People Watching: Bars in Belgrade

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(Jazz Club Cekaonica, a photo by Huseyin Aysan)

Dear A., going to bars in Belgrade is like going on one of our assignments, back in the cinema school. Remember how we would go to a bar and watch people there? Afterwards we would write down all the interesting things that we’ve noticed about this and that character, and then come up with the stories around it or orchestrate those peculiar moments in the environment of our classroom. When I go to a bar in Belgrade, I go there not because of the cocktails, which are usually diluted with water; nor because of the music, which makes you bored after a couple of songs anyway. I go to a bar in Belgrade to observe the crowd. All the places of interest are usually packed here, even on Sundays, but no one pays any attention to music or drinks. People are here to see each other, talk and laugh. The lamp light falls on someone’s fuzzy hair and it glitters like a halo around richly painted lips. Someone casts a glance into someone’s low cut décolleté; someone leaves a smear of lipstick on someone’s shaven cheek, while the bass player strums his instrument. Over there, in the middle of the room, pressed between tables, backs and elbows, a bunch of teenage girls is discovering their sexuality: hugs, small jealousies, light kisses on the side of the lips, a bravado of smoking in public and lighting a cigarette with a flame set deliberately on high. There is a clink of wine glasses and beer bottles. The smoke squeezes tears out of your eyes. The heat flushes your cheeks, makes you sweaty. And as soon as the musicians put down their instruments, me, us, we rush out into the air, exhausted, drunk on sounds and smells of perfume and so many bodies, almost suffocated in a one-hundred person embrace.

From the city of Belgrade,

Your

O.

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