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En Español: Budva, City of Cats

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Illustration by Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

Situada en el mar Adriático, la rivera de Montenegro es una de esos lugares que debido al prestigio de otras costas europeas, todavía es un lugar inexistente para muchos viajeros. Tan grande como Connecticut, Montenegro tiene el cañón del rio Tara, el más largo de Europa, una costa en el Adriático de trecientos kilómetros, y más de cuarenta lagos y parques naturales…La rivera de Montenegro tiene una gran cantidad de gatos también.

Los gatos se paseaban por el estacionamiento del conjunto residencial en donde nos vinimos a quedar. Algunos dormían a la sombra de los arboles. Otros husmeaban entre los contenedores de basura. Eran de diferentes colores, unos pardos, otros completamente negros, otros con manchas en el pelaje y otros del color del aserrín. Por la noche escuchábamos sus maullidos como si llegaran con el sonido del mar.
El apartamento tenía una habitación, un baño y una cocineta, un sofá y un balcón. Olía a humedad, y una grieta se desplegaba por las paredes de la habitación.

Aquella tarde el sol cada vez mas cerca del mar brillaba en el agua. Un crucero navegaba lento a varios kilómetros de la Riviera como alejándose de la noche y acercando se al nuevo día. Al oriente las montanas detrás de edificios desgastados por la violencia del tiempo y de la historia política de los Balcanes se erguían fuertes e imponentes.

-Deja de mirar esos gatos -dijo ella.

-Por qué hay tantos -dije desde el balcón.

-No sé.

-Lo mismo fue en Croacia -dije.

-Ni siquiera me había dado cuenta.

-Tengo hambre -dije.

-Llevo esperándote una hora.

-Recuerdas la taberna que vimos esta mañana.

-La de los pensionados.

-Esa.

Komovi, así se llamaba la taberna. La habíamos visto por la mañana cuando llegamos del aeropuerto. Tres hombres del vecindario, viejos con una mínima pensión observaban un partido futbol entre la selección de Rusia y Arabia Saudita. Tenían una cerveza Nikšićko sobre la mesa cerca de su mano. El cenicero con cecina en el centro, un cigarrillo encendido. Nos sentamos cerca del televisor.

Habíamos viajado desde el norte de Europa via Belgrado sin planes, ni expectativas. Así lo habíamos decidido la noche anterior cuando después de encontrar en internet un vuelo por Serbian Airlines a mitad de precio a Montenegro, decidimos comprarlo y arrendar un apartamento en la Riviera para el resto del verano.

-No me gusta que fumen -me dijo ella al oído.

-Vamos a comer a la ciudad antigua -dije.

-Es más caro -dijo.

-Es el primer día podemos darnos un lujo -dije.

-Voy al baño.

La brisa del Adriático entraba por las ventanas de la taberna, traía un olor a sal marina y por la via principal subían cansados de la playa turistas ucranianos. Llevaban todo el peso sol y del mar en su cuerpo.

Otro pensionado entró al recinto. Sigiloso detrás de él, venía un gato blanco, de ojos grises y una mancha negra en su pelaje alrededor de su ojo. Caminaba tímido con la cola para arriba, se metió debajo de una mesa como si se escondiera de la raza humana. Otro felino de color mermelada con la cola para abajo lo esperaba indeciso en la puerta de la taberna.

-No empieces otra vez -me dijo ella cuando regresó del baño y me encontró mirando a los gatos.

-Pobres -dije.

-¿Te das cuenta? -dijo.

-Es increíble cuantos gatos en estos países… -dije.

-Necesito caminar…sola -me dijo.

Intenté tomarle la mano, pero ella la quitó y salió de la taberna. Los tres pensionados me miraron. Hicieron un gesto como si ya hubieran vivido esto mucho tiempo atrás. En la puerta llamé su nombre pero ella ya iba calle abajo. Dirigí mi atención al gato indeciso de color mermelada parado al lado de la puerta. El felino tenia la mirada clavada en el interior, en el cocinero que venía con una vasija llena de sobrados de comida en sus manos.

