Croatia, April 2018
It was mid-spring and I could no longer stand the gloomy London weather. April was early to visit the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, but it was warm enough to end what had been a long winter.
From the capital of Zagreb, I travelled down the incomprehensively beautiful coast to Split. Being a major port city, many explore the popular Islands close by such as Hvar. Although I normally avoid mainstream destinations, the solitude of the previous two weeks had built an urge to blow off some steam. So I picked the least shit hostel out of the two shitty options, and took the hour ferry trip across the Adriatic sea to Hvar town, ready to party with the typical Western tourists, on their two-week piss-ups, that usually comprised such places.
As the ferry entered the port, I was blown away by how stunning and well-maintained the small limestone town was, destroying all preconceived notions of the joint having been run over by commercialism and holiday-going pigs. Signs indicating fines of up to 700 euro for walking around drunk and/or in swimwear and bare feet, warmed my heart that a sense of class and culture had retained itself where it most likely shouldn’t have.
Apparently, the fines had been put in place in response to mainly English tourists.
“They are vomiting in town, urinating on every corner, walking without T-shirts…crawling around, unconscious,”, said one Mayor.
Another warned of their “primitivism, nakedness and drunkenness.”. God save the Queen.
As I climbed the stairs of the hostel, a harrowing feeling of regret infused with anger and self-critique washed over me, confused as to how I could make such an impulsive decision on a whim.
‘Hostel piss up, it’ll be fun!’, I had thought to myself, without realising the stale realities that go with the experience, including the likely “primitivism” of those staying there. Cramped, smelly rooms, shared with strangers, devoid of privacy. I was done with that shit.
The vibe of the Serbian girl on reception that checked me in did give me positive impressions but they would be short-lived. My dorm room that opened straight onto the busy kitchen and main common area, which was already filled with drunkards, drove the dagger of regret only deeper into my soul. However, I dropped my bags on the floor, reassured myself to make the best of it, and kicked back on my bed to chill in the empty room.
Less than ten minutes later, the door opened. The torso I saw through the gaps of my jacket, hung on the bunk as a curtain, revealed a young guy. The torso came in the direction of my bed with an intent motion and stopped. A face lowered to the square gab through the ladder to the top bunk, framing his face that held a dry expression.
“Halloh thaeh.”, the guy said, with a thick Yorkshire accent, with the resemblance of a face that pained my heart.
As he continued, the endearing, almost nostalgic accent of my family heritage, warmed my bones. His dry, comic charisma, intended to entertain those acute to it, but also fly over the head of the naive, which too added only another layer of humour, put a smirk on my face.
“Ahm Tom. Nahss tah meet yeh.”, he said warmly, penetrating his lanky arm through the small, square gap of the ladder and reaching for a handshake, a motion too ironic for me not to laugh.
When Tom dropped the comedic facade, we got to know each other somewhat. He told me of his travels with his friend George who he was on a two-month Euro trip with. He then filled me in on who else was in the room as he pointed to various beds. A few metres across the room from us he pointed to the bunk where a Canadian girl was staying on the bottom, and his friend George up top. The remaining bunk that completed the horseshoe formation in the small room, had a French girl staying below.
“You know who’s up there?”, I asked, pointing to the bed above, in response to Tom having paused.
“Pfft. Meht. He’s some weird Croatian guy here for the weekend. He’s a police officer. He brought his badge and his fookin’ gun!”, he answered, in a tone of unease, indicating some disdain for the guy.
In the moment, I remembered hearing what he said, “badge and gun”, but the “gun” part didn’t register. Either I suspected there was a reason like he was partly on duty, or I was in denial that a guy had brought a gun to a hostel. But the thought left my mind as quickly as it came in.
“Enywey, ya goona coohm owht meht?”, he asked.
I told him I’d join shortly and Tom left the room.
Not long after, an English-looking kid came in. He was short, ugly, and if his socks with slip-on sandals weren’t bad enough, his skin was torched bright red with sunburn. I presumed it was Tom’s friend and he introduced himself as George. In a Yorkshire accent also, he seemed like a nice guy. As we chatted for the brief moment he was in the room, the more George spoke, the more I suspected he too was a Larrikin, which pleased me.
