TE21 Serbian Moments

Kristina Dimitrova

The Smile

the door. He knew it was me, I had warned him which flight I was arriving on, and he was still taking his time in there. I knew that door very well - unpretentious old wood, scratched at the bottom since the time we had a dog. Only a new lock has been added. Of course, I have no key. My brother opened the door in a ragged jumper, tracksuit bottoms and slippers. He had put on weight and maybe that’s why he didn’t have wrinkles but his hair hung grizzled and thinning. His appearance didn’t surprise me, we regularly saw each other on Skype. And yet, the screen is not like seeing someone in person. You spend just a few minutes in front of the screen and even if you aren’t all dressed up and neat for the occasion, the contact itself brings you to life - it’s shortened, condensed, remote. You don’t get stuck in awkward silences because then you would just end the connection. My brother and I would exchange a fewwords and then he’d call mymother over. And here something strange would happen - we talked and talked for so long, like we never used to talk at home. The truth is that we didn’t have much to say to each other - as the years passed, there were fewer and fewer common topics - but somehow that didn’t get in the way. She insisted on asking questions, ready to hear the same story three times. Since I had ended up at an enormous distance from her, she missed me. “Howareyou? AreyouOK?” sheasksme. The screen broadcasts her movements in fits and starts. “I have a new boyfriend.” “How lovely! And what happened with the previous one?” “We

My brother was shocked by the divorce and started taking extra care of my mother. He made her lemonade in the heat, bought theatre tickets pretending that itwas tomake hergoout with friends, but if there weren’t any culture-starved friends around, he went with her himself. He bought her chocolates for no reason. He helped her dye her hair. He was in his second year of a History degree and received a scholarship, which gave him the opportunity to shine in front of my mother with small gestures. The result was that she got used to his attention and became addicted to it. After I finished secondary school, I wanted to become a doctor but no one at home thought I could. The worst thing is that I believed them. In theend I becameanurse. At homemoneywas always short, and while my mother and my brotherwere happy to clench their teeth in the face of fate, I didn’t feel I was on the same wavelength. Then a friend called me from Manchester and said she had room in her rented flat for one more person. I dumped everything and packed my bag. My brother warned me that I had always been frivolous and superficial. Precisely, superficial. Maybe this was the insult with a capital “I” in our family. That I was leaving my mother at a difficult time. That I couldn’t be counted on for anything and in that respect, in the future, miracles were not to be expected. I told him to come with me. Around that point our last serious conversation ended.

When ten years later I rang the doorbell, he didn’t rush to open



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