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He himself was uncertain about whether he was actually a tourist or not, and perhaps his own uncertainty was the imperfection. He did not feel Bosnian, whatever that meant. Did not feel American either. Somewhere in time he had simply ceased being Bosnian without becoming anything else. And why should he not be considered a tourist? Mostar was not really his home, only the place where his father had died.
The rain had been short and light, but had left its mark — the cobblestones gleamed like coins in the beggar’s hat. The slightly dilapidated building in which Jelena lived was much smaller than Daniel remembered — everything was — and it didn’t have balconies though he distinctly recalled Jelena, afraid of heights and extremely pretty when afraid, clutching the railing as he tried to pry her fingers open. He sat down on a wooden bench, from where he had a view of the building’s entrance, not really wanting to see Jelena anymore, whom he had last seen through a train window, waving and seeming both bored and devastated by his departure. He didn’t tell anybody he was coming here and so wasn’t expected. He got the address from his mother, who had long ago lost touch with Jelena’s own. He hoped that maybe they had moved, though he knew that nobody left their home in a country like this unless they were forced to.
The bright sun, flanked by orange-blue clouds, was setting, and Daniel decided to leave, come back here later, at night, if at all. He would go see the Old Bridge now, which he thought to be somewhere near. As he got up, the door of the building opened, two wheels peeking out, then the entire carriage with a baby inside, then a woman, pretty and tall. It was not Jelena. Daniel wondered what if it had been her, Jelena, pushing a carriage and coming his way. What would he have done? What would he have said? What if she saw him and couldn’t recognize him? What if she looked into his eyes and passed without saying a word? And what if it didn’t matter, because it didn’t. He wouldn’t have looked back.
Daniel checked his father’s watch, now on his wrist, and set out toward the Old Bridge.
The street became narrower and narrower. It was full of people, their faces sinister and mask-like, until they smiled. Small shops, selling worthless knick-knacks, stood on either side. Candles blazed in archaic lanterns. Brassy music played out of cafés, laughter and the tinkle of glasses on the terraces. Further along, more laughter, the robust, Slavic-toned laughter, and more music, songs that reminded Daniel of nothing, though he felt they should. Then, the Old Bridge, its white stone as bright as the emerald of the mountain in the background, the amber streaks of the sky above.
As he looked at the bridge, arched over a green river whose name he could not recall, Daniel felt what he felt when he looked upon anything here — a radiant pleasure with a dark tint of pain. The actual Old Bridge, Ottoman built and standing unharmed for three centuries, had been destroyed during the war. This was a reproduction, an exact duplicate, mostly built from the old stones, now literally as well as symbolically bridging the two sides of the conflict. Despite the recent reconstruction it was still called the Old Bridge, and, perhaps, for all intents and purposes, this really was the Old Bridge. But Daniel knew it was not the Old Bridge. It was not nor would it ever be the bridge over which his father had walked.