I joined the group of people drinking around the kitchen table outside the door, in the common space. I became acquainted with the half a dozen or so Westerners, who seemed like they’d been at the hostel for some time. They seemed like a nice group of people, made up of North American and English folk. However, instinctively I got a strange vibe from all of them.
Thankfully, there was Jagermeister flowing, which helped to extinguish the constricting social anxiety that had brewed inside me, as a result of two weeks of reflective solitary, which I thought was more the explanation for that feeling. But I would soon learn my instincts were not off.
I met two young Canadian guys beside me who were cool. One, in particular, called Joe, was a hip hop dancer, with good style and a genuine vibe, along with that uncanny Canadian niceness. Then I was introduced to the rest.
It didn’t take long to notice that Tom seemed to be the most interesting of the lot. But he was quite elusive, as he seemed to need to be the centre of attention, with constant banter which he bounced off of George. Unlike Tom, who was utterly hilarious and frustratingly witty, equipped with a sense of social acuteness, far beyond the usual bounds of other Western cultures, George quickly turned out to be a drunk, obnoxious twat. He was the overbearing, white trash type, dominating the scene, but without the wit or intelligence to offer anything of value, at least when he was as drunk as he was. Which was a lot.
My dislike for George started when I began trashing the British monarchy, which initially was a joke, as Tom and I had already sparred back and forth earlier, innocuously taking the piss out of one another’s countries. But George completely overreacted when it came to my feelings about old Queen Lizzy, causing him to start personally insulting me and Australia, out of the blue. This only caused me to elaborate further without irony, to provoke him when I could sense him getting even more offended and emotional. He responded by trying to humiliate me in front of the group, with more low-hanging fruit insults, as a response, which was never going to work. At 5’7, with an ugly sunburnt face, and a clearly overblown ego to compensate for such, you couldn’t take anything from him seriously, even if his comments had an iota of originality.
In the bathroom a short while later, he was too cowardly to stick to his guns, and instead apologised saying everything earlier was a joke, when it was clearly more, which only lowered my respect for the guy even more so.
When I returned to the table, there was a new face. Jon, he introduced himself as. He was a tall and well-built guy about my age, with a cold, vacant look in his eyes and a shifty energy about him. He was English also, from London, and was in the military, which wasn’t a surprise. He was funny too, of course, seemed friendly, despite an evident dark streak to his vibe, which was just the unconventional types I hoped were lurking in hostels whenever I did stay in one.
In between taking the piss out of George, and somewhat dissatisfied with the overall company, particularly George’s presence, he gave me looks of recognition across the table as such, making it clear Jon and I were on the same page.
Over the course of the night, the six of them who’d hung out in the day together, talked about the motorboat they hired to explore the beautiful, exotic islands around Hvar, only to say that they landed at the closest beach they found, where they got too drunk to go anywhere else.
‘Riveting’, I thought, knowing they’d missed an abundance of pristine islands, unique to that part of Croatia, just to piss up.
They did, however, mention that the Croatian policeman whom Tom was telling me about, came along with them. And when I probed about who this guy was and how he was, Jon, with his characteristic unfilteredness, immediately described him as,
“Weird. Really fucking weird.”, with a devilish laugh and a hollow look in his eye to accompany the statement, indicating that there was a lot more that had gone on with him, which I had not been told about yet.
A curious smirk twisted my mouth when I sensed things could get interesting when this mysterious Croatian cop was to arrive. Before long he did.
“Alriiiight, let’s fucking goooo!”, was what was blurted out, in a thick accent, at an excessive volume, which made most people there uneasy. A young, flabby Croatian guy, in his early twenties, about 6’2, burst through the door and into the kitchen where everyone was. He was gripping a bottle of whiskey and showing heavy signs of intoxication. The more he talked and behaved, the quicker one could see there was something very off about the guy. He was at most an autistic psychopath, and at the least, quite autistic, or suffering from some kind of social dysfunction. The drunkenness aside, there was something very dark about the guy’s presence, and not in a good way. ‘Toxic”, would be accurate.
