Daddy’s Boy
(an excerpt)

Translated from Croatian by Vladislav Beronja


I receive the news of my father’s grave illness with almost complete indifference. I’m finding it mildly annoying, like road construction, the death of an elderly neighbor, or the latest gossip that a dysfunctional couple in my circle of friends is having a baby after all. I notice an increasing gap, a yawning chasm between what I should be feeling and what I’m actually feeling. Or to be exact, not feeling. He called me just briefly; he doesn’t want to bother me too much.

I’m at work right now. I hang up.

An indifferent hotel lobby stretches out before me. It’s pleasantly air-conditioned. A starkly white pair of legs shifts into a crossed position. I close my eyes. I take in the pungent blend of floor cleaner and roasted meat.

The news of my father’s grave illness hits me for all the wrong reasons. I feel restless—an echo of my teenage self—like my plans for the weekend have just fallen through. My restlessness is followed by unease. I’m furious at my father’s potentially terminal illness.

I’ve made my life unusually simple because it used to be so complicated and chaotic—formerly burdened by the needs and problems of the people around me. And I’ve done everything to avoid doing the things I don’t want to do—with the exception of my job. I’m not bursting with potential, I’m not beaming with positive energy, and I reserve the right to find my current job unfulfilling. I don’t like telling myself lies.

My father’s illness is making me uneasy because I’ll have to talk to him, and that’s exactly what I don’t want to do. We tried a few times; we tried to spend time together and get to know each other better, and it didn’t work out. Then we each decided that it’s better to stick with our monthly chitchat about the weather and the fucked-up state of our country. Sometimes I grant him the conclusion that my current occupation, despite my credentials, is a clear sign that there is no hope for young people in Croatia. I work at the reception desk of an okay hotel because I have degrees in comparative literature and English. I studied those subjects since, as an overly pretentious gay boy, I had no other talents or interests. Eventually I realized that I would never get a job in the so-called cultural sector because it’s the only space where even the Left finds nepotism both agreeable and necessary. The lack of privilege has to be compensated for with exceptional talent, which I don’t possess. In any case, I like people more than I like concepts. My job is not demanding; often it’s boring, but it keeps my curiosity alive. I especially like working the evening shifts and figuring out who is sleeping with whom. At night, I get to read a lot. Secretly I write poetry. My slim opus is hidden in a black folder labeled Hotel Farewell. I don’t complain about my job. Very rarely do I complain about my life.

Still, ever since receiving the news about my father’s grave illness, I feel the need to wallow in self-pity.



We’re about to fuck shit up, I swear to fucking God. You know, you should enjoy life. You should be happy. Not give a shit, you know? That’s my philosophy. You should just screw around and stop giving a shit about anything else. That’s what I did. I can sit here and cry about all the things I could or couldn’t have done, what could’ve been, and all that crap. Do you understand? I can’t be like that. I couldn’t bring myself to give a shit. And what? What now? Even if I die, fuck it. My life wasn’t a complete waste. I have you. And when I see you, I know there’s at least one thing in my life I haven’t completely screwed up. That’s something I do know. I can see you turned out to be a good person, hard-working. Fuck it, our country’s the way it is, you do the job you do, but no job is perfect, for fuck’s sake. Jobs are always shit. But still, you earn some money and build a nice life for yourself. You don’t need to own fancy crap or whatever the hell people do. Just your own place. Now I’m kicking myself that we couldn’t buy you an apartment. That’s been put off for now. But screw it, that’s what life had in store for us, and there’s not a fucking thing we can do about it. That was our priority. To set you up with your own place. So we’d know that you’d always have somewhere to go. But fine, fuck it, you’ll get all my stuff when I die. And if I die, just sell it all and buy yourself something nice. Take out a loan, you understand? Are you listening to me? Are you okay? That’s the most important thing to me. To hear that you’re happy and everything’s going according to plan. I wish you would keep writing. You used to write so nicely. I don’t understand any of that crap, but it was nice. I think you should start writing again. Then you can sweep the streets for a living, but you’d have something that’s yours. It’s important to have something that’s yours because everything else turns to shit. Everything. Friends, countries, politicians, degrees… Everything turns to shit. Except that something that’s yours. Even marriages turn to shit and the children eventually leave. See, you left. It’s important to have something that’s just yours, something that’ll save you when everything turns to shit. I don’t know anything that’s just mine. I don’t. You’re no longer mine. You’re a grown man, for fuck’s sake. You’re smart, you graduated from college, got a master’s degree. I didn’t study. I didn’t feel like it. But I had a pretty good life, a nice life. I really did. Look, I don’t want to bother you. You’re busy. But for fuck’s sake, call me sometime. I won’t bother you. Really, there’s really no reason for me to call every day and ask if you ate your breakfast, took a shit, got laid. That’s none of my business now. You’re an adult, but c’mon, give me a call. Or come and visit so you can hang out with your old man. We can even go on a trip. I don’t know. See if they’ll let you off work. I’ll be home. And we can screw around. I have to go now. And, you know, keep in touch. You know. Once in a while. Okay, I love you. I love you a lot.