Empecé a caminar en dirección a ella que cada vez avanzaba más lento hasta que la alcancé. Tu y tus gatos, me dijo y me agarró de la mano.

De regresó a Estocolmo ella lucía un vestido de verano que había comprado en Kotor, yo llevaba mi camiseta con el estampado que todavía dice “Budva, City of Cats, Summer 2018.”

Budva, City of Cats

Translated by Allana C. Noyes

Located on the Adriatic Sea, the Montenegro Riviera is one of those places that, due to the prestige of other major European cities, is not yet a destination for many travelers. Montenegro is as large as the state of Connecticut and home to the Tara River Canyon, which is the longest canyon in Europe, as well as 300 kilometers of coastline and more than 40 lakes and parks. It also has a lot of cats.

They stalk around the parking lot of the apartment complex where we’ve come to stay. A few doze under the shade of trees. Others scrounge through the trash cans. Their fur comes in all different colors, some a tawny grey, others completely black, others with spots, some the color of sawdust. At night we listened to their meowing roll in as if carried by the sound of the ocean.

The apartment had one room, a bathroom, a kitchenette, a couch and a balcony. It smelled of humidity, and the walls were peeling away in the bedroom.

That evening, the sun sparkled in the water as it descended closer to the horizon. A cruise liner slowly drifted several kilometers from the Riviera as if departing from the night, drawing closer to a new day. To the west, mountains stood imposing and strong behind the row of crumbling buildings, weathered by the Balkan’s long and violent political history.

“Quit looking at those cats,” she said.

“Why are there so many?” I asked, leaning over the balcony.

“I don’t know.”

“Same as in Croatia.”

“I didn’t even notice.”

“I’m hungry.”

“I’ve been hungry for an hour.”

“Remember the tavern we saw this morning?”

“The one filled with all those old men?”

“Yeah, that one.”

The tavern was called Komovi. We’d seen it that morning as we were coming in from the airport. Three old men from the neighborhood, surely recipients of the minimum pension, watched a soccer match between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Nikšićko beers rested on the table between their hands. A full ashtray in the middle, a lit cigarette. We sat near the TV.

We’d travelled from northern Europe through Belgrade with no fixed plan or expectations. That’s how we’d decided the previous night, after finding a half-priced flight on Serbian Air to Montenegro on the internet, to rent an apartment on the Riviera for the rest of the summer.

“I wish they wouldn’t smoke,” she whispered.

“We could go into the old town for dinner.

“It’s more expensive down there.”

“It’s our first day here, we can afford one luxury.”

“I’m going to the bathroom.”

The Adriatic breeze seeped in through the windows, bringing with it the scent of sea salt. Along the main road, tired Ukrainian tourists were returning from the beach, carrying with them all the weight of the sun and sea in their bodies.

Another pensioner entered the restaurant. A white cat with a black splotch around one of its grey eyes followed stealthily behind him, walking timidly with its tail held high, then darting under a table, hiding from humanity. Another marmalade colored cat with its tail low paused in the doorway indecisively.

“Here we go again,” she said, coming back from the bathroom to find me watching them.

“Poor cats.”

“Do you hear yourself?” she said.

“It’s incredible how many there are in these countries.”

“I need some air.”

I tried to take her hand, but she moved it away and went out of the tavern. The three retirees watched me, making a face as if it were all too familiar, having lived so much of that long ago. In the doorway I called her name, but she was already down the street. I looked at the indecisive marmalade cat. Its eyes were nailed to the inside of the tavern, watching the cook who came bearing a glass dish full of scraps.

I began to walk after her, and she slowed her pace until I reached her. “You and your cats,” she said, grabbing hold of my hand.

On the way back to Stockholm, she wore the summer dress she bought in Kotor; I wore my T-shirt that says, “Budva, City of Cats, Summer 2018.”

Ivan Parra Garcia (1982) graduated from the University of Iowa with an MFA in creative writing in Spanish. He now teaches classes in writing and medical Spanish in the same UI program. He is the editor in chief of Iowa Literaria and author of Texarkana, a book of short stories. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 257.


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