He moved about the room, from person to person, almost yelling at them to get ready to go out to the club. I watched on with amusement, when I saw the looks of subtle dread and disdain on faces such as Tom’s, and looks on Jon’s face which read,
“I told you he’s a fucking nutcase.”.
It was only when he came closer that I noticed that over his casual beachwear attire, he was wearing a brand new, authentic-looking police badge around his neck. But without a trace of irony. He was sporting it seriously, in a peacocking manner. It was a whole new level of hectic I’d witnessed and I just had to know if it was real. When I asked him, to my joyful entertainment, he confirmed it was.
‘Jesus…’, I thought to myself, concealing a smirk as I studied the behaviour of the buffoon.
An American girl, the hostel’s pub crawl guide began rounding everybody up to leave. As people got ready to head out, a few of us remained at the table, such as myself and George, who was next to me, busy running his yap.
“Let’s fucking go to dee cluuuub!”, yelled the Croatian, loudly and drunkenly to George, who ignored him, almost as if on purpose, when he approached the table. But what followed would determine the fate of the night.
“George, let’s fucking go!”, said the Croatian, standing across from him, before aggressively flicking George on the forehead.
It was clear. The guy was fucking nuts. And I’d be lying if at that moment if I didn’t feel butterflies of excitement, knowing a feud between him and George was likely to ensue.
In the bathroom again just before we left, George expressed his rage over the incident.
“Meht, thaht fookin’ coohnt, I swear.”, he vented, in a tone thick with hatred. It was clear that it wasn’t the only thing that had rubbed him up the wrong way.
“Putting up with his shit all day and now fookin’ flicking me on the head. I swear to god, I’m gonna punch that coohnt in the face.”
“What did he do today?”, I asked curiously.
“Meyht, he’s fookin’ weird. There’s something up with him. He’s annoying as fuck. He does random aggressive shit like out there, and he was creeping all the girls out today. They even said so when I asked if he was making them feel uncomfortable, which he was.”
“Some sort of autistic psychopath maybe?”, I suggested, laced with subtle irony. “I got a toxic vibe from the moment he entered the room.”, I remarked, and we left.
Most clubs hadn’t even opened yet, it was that early in the season. And this one, in particular, was fairly lacklustre in size and energy. The place was the size of a small kitchen and the drink prices were eye-wateringly high. Along with it being an utter cock fest, after one drink I was keen to go elsewhere.
With Tom desperately gunning for the American girl, and everyone else on the dance floor, I agreed to go with George in search of another place to drink. By that point, my resentment for him had waned somewhat. At least enough to not have to leave the club and go elsewhere alone.
George and I entered the only bar open on the main plaza, made up of several people inside and a group of three middle-aged guys at a table outside. George asked them for a lighter and we got talking with them. They were friendly Hungarians and asked us to join them. We did.
George talked to the only one who spoke English while the other two tried their best to communicate with me. It became futile, and after twenty minutes or so, they went home, leaving the last guy with us. He had the typical European social awareness and curiosity, starkly contrasted with that of Anglo cultures that George represented proudly. The more the conversation went on, the more it seemed how utterly unaware George was of anyone else but himself. When someone dominates a conversation with generic, mundane, and uncultured dross, whilst talking AT those present, well that really just grinds my gears.
George seemed to go around and around for an hour with the guy, about how Hungarians were not too welcoming of tourists, according to him. The guy and I struggled to contemplate. Having been there myself, and knowing it was a place of general middle European humility, it was apparent that George had had a trivial negative experience, which he used to overgeneralise the whole country as a consequence. I took it as a response of an ignorant, naive and uncultured fool, as George seemed.
The more the Hungarian guy tried to express his disbelief and gain an understanding, and the less George even seemed to be listening to what the guy was saying, let alone understand him, the more my resentment for George grew. I got to that point in such a situation where you are simply just staring at the person with disdain, resenting their entire being. These feelings in me only grew more so when my eyes scanned to the ground to find that George was still wearing his socks and slip in sandals on a night out.
