Soldiering On

When I realized I couldn’t afford to visit Portugal in May as originally intended, I looked online for information about places in Eastern Europe (since I was in Croatia), that would be havens of natural beauty without the blighted accompaniment of heavy tourism to drive prices up and quality of life down. This search led me first to the small and ancient city of Ohrid on the lake of the same name in Macedonia, then to Kotor Montenegro. While Ohrid lived up to my expectations, Kotor didn’t.

I ended up staying in Kotor for ten days, longer than any place so far this time in Europe. I had hopes of using this small town in this small country as a base for day trips to the beautiful national parks scattered across the land, but in the end it felt like too much work to find and organize the bus trips in either direction. Once it became clear I wasn’t going there on the back of a motorcycle I thought I’d find the motivation to make other arrangements, but in the end it was just the opposite.

Since coming to Europe in April I’ve been waiting to feel a sense of relief. With the sentencing hearing behind me, I thought I’d begin to look forward, that my steps would be lighter now that’s no longer hanging over me. But this hasn’t proven to be the case. I’ve cried more readily and more often in the three months since the hearing than I did in the nine months prior to it. I’ve felt more hopeless, more desperate, and less resilient. The man who killed my child has gone off to prison for three years; meanwhile, my child is still dead, and it would appear he’s going to stay that way. I can find no comfort in this pathetic construct we call justice, and why I thought it would feel any less like hell in receding than it did in anticipation I’m not sure. It was meant to be an ending I guess, but the only thing that has ended is the waiting.

I feel weaker too since the hearing, perhaps to do with the fact that I had a travel companion before – something I wasn’t looking for and didn’t think I wanted but came to appreciate and enjoy – and this time I’m alone. Alone now feels different, it feels less like a choice and more like punishment than it felt before he came along, and the contrast between the two is sharp and bitter. I miss him, and I miss the buffer that he was for me, the way his company and presence softened and eased my interactions with the rest of the world. I felt protected in his care, though I know that was an illusion; I felt like I was under an umbrella of time and love that would see me healed if I were patient enough to let it. Now I feel like healing is way too much to hope for, and I can accept that, but I’d like to think there’s a place between broken and fixed, between half and whole or new and used that’s tolerable if not necessarily comfortable. I like to think I might get there, though I have no real reason to believe I will.

I did little in Kotor in the way of exploration, but these are my impressions of the town based on walking in and around it:
-The lake itself is lovely, though the shore close to the town is littered with detritus. Plastic bottles, wrappers, food, aluminum cans float among light green slimy strands of algae.
-Huge white monstrosities, longer than the town itself and thus taking its place in the view from across the lake, arrive in the bay every morning about 10:00 and discharge thousands of people at once into the old town to take pictures (mostly of themselves), eat at the restaurants, and buy souvenirs.
-There is a stone trail, hundreds of years old, that begins on the edge of the walled city and climbs up the mountain behind it to the remains of an old fortress and churches. It takes about an hour to get to the top. Between 8am and 8 pm there is a charge of 3 euros to walk it. I went up at 7:30 am so paid nothing, and was rewarded with a spectacular (monstrosity-free) view of the lake. At night the fortress is lit up, and the sight is rather enchanting.
-Many men carry purses, almost universally alike (brown or black, slung across one shoulder).
-There are lots of scooters, but only a few motorcycles.
-Some of the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten are to be had at the fresh produce market outside the old town walls, third stall from the end closest to the town entrance.

I flew up to England on Saturday. It’s windy here, rainy off and on, and much cooler than where I’ve just come from, and it feels good. I’m spending a few days with a friend and her family before going to the Horizons Unlimited meeting next weekend. She has two teenage boys and a dog, the sight and sound of whom remind me of my own and thus fill me with a delicate mixture of tenderness and remorse, and a husband of twenty years who reminds me of nobody and whose presence instills me with awe and wonder and envy at his devotion to his wife and children. The government here is in disarray, after an ambiguous election, much like my own country’s, and we talk about how fed up the people are getting with the status quo, the promises broken, the old pretending to be new, and the old guard soldiering on in the face of change they refuse to acknowledge though it will not be denied. We go for long walks in the fields no matter the weather. She makes gourmet vegetarian meals, I help where she lets me, we drink wine, we talk, I cry, she puts her arms around me, we laugh. I am glad to be here.

Interesting fact: last year worldwide more people were killed taking selfies than by sharks. Why does this not surprise me?

Culinary tip: to quickly and easily remove the skin of the garlic, lay the clove on its side and place the flat side of a butter knife on top. Press down hard until you hear and feel the sound of the clove splitting open, then remove the ‘meat’ of the garlic without effort or mess.


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