Saturday, April 01, 2006
Somewhere in Sapna, off a dirt road near the Serb border, watching him buy gas that comes in a recycled sprite bottle. I look at him and I know.
I am falling for Kasmir. Even though he speaks not a word of English.
It is the careful way he opens the door for me. It is the willingness he has to wake at 6:00 AM to make me coffee before I go to work. It is the way he bucks Bosnian tradition by insisting upon washing all my dishes.
Last weekend, Kasmir drove five hours from a contract job he had in Sarajevo, just to touch my face, hold my hand, kiss me good night, turn around and drive back.
Kasmir sees me. He can't hear my fancy talk. My witty comebacks. My puns. I can't manipulate him with my words. He can't understand my complaints and mood swings. He just sees my actions.
And I see his.
I see the way he cares for his little brother. I see the way he respects the women in his house. I see the hard work and focus he brings to even the most minuscule of tasks. I realize how much more all his risks mean, considering where we are.
I saw his courage when he arrived in the all Serb City outside his village just to hear me lead an employment seminar.
He sat in the group as we went around introducing ourselves by name.
“My name is Milos, I’m 32 and I live here in Zvornik. I am here to try and learn how to get a job.”
“Thank you Milos. Thank you for coming.”
I saw him squirm as the circle closed in towards him. I didn’t understand. Sher told me later, "A name in Bosnia reveals your religion."
His eyes pleaded with me. But I didn’t know.
“I am Kasmir.”
That was all he could say. He hung his head. The circle moved on.
But now everyone knew he was a Muslim. A Muslim from the one Muslim village that broke the military line during the war. The Muslim village that the army couldn’t take. They held on. They fought back with rusty shotguns and pitchforks.
Kasmir was sixteen, too young too fight. But old enough to run food to the men on the front lines. Old enough to bury the dead. Old enough to recognize some of the faces in the group.
Sher translated the entire seminar. It was the first time he could understand my every word. Kasmir listened to my words flow out of Sher for five hours.
Now, I watch as he pays the man for the gas with a loaf of his mother’s bread, wrapped in a yellow paper napkin. The man places his left hand on Kasmir's shoulder. They exchange words and look back at me in the car. Then they shake hands and Kasmir heads back towards the car smiling.
He get’s in the car, turns to look at me and widens his already contagious grin.
"You!" He annouces to the roof of the car.
We look at each other and start laughing. He touches my hair. I start playing with the radio. Nothing but Bosnian folk music.
He takes my hand off the radio and turns off the music.
He turns his whole body to face me in the car and he takes my hands.
“Oh Lord. We are getting serious.”
He is giddy, he is happy. Like he wants to tell me something exciting, but he can't. He takes my hands in his. He looks down at them and rubs his thumbs over my fingers while he speaks.
“I must tell you… today… amazing… I hear you…” he pauses, “Volim Te.”
“Whoa cowboy. Did you just say that you love me?”
It’s barely audible through the thick accent, but he says it again. In English this time.
“I love you.”
“You barely know me.”
“I love you."
"Dear God. That's insane.”
“Jane. I love you.”
“I've known you for two months.”
He takes my hand and places it on his heart. I can feel how fast it is beating.
I just stare at him. I don’t know what to say. I know very little. I know that I am leaving this country in one month. I know that this would never work outside of this country. I know that once I am surrounded by people who speak my language I will be caught up in the sarcasm and wordplay and the games and I won't notice the little things anymore. I know that when my feet feel the ground of New York City I will not miss Cevapcici and Turkish coffee. I know that I will forget about Kasmir before the end of the year. I know I will date many more men in my lifetime. I know that none of them will ever try this hard, or be this happy to understand me. I know that none of them will wake up at 6:00 AM to make me coffee.