Its my third day in Zagreb. The jet lag is pulling on the skin under my eyes and the sense of uncertainty is in many ways pressing in from all sides. It’s been strange coming back, it was the same sense of vertigo I have when returning to any place that is all at once the same and yet different. I thought I would feel a sense of relief upon arriving—a lifting og the anxiety built up from waiting all summer—because is what I was waiting for would be here. Except that’s never the case, it takes time to get things rolling, to set up connections, get in a grove of production. I was never one to hit the ground running, I always dipped my toes in before jumping off the diving board.
The nicest part of returning to Zagreb is the familiarity—like finding a sweater I lost over a year ago, a warm and cozy sweater that I had just began to really love. Then came the hugs. Someone once told me you need at least ten hugs a day to survive. I’ve always been a hugger, I don’t even need a good reason to hug you, a goodbye or a hello are always good excuses though, and there have been many “hello-again” hugs. To show up half-way around the world and walk into a café and have someone say, “oh hi, Emily, how are you?” is astonishing, I thought those connections disappeared as space and time converged into an unimaginable distance.
I’m at Booksa by the way, If you read my blog last year or know anything about my time here before, you know I adore Booksa, it reminds me of how surrounding ourselves with things of importance to us can make one feel safe, or like we have found a place to belong. Even though none of my favorite baristas are here anymore there are familiar tunes playing—quietly edging a smile onto my anxious face, and books lining the walls, all with titles I can’t read, but with familiar authors. I walked in to Booksa, renewed my card, ordered some kava and turned around to face a gentlemen wearing glasses almost exactly like mine, “Hej Hej!” he said thrusting his hand into mine, I giggle because I thought I had already given myself away as American and he was just trying to be a jolly friend, when he said, “how are you?!” I KNOW YOU, I say back, my mind kind of warped by the weirdness of having “acquaintances” in far-away lands. I’m sorry I forgot your name, “Nikola” he said, He jokingly explained to the barista—“American.” Turning to me he says “I heard you were back in town!, what are you doing here?” “I got a grant” “I heard, a good deal.” I felt a surge of excitement that somehow everyone I had once known in Zagreb knew I was back in town, or even that my arrival demanded any sort of gossip. Maybe everything will be okay here, I'm not starting from scratch, there are places to have coffee and read, what more do i need?