But in hindsight, the negative feelings were less about George himself, and more me projecting my resentment not only onto the company I was with but on me for putting myself in the situation of ending up with the exact mediocre and “primitive” pack of Anglo tourists, such as George, I was expecting to meet the whole time.
Unsurprisingly, at a rigid and socially awkward moment to depart company from the friendly Hungarian gentleman, we walked back across the main square to the nightclub which had become busier. I found Jon inside, who had been chatting up a barmaid which resulted in a free beer for both of us.
The duration of the beer consisted of him regaling a compilation of his most sadistic stories of discipline towards his military inferiors, such as telling a young cadet to go and bear-hug a tree, fully suspended with his legs off the ground until he said he could stop. Jon had forgotten about the poor lad and came back sometime later to find the guy had been suspended the whole time and therefore berated him for being so dumb. It was pretty funny to fair, but the rest of what he told, only solidified in my mind Jon’s cold and somewhat psychopathic nature.
Shortly thereafter, the flirtatious American girl in charge of the pub crawl, who had just started the job at the hostel, seductively came up on me, wanting to dance. I obliged, not to be a prude, but was hesitant not to cut Tom’s grass, after seeing the spadework he had put in for most of the night.
That was to be in vain, as Tom approached me on the dance floor immediately afterwards, making a trivial joke but laced thick with passive aggression, in the manner a coward fires a warning shot but does so in such a passive way that you realise his intention, but ultimately lose all respect for him for displaying such insecurity. That would be the first red flag about Tom’s character. He’d been such a cool, charismatic guy up until that point, but you can always judge a person by their company. And if he was hanging out with an unconscious douche like George, then that was likely a partial reflection on him.
I retreated outside the club, down the short alleyway it was situated in, to the main waterfront where a few others were smoking. It was only then that I’d seen the Croatian guy for the first time since we had left. He was sitting in a doorway close by, on the phone, and seemingly in a serious, in-depth conversation. It was clear by his vibe that something was wrong. I smoked a cigarette and chatted to one of the Canadian guys and asked what his deal was.
“They were hanging out with him today. Apparently, his girlfriend is pregnant. I dunno, they said he’s kind of weird.”
Shortly thereafter we were interrupted when someone approached us from behind, placing an arm on each of our shoulders.
“I wahnt to brehk sum bons…”, said a voice, in a dark, harrowing tone, that made my skin crawl.
A spasm of cringe shot down from the contact point of his hand with my shoulder, and throughout my whole body. I looked back to see it was the Croatian Cop.
“Sorry, what was that chief?”, I asked in an upbeat tone.
“I wahnt to brehk sum bons. She killed my baby, and now, I wahnt to break bones!”, he grunted in his thick Croatian accent, just as thick with darkness.
“Um, nah it’s cool, man. Let’s not break any bones. We’ll just have a good time ey?”, I suggested, in anticipation of what the unpredictable animal was going to do next.
“I want to fucking brehk somebody. And I know who. That person…is going… to be George!…”, he replied, in a theatrical but socially awkward manner, with a trace of restraint in his voice, as if he intended to provoke a situation just for attention, and stormed back up the alleyway to the club.
Seeing as the guy was blatantly wearing his police badge at the time, like some sick way of showing off for everyone’s approval, it felt like a front. After all, what could he possibly do? He was a cop.
Tom appeared shortly afterwards and I filled him in on the bone-breaking desires of Cro Cop.
“I told ya. He’s fookin’ weird mate. We were with him all day. He’s a psycho. There’s something up with him.”
Not long after Cro Cop had made way for the club, I wandered back up and smoked a cigarette outside where the vibe was festive but chill.
All of a sudden, a giant ‘bang’ sounded and all forty or so people in the narrow alley outside looked to see the aftermath of a giant punch that Cro Cop had thrown at a wooden door. The vibe became immediately awkward as a result of the blatant ape-like action that had come out of nowhere, in a fairly confined space that had been civil. He stood awkwardly for a moment in front of everyone, panting with rage.
