At the doorstep of an apartment in Kapetan Misina I am greeted with a small glass of red wine and a spoonful of sweet boiled wheat.
I’ve been invited to a friend’s slava – a traditional Serbian Orthodox celebration of saints. His family saint is St. Archangel Michael and the slava is known as Arandjelovdan.
In the wintertime there is a cluster of them, between the end of October and mid-January.
They are a good opportunity – or excuse – to bring together family and friends and overindulge in sweet, greasy and alcoholic delights of Serbian cuisine.
A few hours pass in mingling, drinking more wine or rakija, and eating.
Suddenly, they materialize, almost chimerically, that I think someone had rubbed a golden lamp, sending a gust of voodoo fairies onto the mellow, cozy apartment scene. I half-expect their cigarettes to double as magic wands, as they open with: “We are here for your very own wish-fulfillment!”
Five of them, young, tall, and would be beautiful if they hadn’t gone overboard with flamboyance.
Like a flock of exotic birds, their clashing ‘feathers’: bright dresses, scarves, shoes, handbags, jewellery, makeup, and attitude occupy the space. They stir the air, suddenly changing consistency, making it denser and somehow fussier, either from the intensity of their perfumes, or just the abrupt surplus of exhilaration.
They carry in some remnants of a previously shared joke, an overstated laughter that everyone else is too late to join in on.
Their slender fingers with long, impeccably manicured nails hold slim cigarettes to their pouty mouths, which swiftly brush against a few cheeks around the room. Their coiffed hairs whip behind them like veils, or are they just moving too fast against the relaxed vibe?
They bat their long curly eyelashes and animatedly flicker their eyebrows, unabashedly flirting with everyone, young and old. None of them eat a bite but throw back a dozen drinks and burn up a whole pack of cigarettes. They speak rapidly in a terse Belgrade slang while toasting to health, love and good times.
Every word and maneuver is infused with drama, like a previously rehearsed performance piece with just the right dose of satire.
And just as abruptly as they burst in, they re-mobilize and depart: a trail of one blazing red scarf retreats like a flicker of fire down a long corridor and out the door.
Their signature air also almost perceptibly ebbs, leaving us all behind, in a post-apocalyptic vacuum.
– ..did everyone just witness this? Did it really happen?
– They’re classic silicon troops, fun, but superficial.. Don’t pay them too much thought.