When, in the evening hours, it grew less crowded and I at length managed to get into the bus, I was still deep in thought. Could it be that people could not distinguish between negligence, arrogance — or maybe self-will — and democracy? Was it really so easy, even tacitly, to slip them indiscipline, passing it off as political freedom, instead of taking sober thought — not for the driver, the bus, the temporary raise one might get (pointless at this rate of inflation) — but for the whole city and the entire state, for the place of power both here and in the world? It was thinking that did not call for much brain-racking or the special effort needed to see or invent something new, but simply listening and watching the one and the other and the rest of them, the people who dealt in politics, what they said, what they did. It was pure misery, having to smile from a bus that was not going to stop at unknown people, waiting anxiously at the stops, without being able to see who it was who had brought them and me into this situation. Or was it possible that I did not dare to declare my lack of confidence in the leading, driving forces of all social life, everyone knows in whom? Does that gentleman in the tie really crave the jackboot that will introduce order? Must it only be with that sort of politician that he can believe in order, perhaps of the kind which will put him, if not at the top, then next-to-top, at least better than his neighbour at table or at the counter windows of bureaucracy? There will always be someone worse off than oneself, and all this obediently — without question or discussion....

And then I heard a woman in front of me say: "Someone should tell that young man to give up his seat!"

I was standing facing her, a decent middle-aged lady, sitting with a wicker basket in her lap, covered, of course, with a white, impeccably clean napkin. Diagonally across from her, the said young man was sitting, deep in thought, beside the window. He could not have been less than thirty or so.

I smiled at the lady and said: "Maybe we should ask him if he's able to get up. Maybe he's ill or at least worried or depressed?"

The decent, well-mannered woman knew the order of things and kept quiet.

But an elderly man sitting with his back to her, half-turned to interfere. This one was not wearing a tie. "Fat lot he has to be worried about. Deprived, no doubt." He had, apparently, his own way of showing his concern for order.

"I don't know, I only said we should ask him. The young do what is expected of them. They graduate from schools or university even, then can't find a job, can't find housing, can't start a family. No wonder the students went on strike."

"Loafers, that's all they are," the man snapped, "sitting at their desks all day and carousing all night. Playing the fool while their parents work their hands to the bone and go without!"*

I opened my mouth to say that these days, we were all pretty much going without, but the man pointed his finger at me and roared:

"These types should be hanged!"

Just think, it was the first time I had laid eyes on him and his eyes were flashing hatred, true, deep, resentful. The woman with the child, the cause of all this, seemed no longer important. She had found a seat somewhere anyway and slipped away unnoticed. Someone had quietly and unobserved given her their seat. But the man was still sitting there, charged with strength and the desire to turn the world upside down if necessary. I was no longer of any importance. He looked around those present in order to single out someone to whom he could address the smile obviously trembling on his lips and strangely, he almost smiled at me. After all, it was I who had offered him the chance of showing his way of putting things in order. We looked at each other for another moment, and then he snapped again:

"They should be hanged!" and again that flash of hatred.


*       The wielders of power passed similar comment on the strike of June 1992. "The opinion of students and professors is not the slightest bit more important than the political opinion of any peasant who is meanwhile plugging and digging his field."

(Fragment, translated by Mary Popović)

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