I woke up in a bed that wasn’t mine in Ljubljana. Actually, it was a couch. After a quick inspection I realized that there was no one around and my belt was undone. There was also a strong musk of the dark beer I had been drinking the previous night emanating from the plant pot down the hall. There is a good chance I had treated it to some of my home-grown nutrient. I’m not an overly aggressive drunk so I doubt that I did anything too bad. I was grand despite the mystery of how or why I ended up on this couch. When something like this happens I just remind myself of three far more concerning drunken moments that always sooth my worries:
- Mates and I were running around Batumi dry humping statues drunkenly to the horrors of the two Georgian girls we were with. As one screamed at us to at least try to avoid going to jail in the crowded main square, my Danish mate squinted at her with a peculiar amazement usually reserved for assessing a Kandinsky or Rothko work. What she didn’t realize as she continued to scream was that his cock hung out pissing everywhere as some locals looked on in horror.
- Being accosted by No-Yolo’s Klemens for running off with some Jewish girl at a bar in Montreal. On one of the main streets in the city, he grabbed me, pulled out his cock, and tried to piss all over me while screaming in his silly Colm Meaney-in-Intermission-style voice: “TAKE YOUR SCOLDING!”
- Celebrating an Irish mate’s birthday in Montreal with his Canadian girlfriend’s family. Her somewhat mild mannered WASP father started to ease up during dinner after a couple glasses of wine. Once we hit the pub, he was pissed and attempted to take out his cock to tell us how impressive it was, to the shouting horror of the girlfriend’s brother screaming “DAAAADDDDD!” as if it was a regular occurrence in and outside that family home.
Upon reflection, what I may or may not have done the previous night in Ljubljana seemed rather inconsequential. Most likely I just stopped for a snooze on my way home. Regardless, I successfully cleared customs a couple of hours later.
The more concerning issue was the many text messages I got throughout the night from my ex-girlfriend – who I had not seen since May – calling me a heartless cunt. Typically around 2 am on a weekend night I either get abusive angry rants or proclamations that no one will love me again from her. I was reminded once again of my horrendous romantic track record and I became sad. It didn’t help that when I realized this I was in a taxi on my way to the airport and the 1984 smash single To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before by Julio Iglesias and Willie came on on the radio. I love that jam.
After turning 27 and increasingly seeing mates settling down, finding another half, and from all appearances seeming almost content with themselves, I am a little concerned by my inability to either stick to one location or one girl. Sadly, this is a man (contestably a boy at maturity level) that has never had a successful relationship devoid of cheating, who has not stayed in the same country for more than 6 weeks over the past two years and who has lived in four different countries since university, while looking at number 5 for 2016’s possible PhD. I don’t have a drinking problem, I have a consistency problem- which admittedly, the booze isn’t helping with.
Many attempts have been made to diagnose both myself and other’s constant need to travel and fuck up relationships. The most common of these is the dreaded and patronizing “You have commitment issues”. Though more stupid than wrong, I think commitment isn’t the problem. I have no problems committing in other areas of my life. I have a close and loving relationship with each member of my family who I speak to almost daily. The same goes for my mates. I’ve also had an honest and frank love of Tottenham Hotspur which is going through a second spring under the high pressing Pochettino team. If you know anything about Tottenham, you’ll understand why I mark that as an indication of my capacity to commit.
The issue isn’t commitment. Whenever people speak about love and, to some degree, travel, there is a presumption that we’re all chasing after that final end or solution: to be with that person/s, find a home, or have that ‘experience’, i.e some clichéd shit that we’re all suppose to say. I can’t say that for myself. My travels and my love are driven by something that commitment does not really come into the equation. I am always intrigued by all those aspects of life that remain a mystery. This curiosity is driven by the belief that whatever is out there must have a more sophisticated and interesting next step. Perhaps the next place will be more fun? Maybe the next girl will be more interesting? Whatever I don’t know holds the far greater allure. It is different from commitment issues because I don’t feel claustrophobic when I’m around the familiar. No, I am just always waiting for the next best thing, lover, or place.
This has never been so evident than with the few days I spent in Zagreb and the romance I had there. I say ‘romance’ but the reality was two dates and a failed attempt at a one-night stand. I believe in fairies and I’ve yet to see concrete evidence that Santa doesn’t have at least some role in Christmas, plus it is my fucking article so I get to call it a romance. The person of subject will certainly be mortified to read this. I digress..
I had no plans in going there but due to a freakish amount of mistakes at work I was given an extra week off. I caught a flight from Belgrade to Zagreb and rented out a cute apartment. Like most places, I knew not a single soul and got my Tindering on the go. I matched up with a beautiful journalist who had a keen interest in music. That is where our similarities ended. Just messing. I am a happy 6 at best on the beauty scale but I do enjoy my tunes.