I walked up to the entrance of the club where he’d hit the door and saw back inside that some commotion had ensued with some of the people from the hostel, with George seemingly at the centre of it. George was being calmed and held back from going towards the direction outside, indicating something had kicked off between him and Cro Cop. I approached the crowd of them and saw that George had a bloody nose and a roughed-up eye.
“What happened, George?”. I asked.
“He fookin’ hit me! I was talking to Ali inside here, he came up and told me not to talk to her. I told him to fuck off, that we were friends, and not to tell me who I can and can’t talk to. Then he just fookin’ hit me and we got into it!”, he said, furiously and seemingly taken aback somewhat.
I walked back outside to see if Cro Cop was anywhere to be seen. He wasn’t. I took a moment to process the situation, when a group of four black English guys whom George had attempted to befriend earlier in the night, and failing miserably, were running and chanting up and down the alley from the waterfront to the club, with their shirts unbuttoned open. It was an obvious attempt at humour mixed with attention-seeking. But their vibe seemed to have an unseasonedness far too common in British/Anglo culture and therefore lacked the swagger to pull off such a charade and just came off awkward and try hard. Which was bizarre because black dudes usually ooze swagger and are cool enough to pull off almost anything. But not these guys for some reason.
Shaking my head with disapproval, I scanned around again and there was still no sign of Cro Cop.
‘I can’t believe he fucking hit him. He’s a cop.’, I thought to myself, scratching my head with perplexion.
It was at that moment when I became aware of how strange my experience on Hvar had been thus far, since arriving that afternoon. From the people I’d met, to the other western tourists who comprised the club and the several dozens outside. I couldn’t help but look around at the people I knew there, and the ones I didn’t, all in close proximity, and realised how distant I felt from them and their strange vibes. I felt like I was an alien creature, thrown into a foreign environment with a species far from my kind.
At the same time, I was aware of the amount of time I’d spent fairly isolated the past couple of weeks, and that it could have just been in my head. But the more the night carried on, the stranger I felt and the more I felt like I was in an episode of a dark, abstract comedy show, such as Louis CK’s “Louie”. I couldn’t help feeling how Louis CK’s character does in the absurd, abstract situations he finds himself in, that only he is aware of, and as if made for him to be the butt of the joke in. That’s exactly how I felt at that moment and the feeling would grow as the episode evolved to more absurd depths.
Within the next half an hour, the club had wound down. I strolled back across the waterfront of beautiful Hvar town, with the two young Canadian guys, and Jon the English military guy, who I guessed I’d liked the most out of the lot by that point. As I walked, I admired the serenity of silence of the gorgeous limestone town, lit up seductively by amber lights which danced along the pristine, crystal clear waterfront. In the day, even the dirtiest parts of the water in the port were turquoise and completely transparent to the ocean floor.
Right as I felt a blissful moment of aesthetic appreciation, I heard a loud waterfall-like splatter, that seemed to echo through the air and bounce off the surrounding walls. I looked back to see Joe, one of the Canadians, was pissing a likely toxic, dehydrated piss, right into the pristine, glassy, beautiful water.
“Lovely.”, I uttered to his friend beside me, as we both looked back to observe. I shook my head in disgust. I felt more disgusted in myself for staying in a hostel and subjecting myself to such uncultured swine, more than anything else.
Military Jon, who was hovering back near Joe had noticed also. Drunk and with a mischievous vibe, he made a move slowly towards him from behind. It seemed, that surely, he was only going to scare him and pretend to push him in. If I had been with a normal group of people that’s would have gone down. But no. Right before Jon got behind a still pissing Joe, who was a good foot shorter, he said,
“Ay Joe, how deep is it down there mate!”, and shoved the kid into the water, right into the spot he’d been pissing, fully clothed, wallet, phone and all.
I was in disbelief, and even more so at the stoic reaction of his friend when I said as much.