And he hangs up. The logorrhea is a recent development, after years of silence. This torrent of words, this fear of hearing my indifference. And I recognize that my silence is his own. Now the rush of words floods the phone call. He can hardly catch a breath.

He answers his own questions, as if dreading that pause where I jump in and ask: who is this? I can feel his fear.

My father doesn’t know anyone who is like me. I’m convinced that I’m the only gay person he’s ever met. Certainly the only one who is out. He doesn’t know anyone who is or used to be a writer. He knows a couple of English instructors because he took a few free courses at some point. He speaks three foreign languages. Slowly, but carefully. Stuttering along, but confident enough. My father, until I came along, had never met anyone who watched art house movies or attended gallery openings. He’d never been friends with a man who was a self-proclaimed feminist. He had no idea that there were boys who didn’t care about cars. My father doesn’t have any friends who are cynical, who roll their eyes and squeal like I did when I was a teenager. My father had never come across people who read books to shield themselves from the world. And he’d never been aware that boys could become such close friends with girls. He has never judged me for any of those things. That, like everything else in our relationship, I had to surmise on my own. My father was always at loss for words. My parents rarely talked to each other. My mom would usually speak to him through me.

Tell him we’re two strangers living under the same roof, she’d say, like she was in a telenovela. Then she’d burst into tears. Only later did I find out that tears should not smell like vodka.



I’m having a cup of coffee in an overpriced café downtown. The coffee is tiny, sour, and predictably tepid. The coffee is also fair trade, though I often wonder if I fully understand the meaning of that term. I started drinking more expensive coffee ever since I quit smoking two years ago. And because I think the barista is cute. I gave up my one vice, my one pleasure, so that I could watch, for a slightly higher price, a barista who is probably straight. I always run away before we have a chance to talk. Now I’m sipping my coffee and thinking about my father’s illness. I should call him and tell him that everything’s going to be alright. Nothing else. But I’m still postponing this tiny little lie, this empty consolation. There’s always been something keeping my father and me apart: my mother—her sadness and her loneliness. That much I resolved in therapy, the few sessions I attended. And even though I’d managed to separate myself from my mother, my father remained a few steps too far, as if made of feathers, sensitive, closed off, always on the edge of tears, a man made of ice and glass. My father and I have never gotten into a fight. He has never taught me how to shake off the excess drops after a good piss. I don’t know his mother’s maiden name. I don’t know what my grandparents were like. I never met his father. I don’t know how many women he has slept with. I don’t know if he loved any of them. Or if he even loved my mother—his wife. I know my parent’s marriage better than I know my father. He delegated all the parental responsibilities to my mom, and she delegated hers to me. We are two grown men who share the same DNA who have never had a chance to properly meet and who lived in fear of one another.

I don’t know my father’s phone number by heart. My memories of him seem distant, scattered. I desperately comb through them hoping to artificially produce a feeling of someone’s absence, an emotion that would compel me to dial his number. He was almost never around. And when he was, he’d stick around just long enough to satisfy the minimum requirements, the duration of a family meal, the length of a TV show before bedtime. He was there to create an uncomfortable silence when asked the question: you really have nothing to say? When I was a little kid, I thought that my father was hiding inside a white telephone, from which he’d warn me that mom was sensitive and that I should be nice to her. I didn’t know what he was talking about because she would tell me that I was the only person who understood her and that the only thing keeping her alive was my love for her. She’d tell me again and again that she was unhappy because of him. I couldn’t have known then that people can be unhappy for no reason at all. That’s something I would find out only a decade later. I was raised by a pair of terrified children.

My father has been reaching out to me more and more frequently in the last couple of years. With increasing regularity, a missed call would timidly appear in my notifications. At first, I pretended I hadn’t noticed, and then I chalked it up to his old age. Each missed call would leave me with a small pang of guilt. The same remorse I feel now because I can’t seem to call him and ask how he’s doing. I’m a bad son of a bad father.

