.A few meters from us, Zoran sat on a plastic chair with his legs outstretched, watching us in silence with a blank look on his
blankface. , a few meters from us.He must have felt like God, the master of life and death, the judge and the executioner. He was the star of the new state. The Serb government needed people like him - ruthless murderers who would do the dirty work, eliminate as muchmany people as possible and then be discarded when their services were not needed anymore.
When the courtyard was clean,After we finished cleaning the courtyard, Zoran ordered the guard to give us a bottle of beer each. The sun was rising over the hills as I sipped the golden liquid and felt it filling my empty stomach. Unbeknown to him, our torturer had become a surrealist - a film director and a producer of his own film, which would take was going to be shot foryears to shoot, and which would leave indelible marks on the minds of his victims. I stole glances at him. His eyes were heavy and his head cocked to the side. He would need plenty of good sleep to build uprecover the energy he had spent during this night. I imagined him sitting in court one day, anddefending himself. “I’ve never been there. I don’t know what you’re talking about. People mistook me for someone else. I am just an ordinary taxi driver...”
They told us our families would bring us food. My heart skipped when I saw Father arriving with his old blue bicycle, the white ribbon on his arm blowing in the wind. He gave me a plastic bag with a beef sausage, a hunk of breed, and a wedge of cheese. He apologised for not being able to bring more. My father was a man who seldom showed emotions, but I could only have imagined what he had been going through. He asked me how I felt, and I shook my head and told him I felt terrible. I wished I could tell him what I had seen and heard, but the guards around us were listening to every word. After about ten minutes, I watched him leaving,
cycling back,pressing his pedals, the brown fedora pulled low over his forehead, the white ribbon fluttering in the wind.
In the afternoon, the guard called my name and took me to the interrogation room. He left me alone there with an army officer who was in his thirties,
Heand who seemed to be a kind and intelligent man. I looked at his blue eyes, and I believed he was an honest person who was only doing his job and following the orders of his superiors. He asked me what I had been doingdid before the war broke out and if I was a member of any political party. Did I know anyone who had bought a weapon? I told him I was never interested in politics and mostly kept myself to myself. I did not believe that any of my neighbours were interested in fighting the Serbs and spending money on weapons, which would be of no use to them anyway. He nodded and seemed to be satisfied with my answers. I wanted to talk to him about Zoran and his behaviour, but I was afraid of the consequences. I could have ended up in onthe courtyard,tortured and beaten to death. I fought with myself for a few moments, but then I looked at his eyes again and I knew I could trust this officer. I described for him what had happened the previous night, and he took notes in his notebook. “How can the army canallow such things to happen?” I asked. He gave me a crooked smile and answered, “The army has bungled this, right from the very beginning.” As the guard led me back into the hall, I sensed my interrogator did not give a damn about his job, and that he wanted to leave this horrible place just as I did.
Some days later, busses arrived and took us back to our suburb. Our guards were friendly and chatted with us. They promised us everything would be as before. We would play football together again, have drinks in the pubs, and go to parties. My neighbours smiled at them and nodded in agreement, but when we got off and the buses turned away, they swore at and cursed the soldiers. “How could we pretend nothing had happened? We are innocent, and they treated us worse than animals,” my neighbours said.
When I came home, I hugged my father, and then I immediately took off my dirty clothes and tossed them in the washing machine. The electricity supply was erratic, and I was eager to get rid of the foul stench which made me gag, and which had embedded in every thread of my clothes, as soon as possible. I rushed into the shower and turned on the tap at full. The stream
of warm watermade me feel relaxed. I could not believe I was in my home, washing the dirt and stench from my body. Later, I lay in bed, on a clean, white sheet and breathed in the scent of jasmine, which the breeze blew into my room. The birds in the fruit trees chirped and sang as if they also wanted to greet my return. When I woke up many hours later, I felt likenewborn, but the world I was reborn into was a scary place with a twisted reality, governed by people full of hatred.
TO BE CONTINUED
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