“Are you fucking serious? That is not cool.”, I said to his friend, with indignation, who made an awkward smirk, not knowing how else to respond.
We waited for the moment of truth to see how Jack would respond. But when he climbed back up onto the pier, and pulled out his phone and wallet, soaking wet, I cringed when he showed inordinate agreeableness, giving as little as a laughing curse.
“Wow. I can’t believe he’s not even at least mad.”, I said in disbelief.
“That’s Joe, man. He’s Canadian.”, the friend said, with a sick sense of pride. “What should he do?”, he asked with an awkward laugh, upon seeing my look of disapproval.
“I would punch him in the face if that were me. Even if he’s bigger. We’re fighting after that. He had his phone on him for fuck’s sake.”, I replied, with disdain.
The kid didn’t even get mad in the slightest and remained agreeable as if it were a prank of far less magnitude. But out of pure passivity and a lack of integrity that makes one cringe. In his way of ‘getting back at him’, Jon obliged with letting Joe throw a measly, pathetic punch to his stomach. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I’d had enough of these people. I walked back to the hostel alone, desperate for the night to end, and dreading about the extra night I’d already paid for.
‘I am in the company of pigs.’, I thought to myself as the epiphany became fully crystallised.
My hostel dorm was empty when I returned. I brushed my teeth and got into bed as quickly as possible, with the hopes of passing out before having to interact with any more of them. I draped more items of clothing over my bunk to further fortify my coffin space, isolating myself away from the absurd, abstract world of this night. I shut off the light and peaceful darkness followed as I fell soundly asleep.
Half an hour later I was awoken by none other than George. He came into the room, laid sprawled out on the floor, and proceeded to yap at the Canadian girl sleeping in the bunk below him. She too had been woken up and told him to go to bed. Apart from disregarding her, George persisted to talk utter drunken nonsense to her, despite her repeated requests to stop and go to bed.
It was the situation with the Hungarian guy all over again. He’d disregard anything the other person would say and continue to talk rubbish at the person until he was bored of doing so. I was infuriated the more he yapped on until I told him to go to bed also. The obnoxious idiot didn’t but I passed out after five minutes nonetheless.
Amidst deep sleep of pure unconscious darkness, all of a sudden, I was yanked from the depths of my slumber and back into immediate wakefulness, as I felt two bodies fall onto me with the sounds of groans and swearing. A fight had broken out in the middle of the small dorm room. I lept up immediately out of bed to see a bloodied George and Cro Cop yelling and coming forth at one another in a series of scuffles, in between Joe the Canadian kid, who was standing desperately between them both, in his underwear, attempting to break up the fight.
My eyes darted to the two girls sitting with their backs against the wall of their bottom bunks, horrified by the scene ensuing which was blocking the doorway, preventing them from escaping the violence. Still, within the midst of grogginess, I could see Cro Cop coming towards George, who, was yelling and swearing at him provocatively, but conveniently shielded by Joe who had halted the action momentarily. George kept provoking but only to fain wanting to fight him, but with a hesitance to do so. Joe didn’t stand a chance to hold Cro cop back, who was a foot taller and thirty kilos heavier.
Despite standing at least an ok chance of having been able to have done so myself, there was no way I was laying a hand on a cop, off duty or not. Especially not in Croatia. Life in the Balkans is rough, and people do not fuck around. Least of all the Cops, who are likely corrupt.
So with the luxury of not having been awake long enough for anxious hesitation to kick in, my first instinct was to grab George and hold him back, when the two of them tried to engage again. I locked on a seat belt grip from behind, managing to pull him back onto my bed below. I narrowly avoided smashing my head on the bed frame in the process and secured two hooks in for the full-back mount to restrain the small, pathetic fool.
“Calm down man! Calm down! There are fucking girls in here, George!”, I urged whilst he made his feeble attempts to escape. He flailed around yelling for me to let him go. But I was surprised he even had the intelligence to realise the effort was futile, having never had a Jiu-Jitsu player clamped to his back like a python. As soon as the girls made their escape from the room, I let him go.