A slender hand attached to a nicely sculpted arm takes my cup from the table, interrupting my stream of thought.

I’m flooded with loneliness.

The coffee’s on me, you say. You sit here folded up like an IKEA catalog.



My life is surprisingly lonely and strangely busy given my age. Most of my friends left Croatia. A fair amount of my gay friends started planning their exodus after the homophobic referendum against same-sex marriage. Now they’re dispersed across Europe’s financial centers of power; they make great money, own real estate, and go on sailing vacations. The hipsters, gay and straight alike, started to scatter at the tail end of the recession, gravitating mainly toward Berlin. I myself managed to make it in Berlin for all of six months. After half a year I realized that being poor and unhappy is the same no matter where you are. So, I decided to be those things in Zagreb, where my frustrations felt more at home—close to everything, with affordable rent, and in my mother tongue. I realized that becoming an adult is primarily a question of class. The only ones who grow up are those who have to. My friends are a bunch of mischievous girls and boys, in revolt, residing in Neverland with other lost children whose parents, despite initial objections, still pay their monthly rent. I stopped being resentful. My independence has its price and its compromises, but it’s mine. There is no family wealth to perpetuate, no inheritance I can be blackmailed with.

I live in a basement apartment in the city center. I hardly notice the dampness anymore. The rent is still below the market rate. My landlady is ancient. Mrs. Slavica is the grandmother of my friend Iris. A shrunken old lady in an old-fashioned hat knocks on my door at 10:30 a.m. She enters the room in a cloud of musk. Every time she smiles, her lipstick stains her teeth a little. I give English lessons to Mrs. Slavica whenever she comes to collect the rent. Together we write letters in English to her great-granddaughter. Mrs. Slavica enthusiastically repeats the words cat, cute, come, Copenhagen. Now she manages to compose the salutation herself: My dear little, and then she inserts some noun, usually an animal. Her granddaughter Iris is a modern European woman, Iris’s husband is German, and they live in Denmark. Accordingly, her child is continuously bombarded with four different languages: Croatian, English, German, and Danish. Each language is connected with a different person. In little Rain’s life, only three people have any clout: Mom, Dad, and the teacher. First Rain was confused, she had to respond to each person in a different tongue; then she became frustrated and stopped speaking altogether. The modern parents had to eliminate one language. They decided it would be Croatian since everyone speaks English anyway, everyone, that is, except the moneyed and seemingly non-perishable great-grandmother, Mrs. Slavica. After we finish writing the letter, we drink coffee and stare out the open window. It’s summer. The smell of urine—from cats and tourists—fills the air.

This is a bachelor pad. People fall in love here right away. I lived in this place for less than a year and managed to fall in love. As will you, mark my words. Ah, what I wouldn’t give to do it all over again as a fag. I’d never get married. I’d just jump from one romance to the next. Back in the day, you had to get married, no? You did it as soon as you fell in love, right there and then, so you wouldn’t get screwed. Well, so you could get screwed. Ah, if I had been a fag back then. And if the world had been like it is now. I’d never have gotten married. I’d have jumped from one romance to the next. But, what can you do? Now I’m making up for lost time.

Mrs. Slavica is a seductress at the retirement home. Nobody there fits her bill. But since she’s not getting any younger, she can’t really be too picky. She’d still like to have fun, by which she means—to fuck.

Slavica is already on her way out the door at 11:15. As a former teacher, her internal clock operates in 45-minute intervals. She’s not worried about the heat. Behind her lingers the scent of Chanel No. 5, seeping into the heavy old furniture: the armoires, the table, the door. Sometimes I have the feeling I’m living inside a tree.

“Every Time I’m Left Alone” starts playing on the radio. I pick up a slim volume of Auden’s love poems. I take a sip of cold coffee. And I start reciting the poems in front of the open window. An exercise against cynicism.



Silence. And the sound of slurping. His tumor is like a time bomb under the dining room table that everyone knows is about to go off. The genre is that of a thriller, although we’re all experiencing it as a horror film.

