Karim became the name of sorrow

 

Its summer 1992, I remember, I am sitting on a sofa, in the apartment of Karim's grandmother, in his room and watching into the wall. Under high Austro-Hungarian ceiling, down to the floor, from the beginning of the wall up to the end, spreads a bookshelf. If I look really close, I will see that in the shelf there are eight or ten lines, full of books, mostly books of bigger format. In those lines there is comics albums on several European languages, published in the countries, which are from us, in this moment, in summer of 92, far, much far then they were ever. Each of these eight or ten lines is precised and systematized, on some very understandable way for me. I would need a years, maybe whole my life, for which we don't know how it will last, to fold up all my books, albums, encyclopedias on conceived way like that. Karim is standing near his shelf, like he is the curator in the museum of his life.

 

Ten minutes later, his grandmother is bringing me café and Lero syrup. He doesn’t drink anything. He's deaf on one ear, he always hears buzzing. It's a consequence of the service in Yugoslav People's Army. In some other country, he will get compensation, I am saying to him, but it's a summer of 92, and somewhere far from us, or probably too close, I can not push myself to find out, are falling grenades and anti-aircraft bullets. And in this world of comics, lined up in eight or ten lines, under high Austro-Hungarian ceilings, is so peaceful and quiet.

 

This wall nicely covered with picture books, is a picture of Karim's conscience. That is interior of its head and I am still starring in it. Besides, that wall is his homeland, for which he’s ready to fight until the end. Don't expect from that man to abandon his comics.

 

Even now, he is still standing near his big shelf, a little bit embarrassed, and his face pass into the smile of the boy, that I don't forget even after I will forget the color of his voice, and even after, much later, when Karim became name of the sorrow.

 

A little bit after, the same year, or it was maybe earlier, it's not important now; we are driving with elevator and watching the exhibition of Andrej's photographs. The elevator is slow if you don't watch anything and if you are just driving from the first floor up to the top and return, but it's so quick, quicker then the light that shine up those nice faces of yesterdays world, if you watch those photographs exposed on the mid-floors.

 

We are driving like that fifth or sixth times, and always we are missing the details. We see just contours, outlines and shapes, but nothing more. It makes us nervous, so we are laughing. Two young mans laughing together in the elevator. Such an image from Sarajevo under bombardment, and soon there will not be electricity anymore, without what the exhibition of Andrej will not be possible. Even that we don't know how much our life will last and what we will see more in our lives, we agree that we never saw crazier exhibition.

 

Its summer 1996, and Andrej is talking to me that some of those photographs are still on those mid-floors. I will not check, because I am not entering in this elevator alone. I am in that age that it is not polite to drive in the elevators in which you don't have anybody of yours. And there are no even new exhibitions.

 

I am saying to you, my friend, it is voluminous my loneliness in that elevator. It is so big that I will not drive with it. We are getting older, my dear, and you are somewhere up, forever young, as a comic hero, as Axle Moonshine from yours nicely lined-up shelf...

 

Miljenko Jergović, Zagreb, 2006