He got straight back up and came back towards Cro Cop, who had been locked onto him like a tractor beam all the while, and still wanting his blood. This time I turned to Cro Cop and tried to calm him down. But aside from his cold, vacant eyes, locked onto one thing and one thing only, the attempt was futile. Especially with George still swearing and provoking him, but of course in between the barrier of myself and Joe who separated them, making no attempt to come forward. It was clear that George was a coward, with his ego and obnoxiousness enough for him to cuss and provoke Cro Cop, but not the balls to come straight at him and fight.
Shortly thereafter, the Serbian receptionist girl arrived, along with some others, who yelled in Croatian to the Cop to get out of the room. He went outside and sat in the kitchen. George angrily went off at the hostel staff, saying that Cro Cop had assaulted him for no reason and that he wanted him kicked out of the hostel. He exclaimed that Cro Cop was not even staying in the hostel anymore and had come in to further assault him. Unbeknownst to George, he was actually staying in our dorm.
“Well, that’s it. If he’s staying here then I refuse to stay in this hostel! He’s a police officer and he’s assaulting people! He’s a fucking disgrace and you’re letting him stay here.”, he said, still topless and face bloodied, as he turned and began packing his bags.
The staff tried to plead with him, saying it was too late to find somewhere else. But when his bags were packed, George marched out the door, repeating the same things from before over and over.
With only Joe and I remaining in the room, I shook my head at him and asked what had happened.
“I was out here in the kitchen and I heard both of them get back here together and go into the bathrooms where I heard a fight break out. I walked in to see that the Croatian guy was wrestling on top of George and dominating him. I ran in to break it up, but the fight spilled out into the kitchen. I tried to break it up again but then it spilled into the dorm and that’s when you woke up…”, Joe regaled.
Joe went to bed and I sat on my bunk, alone in the room, listening to the receptionist girl talk to the young Cop in Serbo-Croatian. I couldn’t understand the words but the tone suggested that the cop was trying to appeal emotionally to the girl and describe his position. Before long, he broke into tears, and his weeps filled the silence of the hostel. It seemed clear the receptionist hadn’t been convinced from the beginning and made no attempt to console the weeping mess of a man, despite probably having been told of the news of the abortion of his baby that was against his will.
After some time, I heard the receptionist leave momentarily and the cop came back into the dorm, still a weeping mess. I sat awkwardly and observed the guy and felt for him somewhat. He started packing his bags. Then he started to talk.
“I can’t believe it. I am police officer. I am supposed to protect, and I assaulted someone. I can’t believe it…”, he said regretfully, in between tears.
There was a pause.
“I want to shoot myself….”, he said, in between snuffles, to my horror as adrenaline shot through me, recalling Tom saying he had brought his gun with him.
“Whoa man, it’s all right. You just had a shit night. Just sleep it off. Everything will be fine.”, I said, in an attempt to console the guy, who now appeared unpredictable and capable of anything.
I started to fear those capabilities. If not harm to himself but possibly to others, namely George.
“I fucking hate myself. I am to protect, and now, I assault somebody. I want to shoot myself…”, he repeated, my words having evaporated into thin air.
“Come on man…”, I pleaded.
“…I want to shoot myself…”, he repeated again, as if I wasn’t present.
The receptionist returned and called him out to the kitchen. He went, leaving me alone in the dorm again.
He began weeping again and the awkwardness filled the halls once more. My eyes wandered around the room searching for something to distract me from the discomfort, if not momentarily. My eyes fell to a wide-open shoulder bag resting against a locker near my bed, less than a metre from where I sat. On one side of the bag held a camera. The other, a gun. Adrenaline shot through my body in a disassociative manner, when I comprehended the modern police handgun that lay right near my feet. Tom wasn’t kidding after all. The guy literally bought his fucking gun.
‘I want to shoot myself…’, rang his harrowing words as they echoed in my mind.
In between a moment of silence, I managed to catch the attention of the receptionist who was in eyesight and ushered her into the dorm.
“This guy’s got a fucking gun. Did you know he brought a gun into the hostel?!”, I whispered frantically.