My defenses have broken down with the onslaught of guilt. I came to visit him. This is how my Saturdays—my only day off—will look from now on. I’ll take the train to watch my father deteriorate. I’ll convert guilt into shame because I’m not suffering as I should be. Regret that we didn’t have a different kind of relationship, one where he would be present and I’d strive for him to be even more so. On Saturdays, my paranoia that I’m becoming like him will be in full force. On Saturdays, I’ll wrestle with my guilt and ask myself how much of my life will I have to sacrifice to observe my father’s decline. On Saturdays, we’ll have a competition in assigning blame. On Saturdays, I’ll make a list of all the things my father has done for me, while we both disregard the fact that paternity is also a legal obligation.

My father is staring at his soup so he won’t have to look at me. The sound of slurping.

When I was little, our family meals would frequently end with Mom crying. She would then retreat to the other room. I’d often go after her, as if compelled by some unknown force—I was mad at my father.

Mommy. And then she would give me a hug. And occasionally she’d add, if I’d only divorced him. Or, he doesn’t understand me. I’d hug her back. Don’t cry, Mommy. Don’t cry. And now this hug, this consolation, stands between me and my father. I hold this against him. He could have chosen a different wife, but I couldn’t choose a different mother. And he didn’t mind that in the place of a grown man, supposedly accountable for his actions, stood a five-year-old boy used by his parents as emotional fodder. His sense of responsibility in my case apparently ended with ejaculation.

We can be silent together like this for hours. The sound of slurping. Our silence can be broken only by some tried and true topic, like rising fascism or the country’s corrupt political elites. But there hasn’t been a political scandal in months that could overcome the lack of intimacy between us. Or the sound of slurping. The spoon scraping the bottom of the plate—the soundtrack of despair.

Between us is an iceberg.

My attention moves along the socialist-era layout of the apartment. The walls are bare, without any paintings to signify status and good taste. We sit at the table in the corner of the kitchen. The curtain flutters in the draft. We both find it pleasant. The centerpiece of the living room is a television set, which is always on (currently broadcasting the face of a bloated politician). The television is surrounded by armchairs and sofas, offering more seats than there are people in the household. Around the television are framed photos, tiny exhibits of my childhood. One with Mom in front of the stroller. The stroller and her jacket match. In a frame that holds three photos, there is her, then nothing, then me. We are separated by a void. It’s hard to find a photograph of my father and me together in the same frame—posed or otherwise—as if we were never near each other long enough for it to be documented by a camera. My gaze pauses on a recent addition—a tiny emotional trap. A black-and-white photograph of my father holding me in his arms. I’m a baby. The picture was taken on the day my mother brought me home from the hospital. I’m familiar with that story, that anecdote. A professional photographer was waiting for us at the apartment. My father at the center, the same age as I am now. He’s holding the child in an unnatural way, like he’s trying to distance himself from it. His face is stretched into an unconvincing smile, impersonal and uncertain. The arms holding the child seem like they belong to a different person. The arms, the head, and the torso look like they’re not performing the same coordinated movement, the same physical task. Is this the only existing photo of me and my father? I’ve never seen it before. Not that I sought it out either. My father and I, at the very beginning—and now, most likely, at the very end—of our relationship. In the photograph, a father is sacrificing his son on the altar of his marriage, trading him for his own personal freedom, burdening him with the responsibility of a failed romantic partnership. I imagine the body of this young man recoiling as he takes the child into his arms, as if instinctively moving away from him. I see a man who is afraid of his own child, afraid that he’ll screw him up—perhaps in the same way that he himself had been screwed up—afraid of the responsibilities that come with fatherhood. But maybe I’m just projecting, reading into things. Maybe he was truly happy, convinced that he was turning over a new leaf. The war hadn’t started yet; the future seemed open; there was plenty of room for self-deception.

For the first time in my life, I see myself in my father. In his face, his smile, his fear, and his avoidance.



