I am temporarily crushed by a common cold, a flu, or alike. There are tasks to be done, a pretty urgent tasks, about kilometer from here, in the suburb’s main street. But I am to weak to get out of bed.
As I lay idle in the darkness of the room, my mind is gradually filling up with the memories that, in normal circumstances, I have no time to recall.
It was back in my school days. I used to be sick, suffering from the same winter disease as now. Headache, muscle ache, fever, soar throat, running nose… the usual stuff. In an early morning, I would get out of bed, dress up, and go outside, exposing my fragile, fevered body to freezing subzero temperature, harsh Belgrade winds and a dreadfully exhausting walk.
Where did I go to?
To a place called “dom zdravlja”, or literally, “the home of health”.
Not that I expected to regain my health there though. I was savvy enough to know that the infection was viral and that nothing could be done but waiting that the body’s own immune system clears the virus off.
Why did I go to that “no health” place than? Why did I deprive myself from the much needed rest and the warmth of the heated room? Why did I concisely expose myself to risk that the flu progresses to sinusitis, otitis, pneumonia or, in the case of weak, undernourished body as was mine – even tuberculosis.
The reason was “opravdanje”. Justification. A piece of paper that I had to submit to the system – a school system, state system, totalitarian system, you-name-it system – in order to be granted something that was essential for my own physical survival – the right to rest when I am ill.
Despite bearing the reputation of a rebel, I don’t remember ever complaining about the procedure. Despite all the health risks, pain and discomfort, I was, each time I was sick, obediently fulfilling the task of obtaining “justification” to rest from "the home of health".
Why? Who for?
If that so called “education” was for my own benefit (“education” – what a nice name for useless rote learning) why did I have to justify my absence from school with medical report?
If the system cared about me and my well-being why did it deprive me from the warmth and rest at the time when I desperately needed both?
It was nothing but an obedience training. The system was teaching me from an early age that I must adhere to the rules even when they are clearly not for my benefit. Even when they cause me tremendous discomfort. Even when they worsen my health. And even then when they put me in a potentially life-threatening situation.
As horrible as that.
Back to the present.
Why do I have to go to the suburb's main street today or tomorrow? Why am I again in the situation that I have to deprive myself from warmth (not that I have much of that in this filthy apartment) and rest?
Oh well, just some banking, ATM, currency exchange stuff. I need to take my hard earned money out (there were the days this month when I worked from 4 am till midnight, does it sound hard enough?) and to deliver it to the parasites living in the big, fancy apartment next door. They are something that I suppose to call “my landlords”. In Serbian, it sounds even more sinister– they are my “gazde” (literally – my owners).
Obligation to pay for something as essential as the living space to those who have much more of such space than they need.
One more monstrously cruel situation that systems plants to you as normal.
By the way, just few hundred meters from this filthy studio that I am paying rent for, there is a comfortable 5-room apartment in which, ever since I was a child, I have legal right to reside.
Why don’t I?
… ne znam kako da ti reknem, a da ne prekršim one lekcije o držanju jezika za zubima, što su me ih naučili pre što su me pustili iz one zgrade sa rešetkama što je od milja zovem Gulašvic…