Yesterday while waiting for the train back to Sarajevo from Mostar, I spotted an old man coming down the embankment on the other sie of the station, gingerly and painfully slowly making his way to the outside tracks. He wore a smart blue shirt unbuttoned at the top, smart black trousers and smart shoes. It was evening. I figured he was going into the centre to meet his sweetheart, the one he’d never had the opportunity to marry. The kind of narrative you find in a Garcia Marquez novel.
His progress was so slow and careful I had time to wander over towards him without making it look like I was making a bee-line for him. Finally he reached the tracks and glanced left and right for any incoming traffic. He must have known he couldn’t have fled at his age. He lifted one leg after another plotting his route with care until he reached the platform.
The step up about 60cm would clearly be too much for him, so I placed my bag and beer and ran over to him giving him the international sign for pull up? He accepted with a nod and I took his right arm by the elbow and on the count of the Bosnian 1,2,3 I pulled him up to the platform. We then proceeded to have a bizarrely cute conversation.
First he spoke to me in Bosnian which was clearly no use so he switched to ‘Sprechen Sie Deutsch?’ I replied bischen. Then he asked Italiano? I saw an opportunity and replied ‘no, pero hablo Espanol?”
This sparked a bi-lingual conversation neither in our native language. He asked questions in Italian while I replied in my best, simple Spanish. Questions revolved around where I was from, did i like Mostar, was I alone? He then told me his age (84) and various other things I didn’t completely understand but nodded enthusiastically. After a few minutes we exhausted all options and it was time to leave. To finish off the old man, with his high spectacles and receding white hair shouted Viva Espana with a hand flourish. I laughed and we shook hands.
He wandered off down the platform to the low crossing point and disappeared from view. I waited for the train with a smile. I hope the date went well.