so experienced that she could predict with a high accuracy the result of a fight after a round or two. Her favourite was Muhammad Ali. She had to see all his matches even if that meant waking up at 3 a.m. Neither my father nor my aunt Fatima were interested in sports, but I could not let Azemina sit alone, and I told her to wake me up whenever she watched Ali boxing. Year after year, we two sat together in the darkness of the night and saw almost all Ali’s matches. Sometimes the picture was bad, sometimes the sound was intermittent or hardly audible, but I had a great time listening to my aunt’s comments and her cheering on her favourite. Next day when we were alone in the house, she would stretch out her hands, her palms facing me, and she would tell me to show her what I had learnt from watching the fight. I would hit her palms with my small fists, and she ordered, “Come on, straight right, left hook, uppercut, move your legs...”
I could speak with my aunt about anything without feeling embarrassed. When I had problems in school or was infatuated with a girl who was not interested in me, Azemina was the only person I could talk to about my feelings without fear of being ridiculed. Once I asked her who the ideal husband would be. She told me it should be an army officer. “What is so special about an army officer?” I asked. “He is always well-dressed, no creases or dirt on his uniform, his shoes polished and clean, his face shaven and smelling of aftershave. He is well- disciplined. He does not loiter, and he knows how to treat a woman. He is a real man and a gentleman.” She paused for a moment and then continued, “Can you imagine your aunt walking with her husband, an officer, our hands linked, his uniform spotless, and the stars on his epaulettes sparkling? I am wearing a white dress, carrying an expensive bag and smile politely at the acquaintances and neighbours who are dying of envy.” I could have imagined that beautiful scene which my aunt had pictured for me, but I did not know where she could find such a man.
Azemina stayed at home almost all the time. My father, Fatima, and I sometimes went on holiday to the Adriatic Sea, and enjoyed swimming and sunbathing, but she considered the idea of spending days under the scorching sun on a crowded beach foolish. If she wanted to sunbathe, she told me, she could lie on our terrace from early morning until the late afternoon and did not need to cram and jostle with thousands of other people. However, she used to spend two or three weeks in Sarajevo, where my third aunt Bisera lived, and some of our relatives, too. Azemina loved the city and she would always return in a good mood and with her suitcases filled with presents. I missed her whenever she went away and awaited with anticipation her return.
The last time she travelled to Sarajevo, I helped her carry her suitcases to the train station, and she hugged and kissed me before boarding the train. I came home expecting to see her again in a few weeks, but instead of her, we received a letter written by one of our relatives telling us that Azemina had met a retired army captain and married him. The man was an old acquaintance of our relative, and he assured us that the captain was a respectable and honest man. He was a widower and did not have any children, and lived in a two-room flat a few kilometres from the city centre. My aunt Fatima and my father were delighted, but I was sad. I was feeling almost the same kind of pain that I felt on the day I saw my mother leaving our house. Although now I was a grown-up man, I felt abandoned. How she could marry without saying a goodbye to me, I asked myself. How she could forget all those years we had spent together and live for the rest of her life with an old man, who was until recently just another stranger? I was blinded by my selfishness, and I did not want to see my aunt as a woman who had her own feelings, needs and dreams.
About six months later, my father went to Sarajevo. He returned one week later, and I asked him about Azemina. He told me my aunt was happy and satisfied. Her husband was not only a captain, but he also participated in the Second World War
since 1941as a partisan, and he fought the Nazis all over the country. And not only that, he was a devout Muslim who prayed five times a day and went to a mosque every day. I did not know what to think about his description of my aunt’s bliss. I sensed he was not telling me the whole truth. But he had never lied to me before, and I had to give him the benefit of the doubt because I could not prove otherwise. Then, my aunt Fatima went to Sarajevo, and when she returned, her story was similar to my father’s. Gradually, I hadreconciled myself to Azemina’s marriage, I and was glad that her dream had come true.
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