Apr 12
Yellow Sweater's picture

Spring Break: a Reflection on Vacations

God, it’s finally spring. I can feel my face burning as I read out on the patio this morning. I wish that spring meant something other than an unfounded, unsubstantiated brightness that threatens oblivion and a terrible headache. But drunken monotony is better when it’s sunlit. My thoughts move more freely under the blue sky. I don’t feel like my words have to reflect the view out my window. There's no window, only air, too much air to breathe. 

I’m barefoot, lying in my aunt and uncle's courtyard. I’m the only one on vacation, the only one for whom the city with its neat neighborhood blocks lined with cherry trees and people walking their well-bred dogs, is an escape. I’m the only one for whom the conventional American Dream is an escape.  

As is the tendency of someone on a self-contained vacation, I find myself reflecting on the objects around me that are attached to some faraway memory. My eyes land on the outdoor oven my uncle built last summer. It's modeled after the peka ovens we saw during our family vacation in Croatia. We came back from that trip with the knowledge of how they cooked meat in the homeland. We also learned how, on that idyllic little island in the Adriatic, our ancestors had fought a gorilla war against the Byzantines, and the Ottomans, and the Germans, and the Serbs, and the Communists. The locals asked us why, if our grandparents were Šoltan, we hadn't moved home? But the peka, the delicious roast beef were the only things we brought back with us to America. 

Unlike everything else in my aunt and uncle’s upper-middle-class Seattle craftsman, the peka oven has rough edges. It’s hand-built from unfinished bricks. In their tidy backyard, it’s a surreal reminder of a place where meat and identity were something to fight for, a place wavering between dream and memory.

* This piece is an excerpt from my journal