Every morning at around 6 o’clock I sit on a balcony overlooking the Old Harbour of Dubrovnik. It is full of small boats, and a couple of larger ferry boats that ply back and forth to a nearby island that people use as a resort, but at this time of the morning it is almost deserted. The boats are sitting idly waiting for their day to begin. Only the odd person who has been unable to sleep, or a handful of workers concerned with getting the boats ready, or the occasional person going out to catch some fish before starting their daily work is out there when the sun comes up.
Suddenly a man points a small motor boat out towards the gap between the breakwater and the massive Fort Ivan that anchors the Old Harbour, over on our right, where the sun will come up in an hour or so. To me, irrevocably, it appears that the sun is rising in the West, and sets in the evening in the East, a problem of my perception, which seems to have been turned around. Who is this boatman going out to sea, I ask?
That’s Goran, I’m told. He used to live down the street from here with his mother and sister. He is well over six feet, wears a pony-tail, and always wears either white or red clothes, including his footwear. He is a handsome man. His mother remarried, and moved away. Goran married a girl from Slovenia, and they had a son. She went back to Slovenia, and took her baby. Goran went after her, kidnapped the baby, and brought him back here to Dubrovnik. Her two brothers came to rescue the baby. This was 30 years ago. They took the baby back. I don’t know what’s happened to that baby since.
Then Goran married Marie, who opened her flower shop. They had a son. Now Goran is with Victoria’s sister, who had been married to a Muslim from Kotor, with whom she had a son. It’s well-known that Victoria’s sister’s Muslim husband’s mother had tried to persuade her to wear those baggy Muslim-type trousers. They divorced.
Then Victoria’s sister fell in love with a guy who worked in the summer on the ferry boat going over to the island and in the winter was a fisherman. She married him. This was before the war. They had two children, a boy and a girl. They were living with his mother, but Victoria’s sister moved back with her mother, with her three children. Those children are all grown up, and have dispersed, and now she is with Goran, whom she met when they were teenagers at school. Goran is one of those men who sits on the seats just inside the wall, whom we pass whenever we are going towards the hole in the wall that gives on to the harbour. (NOTE: The city wall runs about 30 feet above the ground just below our balcony, and thousands of tourists parade past every day on their one-hour trek around the city walls. Fortunately we are above them, and they can’t see us unless we stand up and lean over the balcony.)
Victoria’s sister went swimming at Porporella yesterday morning. (Porporella is what they call a beach here, an assembly of rocks around the other side of Fort Ivan, from which swimmers dive into deep water. When a strong wind is blowing, the swell is too much, the water driven in from the ocean is too cold, and no one goes swimming in those circumstances.)
Virginia was married to that grey-haired guy we see from time to time who walks along the wharf looking at the boats. She works in a bank, and he is a seaman on a chemical tanker. They are divorced now. They had two sons, and she has a third son she had with the English ambassador. Victoria’s mother did not know who her father was, because her mother (that is, Victoria’s grandmother) was a hotel receptionist in Novi Sad in northern Yugoslavia, who had an affair, but who gave her baby (that is, Victoria’s mother) away, and she was adopted into and brought up by a rich family in Dubrovnik. Victoria’s grandmother ended up running a restaurant in Vienna.
This is the story of Goran, who went out fishing this morning, as told to me by a good authority.