“That’s not normal,” Aiša said agitatedly, as her arms moved upwards only to return down and slap her legs. “Tell me, how can it be normal?” Her voice had elevated a pitch or two from the previous phrases. Emin agreed, nevertheless he wasn’t sure what exactly was abnormal about it. Maybe the norm, which had meticulously been reproduced under constant individual revision through years of bodily movements, was becoming displaced. Or, the norm she was referring to was one that all should abide by, but most didn’t seem to care for anymore. Then again, all could produce the norm, each time anew, thus coming closer to how normal could be rewritten as norm-all.
All these thoughts gyrated through his mind as she continued to express her disbelief by the state of everyday life in this transitory city. A city locked in a movement between past and future without actually coming close to a present. To be in the present would imply that she hoped for a better future, but all she did was yearn, painstakingly. Aiša lived in a punctuated time and space somewhere between here and there connected to a place called Sarajevo by a set of shifting trickster lifelines.
Her work, as a schoolteacher, was there only to “earn a living and survive;” her family resembled a Sisyphean rock that needed to be pushed up the hill as the day progressed only to roll back down by nightfall; her engagement with the oppositional political party was more a pragmatic exercise of building up a network of people because she didn’t “care about Politics.” At the end “when the masks fall, they’re all the same shit.” Viscerally Emin was inclined to agree, but he wasn’t sure what to make of that statement exactly. Surely, we are all political animals, as one Asian-rendered-European wrote once in a distant time and place not so far from their own locality. Thus, not caring about party Politics doesn’t stop it, or any other form of politics, from invading every molecule of our being. Probably, his own educational background in Western philosophy inhibited him from giving her words a proper place for themselves.
As the two workers entered the apartment on the ninth floor the conversation shifted direction to a more neutral topic, if there exists such a thing. Aiša started joking with them about the time she also ordered a new sofa and the workers forgot their screwdrivers. “Please don’t tell me you forgot your tools.” Emin was sitting on a chair, accompanying the table they had moved to the wall 30 minutes earlier to make room for the new sofa, feeling a bit awkward. He didn’t exactly know what to say to the guys so he stood up and proposed to make coffee. “What are you saying,” Aiša asked him with slight amazement. “Sit down, I’ll make the coffee.” Emin tried to refuse the implied gendered role division and said “who do you think makes the coffee here when you’re not around? You do know that I can make coffee and that I cook,” he said with a smile. “But, you don’t know how to make Bosnian coffee,” she responded to his smiling critique.
It mustn’t be normal for him to do any informal underappreciated work in front of these formal working men. Or, maybe Aiša just genuinely thought that Emin couldn’t prepare a proper local coffee. After all, he wasn’t raised there. And where he lived Senseo coffee machines were the primary providers of authentic coffee. So he sat back down feeling uncomfortable with this norm that clearly didn’t work well for all.
When Aiša opened the tap the noise ringing from the kitchen was similar to a car engine approaching from a distance. Sometimes it takes a second or two for the water to run out because it gets cut off on irregular moments, mostly at night. “Last night they closed the water,” Emin said, explaining the sound. “I know. For fuck sake, I don’t get why they have to close it with all the sources we have in Bosnia,” Aiša responded, lifting her voice above the running water. The hammer hits from the sofa-in-construction were also competing for Emin’s attention by now. Together they created a buzz that made it hard to distinguish which sound to favor.
Perhaps that’s what the norm is alike. A constant flow of sounds, most of it distracting, all roaring on a hierarchical continuum to grab our attention. And we, the individuals, attune to and disapprove of this cacophony continuously.