She was socially awkward, prone to being late, and she seemed pretty fucking serious. That said, she was like some kind of fantasy I had when I was 17. She made references to the Stone Roses… without me mentioning them! She was into the new Jeremih single that I would rank at number two in my top singles of the year. It feels like something so profound as music could be the perfect foundation for an emotional connection. Whatever it may be, I also uphold that our childish impulses tend to be our most honest
Sure, sure after only two dates (and one failed one night stand) this is kinda heavy language with even more superficial justification. But I’m from the old school music snob mentality that it doesn’t matter what you’re like but what you like. I think a good music taste can sustain a long term relationship. The hyper-realistic friends of mine might also include enthusiastic oral sex as well. Those two much are better than all this shite about understanding. But seriously, it feels like something so profound as music could be the perfect basis for an emotional connection. Music tends to explain and help us identity all that confusion we wouldn’t even begin to speak about.
Among all of this weird romancing, I found myself kinda charmed by Zagreb. Walking along the hills beyond the city center, you can’t help but feel that even a spastic with a camera, such as myself, could work for National Geographic. Walking through the Gradec, you’ll find the beauty of Zagreb is a little more sophisticated than what your initial expectations are. It might be the city is largely devoid of any tourism in November but there is something more. It is certainly Balkan but also Catholic. The pubs, the café, the way in which every night I went to a small pub for a couple because Croatians start way too late for my poor old soul yet whenever I passed Kamenita vrata there would be someone just praying. Certainly less cosmopolitan than Belgrade and less storied than Sarajevo, Zagreb sits comfortably as not a mosaic of the cultures but instead a peaceful blend of her influences as the bridge between Habsburg, Balkan, Eastern, Western, EU, non-EU, and all that name dropping.
It is a place where a museum dedicated to broken relationships doesn’t seem out of place. The Muzej Prekinutih Veza belongs in a city like Zagreb. It is neither cheeky nor profound. The city’s elegance mirrors the process by which this museum delicately makes you reflect on those times you were hurt or perhaps even more emotionally those times you hurt each other. More importantly, you start thinking about all those opportunities that you had but let it pass away.
I felt surprisingly open! I liked this city. I liked the girl. I liked how I felt there. I even liked the shit apartment I had rented close to Ban Jelačić Square that had a zebra theme to it. Hanging around the bars and cafes throughout the day, it felt like a city was just lacking that perfect and it hadn’t met its full potential but with a bit of effort from the right people, maybe it could. Just for a moment, I even envision myself being part of that jazz.
For our second date, we went to a bar on Tkalčićeva and smoked a lot of cigarettes in one setting. Afterwards, she came to my place to give this love making a bit of a try. We were almost there. ALMOST. Like, I was reaching for the Johnny when she said she couldn’t go through with it. It wasn’t personal she pleaded. She wished she could but for whatever reason she couldn’t go through with it.
Maybe she was being nice. I had no idea most of time what she was thinking. Slightly humiliated, I kinda went into my shell. I think it didn’t help that while having this discussion, I was arse naked while she was fully dressed. Not that I have a problem being in the nude, but you can’t help but feel a little out place with all that emotional tension and you’re the only naked person in the room. Reveal your soul, not your cock. She said that she’d like to see me the next day if I stayed in Croatia. I don’t know if she was just trying to be nice but I reacted by refusing her kiss goodbye and just letting her walk out alone. I know, it was childish and I should never have acted that way. I just shrugged it off and said I was going to Slovenia.
Waking up on that couch in Slovenia, I immediately regretted leaving Zagreb. First of all, Ljubljana felt like a fucking creepy Christmas store; it wasn’t my cup of tea at all. Shit was overly polished, the people weren’t that great, and I was just too burnt out to do a fucking thing. When you wake up drunk in a strange place and are not too worried, you know you’re in a boring city. The booze and travel caught up with me. The thought process was that there must be something else out there. Surely, Slovenia would make me happier but that’s the problem. When there is always a next step it can start becoming problematic: there can always be something next.
For me, travel and love are inexplicably linked in their functionary qualities. They both involve opening up yourself to the amazing venerability that you’re not going to be in complete control of your destiny and that shit will eventually go tits up, but it is going to take you down a path you would have never expected. Travel and love also intersect in being amazing revealers not of your worth but of why you are the way you are. This can all be lost though. The problem is when there is always a next step then there is no time for reflection. When either love or a place starts losing its luster, just bouncing disrupts that entire process. Perhaps, things have been too accessible and it is starting to lose its impact. Always a new girl, always a new place just doesn’t seem to be work. Maybe it is time for a wee change.
Well, my hangover is starting to wear off. I am feeling kinda human again but also slightly afraid of how stalker-ish this all looks. Maybe a little. Maybe a lot. To paraphrase Pamuk, ‘you don’t need to be right, you just need the right imagination’. That’s fine. There can’t be a problem to write something. There can’t be a problem if it acts as a catalyst for change. Accept there doesn’t always need to be something new and to place a bit of emotion down on the table. I got a wee bit of Croatian money left over. Why would I visit Nepal? I might just nuzzle my way into someone’s heart or maybe just enjoy a late evening walk through Zagreb.