My regular but now already former fuck buddy is well into his fifties. We’d fuck only on rare occasions and without extravagant fireworks. But we always got the job done. For this reason, I can’t really say that I miss him. We’ve known each other for years—eight to be exact. And the whole time we’ve both been aware that love between us is impossible. Still, we made do with what was available—a phenomenal dinner followed by unexciting sex, more of a formal gesture than an expression of our passion for each other. Goran is a successful attorney, an art collector and a real estate mogul. Every year since I’ve known him, his body has gotten a little bit softer and a little bit rounder; more stray hairs appear on his shoulders. Every year, he surrenders a bit more to the onslaught of old age. Every year, Goran finds himself sinking further into a lukewarm nostalgia, regretting the life that he could have had, but didn’t. Maybe his life started off on the wrong foot from the very beginning. He was born into an upper-middle-class family, part of the provincial elite that is a trademark of Croatia’s capital city. He grew up in a family that offered only two career paths: law or medicine. If the child showed any creativity, he’d become a lawyer. But if he showed too much creativity, they’d scrap the career path and send him off into priesthood. Goran is perhaps an artist in hiding. The signs are there in the way he combines his tie, shirt, and socks into an outfit. He has made enormous sums of money. Like every decent attorney, he pursues his passions in his spare time. He has never separated himself from his parents; he has never cut the cord—the noose—and stated the obvious. The words queer, gay, homosexual have never crossed the threshold of the mansion in Tuškanac, Zagreb’s most affluent neighborhood. He didn’t have the courage to come out with the truth in a house that has kept its secrets so well under wraps: Nazis as well as some murdered Jews, a few suicides, a few wife-beaters, and a couple of pregnant maids. He has carried on the family curse—dodging the obvious truth. His nostalgia slowly seeps into the walls, the shoes, the underwear, the Egyptian cotton, and the photographs from various trips abroad. Goran could have afforded freedom, but he didn’t have the courage to follow through with it. Men who are that closeted truly have a limited choice of possible partners. He is left with relationships that—like illicit affairs—thrive in secret and in shame. Goran is an exceptional conversationalist, a lucid eccentric, and a brilliant chef. He is not a great lover. An ideal match for someone whose daddy issues spill over from a sexual into a class fetish. Goran is envious of my life, and he’d gladly give up all his real estate and his entire art collection just to be in my shoes for one weekend, one week. He would like to avoid having to travel to another city and pay for the feeling of freedom as part of a vacation package. He would like to go out on the town, dance at a trashy gay club, and take his boyfriend to an opera with his mom. Goran thinks that I’m too dry, too negative, too cynical and ungrateful. He is the only person who is allowed to read my poems. Usually, he comes back with extensive notes; he’s found a more suitable word, a better inversion, a stronger rhyme. He always finds a way to make the theme a little less obvious, to showcase the poet’s wit, to make the reader work for it. He doesn’t dole out any value judgments; he doesn’t mention the poem’s overall quality or say that the poem has taken him on a wild journey.

He’s opening a bottle of wine too refined for my palette. There is a ring at the front door.

I’d like to introduce you to my partner, says Goran, and opens the door. A radiant twink waltzes into the apartment. Antun, a twenty-one-year-old student of comparative literature and art history; although he’ll probably drop the art history major since it’s so old-fashioned and that’s not really his thing, he’s not really feeling it; but he’s almost done with the program, so he might as well finish it and do an M.A. in something else, probably film—experimental film. Men of Goran’s age, who find themselves in a midlife crisis, gay or straight, very often try to turn back the clock and find partners who symbolize a point in their life before they got stuck, before the demands of their domineering mothers, their class, and their family businesses took over their life. With Goran, this point in time must have been puberty. Antun doesn’t look a day over sixteen. He sits next to me, takes a sip of my wine, and grabs my hand. I start panicking that I’m being dragged into a threesome.

Goran gave me some of your poems to read. Actually, he didn’t give them to me, I found them and read them on my own. I couldn’t help myself. They’re just so beautiful. I’ve never read anything like it. And they really… I don’t know. I hate poetry, I don’t really get any of it. But your stuff… I don’t know. I think more people should see it. I don’t know.

My heart is pounding, mouth turned to cotton. Shame is coiling around me, choking me.

No, I’m serious. I think more people should read it.

I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. How did he find them? I gave them…

Stop whining! Goran rebukes me.

I have an internship at Fraktura Publishers… My job is to seek out new voices… The next generation and things like that. We recently put out a call for diverse voices. It’s very hip, very now, I mean, globally. We’re still trying to catch up here in Croatia. But you and I have to stay in touch. I think you should apply. Seriously. I’m sorry I read your stuff… But it’s just so beautiful. And as a gay person—

Shame—it tastes like stomach acid. Every family is invasive, even the chosen ones.

Fuck! I wasn’t at all prepared for this kind of threesome. They’re both screwing with my head and are about to blow their loads straight into my damaged ego.



I receive mail so rarely that when I lost the key to the mailbox, I didn’t bat an eye. My finger works just fine for pulling out the occasional piece of junk mail. But today there is a pretty envelope inside. I forcefully pull it out, with less creasing and damage than usual. A wedding invitation. I run my finger across the frilly type. Fuck! I can’t afford to attend a perfect gay wedding. I rush down to my souterrain apartment, a romanticized version of a basement. I pull out my cell phone. I’m calling Zoja, my best friend.

