A couple weeks ago, I introduced to you to the figure of Sasha, a kind of hero-in-his-own-mind small-time Balkan criminal. I mentioned I knew him through an Albanian tailor, named Bajram. There is little doubt in my mind that Bajram collaborated with Sasha on some of his deals, acting as a middleman for Sasha’s hot wares. At the same time, he took a rather dim view of Sasha as a Serb, and indulged in quite a bit of schadenfreude upon the latest news of Serbia’s humiliations in the world.
“The problem with you Serbs is that you are lazy,” Bajram says. “You have forgotten how to work. Now that justice has been done (Kosovo liberated), you are getting what you deserve. For years you lived off the Albanians and all the other nationalities, who did all the dirty work for you. You lived on the backs of the others. And now that Yugoslavia is history, you have no one to do your work for you, and you don’t know what to do, because you have forgotten how to work. You are a prime example. Lazy idle little schemer. You refuse to try and make an honest living.”
“One of these days I’m going to do something very desperate,” says Sasha.
“I can’t think of anything more desperate for you to do, except maybe to go to work,” Bajram answers. “And I know you are not going to do such a thing, no matter what happens. In fact, in all the years have known Serbs I never knew any Serb to get desperate enough to lift a finger.”
“I don’t want to work more than is absolutely necessary,” says Sasha. “I am overworked as it is, by living merely.” Sasha turns to me: “And you, where are you from, Amerikanac?”
“California,” I answer. “But I was born in Berlin.”
“California guy!” enthuses Sasha. “Pa! I have friends in Denver, Solt Lejk Siti and Vašington. Can you see me living in America? New York, say?”
“You can’t be unemployed in America, Serbian mangup,” jibes Bajram. “Everyone works in America. Isn’t that right, Robert?”
“Tell me about Los An-dju-les. The weather is nice?” asks Sasha. “All year round? Like Australia? I can drive around 365 days in my cabriolet?”
“Yeah,” I answer. “Just like the movies.”
“What do you think about my imidž?” says Sasha. “Do you think this long hair suits me? Do you think people in America would like me? Would I fit in America? Tell me the truth.”
“In Los Angeles you would fit in just fine,” I say.
“What about the movies? I want to get in the movies. Fuck it. Jebi ga. I want to learn English so I can go to Holivud! Can you teach me English?”
“Sure,” I say.
“Fajn, Let’s go for a walk,” says Sasha. “We’ll talk man to man. You can tell me the necessary English words. And I’ll tell you something about Belgrade. I’ll tell you all about the fightings and shootings there. Hajdemo. Goodbye zeman.”
“Prijatno,” says Bajram disinterestedly. “And don’t drink so much. It’ll ruin you.”
And so I went off with Sasha. And he would tell me great anecdotes about all Belgrade’s famous “asphalt hyenas”, the “dangerous boys” – Opasni Momci. Some of the stories were boring, some blood chilling and others rather amusing. Sometimes I would record our conversations. Other times I would scrawl notes in my notebook. We met in Yugo bars, flats of girlfriends (he had several at the same time) and inconspicuous bakeries. Sasha was convinced we could make a best seller, or at the very least, a Hollywood thriller out his action-packed life. I, too, felt that there was a book in Sasha. But it was not the kind of book he had in mind – a kind of shoot ‘em up penny dreadful, but something rather rich in irony, with tongue lodged firmly in cheek.
It’s been some years now since I have seen Sasha. Should he read what I am writing about him now, Sasha would almost certainly demand a monetary reimbursement. That or else he’d just try to kick my ass.