The sun was beating down like Muhammad Ali in those two rounds against Liston, so the streets of Čačak were empty save for a lone lunatic who had thought that the thirteen years she’d spent inhabiting a desert granted her heat stroke immunity. And the grace to parry heliacal jabs, I guess.
Needless to say, I was mistaken.
My dress was clinging to me in all the wrong places and my hair was evolving into its less cooperative alter-ego, so my disposition fell somewhere between uncomfortably sweaty and murderously unstable. Maybe more towards the latter.
I trudged angrily through the farmer’s market in an attempt to shortcut this pilgrimage, gaining a few raised eyebrows at my odd powerwalk from the old folk trying to sell their produce. I should have heeded Nana’s advice to call a cab, but I hadn’t left the house in two days and I figured I needed to thwart the expansionary effect of my daily Kajmak* intake with some kind of physical activity. Be that as it may, twenty minutes into being seared like a quality Zlatiborac swine steak, I pledged that nothing – not even the promise of a Kendall Jenner physique – would beguile me into crusading through the oppressive heat of Beezlebub’s armpit ever again.
It felt like years, but eventually I made it to my destination: a little riverside cafe where I would often engage in a public demonstration of my grandma-ness, armed with a Schweppes Bitter Lemon. I took the liberty of seating myself at a table for four in the shady solace of an umbrella, practically oozing record levels of badassery because I intended to occupy the whole thing myself. I ordered my drink and settled into the book that I had carried all the way there like the seasoned scholar I was trying way too hard to be. I read the same sentence over around nine times before I decided to put the book down to instead brood dramatically as I stared out onto the river – the name of which I was entirely unaware. I had been doing a lot of this in the last three weeks. The philosophizing, not the personification of geographical ignorance. I don’t know if it was because the sole English book collection in the whole town consisted of, like, a single shelf of Dante and Nietzsche classics or because I had spent way too much time hanging out by myself. Regardless, the stars were aligned for me to muse over the last three weeks of my life without interruption.
I had made well on my promise in Mičo’s time machine; I was finally refuelled on all of the creative energy I had lost over the last two years. I took a course in Italian, read for fun for the first time in a long time, got slightly intoxicated off of turpentine and oil paint but produced a Monet-worthy likeness of my grandma’s backyard, learned how to be an ace gardener, heard the most incredible family stories, and spent many moments like this one, alone with my inconceivable depth. It had been a wild almost-month for Grandma Jude. But in all seriousness, I didn’t really feel like I was waiting for something to happen to me anymore; I just did everything I felt like doing.
I sipped at my Bitter Lemon cosmically, as philosophers do, only to be caught in an aggressive turf war over the Schweppes can with a bee. I considered myself a pacifist so I yielded and slid the drink over to the other side of the table for the bug to enjoy at its leisure. At that point doing “what I felt like doing” was not worth getting stung over, no thanks.
I figured that the bee’s arrival was my cue to leave, so I paid for the offending beverage, plugged my earphones in, and started towards the other side of the river. I took the long way around and, for a while, was lost in an Andrea Boccelli induced trance. By the time I was done basking in the audio presence of my favourite musical mastermind, I was already nearing the bridge to the other side of the river. In the distance, I could see a figure staring apprehensively at the steep steps that lead down to the bridge stairs. As I neared the steps myself, I saw that it was an old lady, worried that the lack of railing would cause her to lose balance and fall to her doom. I couldn’t blame her; I’d suffered that exact fate the last time I was there. Although, that might have been from texting and walking. But I digress.
She asked me if I would help her down, so I offered her an arm and eventually we made it to safety. As we climbed up the next set of stairs to the bridge, she proceeded to raconte her life story unto me, and I couldn’t help but marvel at her unadulterated chatter. She was fantastic; she told me stories about everyone in her life from her daughter in Germany to her family doctor who moved to Canada. This lasted all the way across the long bridge and for another 20 minutes after we reached the other side. It was probably the first time I had a genuine conversation with a stranger in my entire life, and that’s saying something because my small talk skills aren’t exactly Rotman refined. I figured that made this exchange worthy of being added to my mental summer accomplishment list.
As we said our goodbyes, she laughed when I asked her if she would be okay getting home.
“Make sure you don’t get lost,” she smiled as she walked away.
But she had nothing to worry about, because I knew exactly where I was going.
I had meant for that final sentence to insinuate that I had at last found my proverbial life path, but the literal path I took led me straight to the fridge back at home. I don’t know what that says about my future, but I won’t fight it. To be fair though, all the encephalonian exercise that day had proven to be too exhausting to handle on an empty stomach and even Socrates had to eat before he pursued unsolicited debates with innocent bystanders, so I’m pretty sure it’s a mandatory thing when you’re chasing amateur metaphysical revelation. And that was justification enough for me.
So, dearest reader, here we are. The culmination of my sub-summer saga. Together we have traversed the laborious turns of the unrelieved soap opera that is my life, somehow acquiring a few lessons along the way. Kind of. Okay, so it was more sarcastic than enlightening. But I can leave you with this: I am by no means qualified to dispense any advice whatsoever, but if I had to – and I do have to because this series title implies that there is something to learn and I don’t have what Socrates would call a contumacious enough temperament to commit a literary crime – I would say that it is always worth it to take the time to do things you have always wanted to do, no matter how weird, no matter how much you try to convince yourself you’re too busy, and no matter how much you think people will judge you for it.
Ergo, on my last day in a sleepy Serbian mountain town, I woke up early to an epiphany about my next project for the list.
And, just like that, Jude Rants was born.
*If cheese and butter pursued a domestic life together and procreated, the product of their love and partnership would be Kajmak: the ambrosia of the dairy realm.