Zoja gave birth a few years ago. The child was brought into this world under familiar circumstances. The couple’s relationship was in crisis, and rather than breaking up and having to face loneliness and independence, they had a child instead. A little boy who now absorbs all the neuroses of this unstable pairing. Motherhood—as I predicted—doesn’t suit Zoja at all; it creates paranoia in her and a feeling of profound hopelessness. Pregnancy calmed her down for a moment, and then the anxiety came back in full force. A child is the feeling of eternity. I told her right away that this was all nonsense and that I no longer had the bandwidth to witness her unhappiness. This cooled down our friendship a little. Now we see each other only on occasion. The kid is cute, he’s taken a shine to me, but I feel awkward around him because I was such a passionate proponent of his abortion.

My friendship with Zoja is based on gossip, snide comments and tearing people down, cynical posturing, and making fun of people who used to be our friends. The words drip, inundate our conversation just so we won’t have to talk about—much less admit—anything involving our feelings. Our friendship is one giant exercise in avoidance, in beating around the bush. That’s why she broke down so easily when faced with one very simple truth. That’s why we no longer talk about ourselves. Always and only about other people.

Janko is our friend who now lives in London, who somehow became successful and even richer than before. Our friendship has been reduced to a relatively active group chat over Viber, where we occasionally send each other jokes, memes, and selfies. Janko, Zoja, and I used to be an inseparable trio, always at each other’s side. We spent the first two years at Zagreb University waiting for Janko to come out. During that time, he managed to lose his virginity to Zoja. When he came out, Zoja dubbed herself the Queen of the Fags. The two of them paid for my therapy after my mom’s accident. Their parents made up beds for me in their guest rooms when it became clear that I shouldn’t be alone. We were always a trio, at every party, every trip abroad, every exam period. Ecstasy, a gram of speed, and our secrets—we’d split everything in thirds. And this was the urban family we’d all been looking for. Zoja found brothers who weren’t sociopaths; Janko briefly freed himself from the expectations of his practically aristocratic parents; and I gained access to Zagreb, my new city.

Then one evening Janko was badly beaten up because he was seen kissing another boy on the street. The boy fled. They broke Janko’s nose, his front tooth, and two of his ribs. From then on there was unease between us. Our hipster haven had been violently invaded by reality. I never admitted how truly frightened I had become. Zoja never admitted the extent of her own fear. Every minority walks the streets aware of the possibility that they might be killed. Greater or lesser, depending on the time and place. Janko was recovering. But in the meantime, he had made a decision to leave Croatia. You can keep deluding yourselves. But there is nothing left here for me, for us. You too will wake up one day and realize that you’ve made too many concessions, settled for less. Less and less with each passing day. Yep. That’s how it’s going to be. Every day a little less hope and more of the same shit.

This was his frustration talking, but also his privilege. The fact was that he could afford to live in London and continue his studies there. Zoja and I didn’t have that option. And he couldn’t grasp that these weren’t compromises but the givens of life. And anyway, his parents were more comfortable with the thought of their gay son somewhere safely abroad, not to mention safely out of sight of the extended family. There was no doubt Janko would succeed, become a consultant or something similar with an English-language job title, find a gorgeous fiancé, another Croat fleeing barbarism, and tastefully set up his first real estate acquisition. Now, whenever he comes across some news item in the papers, he calls us in a tizzy and asks what is happening back home and when will we finally wake up and smell the coffee. He usually visits in the summer and then we have to listen to his rants about Croatia, as if Zoja and I are completely clueless about the corruption, the chauvinism, the hate, the lack of opportunities, the veneer of democracy, and the cultural decay, as if we haven’t been living it on a daily basis. In the very same breath, we’ll also hear about Croatia’s unmatched beauty and all the places he and his fiancé have dined.

Now Janko is getting married, domestically partnered. Zoja and I have been mentally preparing for Janko’s perfect gay wedding even before it became legally possible.

Zoja and I are not allowed to make too much fun of it. In her case, because she’s stuck with a kid. And in my case, because I’m so frightened by intimacy that a second date inevitably triggers a panic attack.

And we would so like to make fun. Instead, we ask each other whether we’ll have enough money for a present and, depending on his wishes, a bachelor party. Zoja is counting on all the honorariums that still haven’t been disbursed; I check my paltry savings. The child is screaming in the background.

This is not how I imagined adulthood, maturity.