The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

Novi Sad, Part I

Most of the girls in town have long, straight-cut bangs that make a horizon over their eyebrows. Most of the girls hold cigarettes in their unsmiling mouths. They pout like advertisements have taught them. But this girl has wavy hair, and while she has mastered that same serious look, it is clear that she is more than the pose. She is lean and watchful, with eyes that notify you if you’re being seen. She blinks and you know it. She hangs out with a group of three boys, content to be a part of the team. And she clearly can’t wait to be friendly, but will stay patient until she becomes acquainted with me, with this visitor. As she gets ready for the evening, she gathers the gadgets to iron a pair of loose brown pants.

They chat in Serbian, the twenty-somethings that are my hosts. Yet, they try not leave me out. They make an effort to smile in my direction. They devise a plan to show off their town. When I blink back at the girl, she finally offers a relieved, stunning smile.

She discovers the iron won’t work. Two of her friends take it apart, then tinker with the inside and fix the screws tighter. She plugs it in and smoke puffs out. After a pause, nothing more happens, so the taller boy shakes the iron quickly and helps with the task by holding out the pant legs while she flattens them.

On the bus ride to our first outing, the watchful girl offers me a few translations. She sighs that people around us are only talking about money. Even those who had been on vacations–who had the good fortune to go abroad–are only talking about what was expensive or what was cheap. Not about the people they met or times they had.  She said it was okay that I didn’t understand. Instead, she and her friends dream about where they would go if they were to take a vacation. South East Asia, they mention, but there is a consensus on Hawaii. Their parents all wanted to go to Hawaii, and so do they. Hawaii. They gaze out the windows until our stop.

–Novi Sad, Serbia

3 comments on “Novi Sad, Part I

  1. chriszah
    July 16, 2012

    Reblogged this on Dark of the Matinee and commented:
    Μια και η ζέστη εδώ πάνω δεν παλεύεται, θα σας πάω μια βόλτα λίγο πιο πάνω, στο Novisad της Σερβίας, μια από τις πιο όμορφες πόλεις των Βαλκανίων. Α! και έχει μόνο 23 βαθμούς σήμερα 😉

  2. Nina
    August 12, 2014

    I hope you had a wonderful stay in Serbia….(I am Serbian 🙂 )

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      August 12, 2014

      Nina, I did love my time there. I met some very nice young people–as you can tell from the story–and they have remained a part of my life ever since.

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