Back in the Day

Posted on Saturday, August 27, 2011, under

Back in the day they built scores of Socio-Realistic, khaki-grey, blocks in Belgrade. One such, dubbed televizor, for its windows the shape of a TV screen, stood out as an aesthetic curio. The four-storey block our family lived in was of yellow-grey tint, flanked by trees and us kids playing footy in communal parks.
Back in the day people tended to keep their front door unlocked. A neighbour would knock and step in for chitchat, followed by Turkish coffee cup reading. If a doorbell buzzed, it was either a/ a postman b/ a Gypsy asking for alms or c/ a neighbour returning a hairdryer. Crime was as rare as quail eggs. Instead there were graffiti upon the walls normally in black or creamy white, commemorating love or spite: M. LOVES H.; M. IS MORON.

In padlocked cellars we kept fishing rods, sledges, muckboots, sauerkraut barrels — why padlocked was anyone’s guess. All slept behind wooden bars, like captives forgotten most of the year.
In our block’s cellar this green powdery stuff sat in one corner, a note above it read: ‘Rat Poison, Keep Away’. Tanya once told me she’d seen the little beasts. But I think she made it up just to keep the conversation alive. We would sometimes sit and chat, Tanya and me, at the building entry on the chilly flight of stairs. Our bums were constantly cold. The hall lights would switch off automatically: once they did, we’d switch to a whisper, hoping the light wouldn’t come back on to break our tall enamoured shadows. After Tanya and I bade goodnight I’d leap three steps at a time in pitch dark up to the second floor, knock excitedly. Mum would squint as I stepped into the light.

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