Time is a thief. It robs us clarity and the perspectives of history It lulls us to complacency with mundane assertions, then rushes away towards the end of the day, and of our lives. Time steals from us, and we are its very willing accomplices.
That was all too apparent as Shevko stepped from his little black sedan across from the hotel. We had both changed since the war, our lives carried upon their separate courses, but always bending back to this moment. I couldn’t contain a smile. A part of me felt like coming home. A part of me, the part always lost in the war, at last believed that something good had come from all that, besides Ana and I of course. Friendship, real honest friendship had outlasted and prevailed against 20 years of tumultuous history. Perhaps most of all, we had transcended a decade of animosities between religions, both of us wise and strong enough to parcel the foolishness and ignorance of the world to a proper place.
Shev had grown a thick but well-trimmed beard, obscuring that boyish grin I’d recalled from our first meeting. Despite a recent divorce, he seemed happy and settled, no doubt the consequence of two young sons that he loved deeply. The last I’d seen Shev was shortly after the war. He was still in Mostar, Bosnia. He seemed deeply hurt and unsettled then, which was absolutely a consequence of all he, his family and community had survived. Crossing Via Salvador Allende that evening in Montelupo I wasn’t embracing a long-lost acquaintance, but a brother.
He was a bit heavier now. Tuscan food and wine…and girls…had been generous to him. There were hints of gray at his temples. But for that he was the same. He held the same smirk, the same whimsy and devil-may-care attitude, the same swagger, and the same inability to keep from falling instantly in love with every beautiful woman who passed. It wasn’t as potent as when we were both younger, but the spirit was just as I recalled.
Ana joined us a moment later. She’d not seen him since the war when she arrived in the dead of night with her mother and baby brother, having escaped Sarajevo during a brief ceasefire in the summer of 1995. Detained at a Bosnian Army checkpoint on a desolate stretch of road skirting the frontline. With a Serbian last name (she was from a mixed marriage) things might have turned out tragically if not for Shevko. His name was enough for her to pass through the checkpoint.
They hugged warmly. The quality of a life is in the moments that come as rare and valuable as a jewel. This was certainly a moment I would put away and keep in a safe place, saving it for darker days for perspective. I was savoring the moment, holding fully to it, and cataloguing every detail. Time would not steal this moment from me this time. And though the moment past, swept among the torrents of time, this one I would never relinquish, now nor forever.