“Yeah. But it doesn’t have any bullets.”, she replied daftly, without a shade of concern in her tone, causing my jaw to drop.
“Oh great, well I hope not. Because he’s just been saying that he wants to fucking shoot himself!”, I fired back. I saw only a mild expression come across her face, before returning to him in the kitchen.
I shook my head in disbelief, at how utterly different some people were in the Balkans.
When he returned to the room, he grabbed the shoulder bag and a sweater from his bed, being literally the only other thing he had brought with him, along with the bloodied clothes on his back, that his police badge hung over.
He left the hostel alone shortly thereafter, and I cursed the universe for its cold indifference. Instinctively, it felt as if he was saying those things more for attention, as that was the type of person he’d shown himself as all night, but needless to say, I desperately hoped he wouldn’t do anything impulsive.
The receptionist went to bed and I sat alone in the silent hostel, contemplating all the absurdity that had just unfolded.
I stared blankly at the floor, in a delirious state, shaking my head continuously. Then Tom arrived in the kitchen from where he’d been outside, talking with George, who followed behind him. At least I could have a laugh with Tom about it, given as he seemed like the colder type of guy to be phased by nothing with always a witty comment in return.
“Unbelievable”, I said with a smirk, expecting some form of humour in return from Tom when he came to the doorway having noticed me.
But I was foolish to think the night could, in fact, be any more unbelievable when his face turned sour and reproachful.
“Pfft. What were you doin’ mate?”, he replied, in a spiteful manner, as if I was seeing in him a glimpse of an entirely different person to the comedic, blasé character on display all night, that normally possessed an envious lack of fucks to give.
“What?”, I responded, perplexed.
“Pfft. Don’t worry.”, he replied abruptly, his reproachful tone shifting to more passive aggression as he turned on his heel to walk off as if having spoken out of impulse.
Anger blasted through my body, causing me to get to my feet and storm after him, without thinking.
“Nah, nah, come here Tom, what the fuck does that mean?!”, I asked furiously, as equal amounts of anger for George erupted in me towards him.
Now I was really pissed, and indifferent to my own altercation with one or both of them at that moment.
“Are you implying that I did something wrong when your fucking mate here is trying to fight a guy in the dorm that two girls were in and that woke up them as well as me?”, I fired at Tom, which received an instant response of timidity.
“You’re pissed because I held you back aren’t you?”, I fired, turning to a meek George who too looked to be cowering. “Well in case you didn’t realise, I risked smashing the back of my head on my bunk bed in doing so, so the two scared girls could leave the dorm room you were trying to fucking fight a guy in, that literally physically woke me up.”
His eyes remained as blank and devoid from empathy as they had been all night, reflecting from inside, a being of antisocial, narcissistic self-absorption.
“And I was trying to keep him getting to you!”.
“Why? I was fine.”, he said weakly and incongruently.
“He would have fucked you up! Look at the size of him. And look at your face!”, I pointed, referring to his black eyes and bloodied nose that looked broken.
“No, he wouldn’t of. I punched him in the face in the club…”, was his petty, incongruent response similar to that nature, like someone with a giant ego trying to save face after an embarrassing defeat.
I shook my head in disbelief, at the ego and the audacity of the kid. He was deluded and clearly didn’t appear to have the ability to comprehend another person’s experience.
“Fair enough mate. You did what you thought was the right thing in the moment.”, Tom replied, breaking the awkward tension in the air, to be agreeable for the sake of it, not because I believed he understood my position either.
I resented the incongruency of his words too, realising the both of them were not only self-absorbed pigs, equivalent to English versions of bogans, but also cowards, unwilling to stand for their position, regardless of how stupid it was.
I shook my head spitefully, and returned back to the room, closing the door behind me, indifferent to potential awkwardness to come, given we were all staying in the same room.
Shortly afterwards I heard Tom return upstairs to the American girl he’d been with during the altercation and George came into the dorm where the light was still on. Realising it was better to break the tension, I piped up and explained to him that I would not have held him back if I knew I couldn’t prevent Cro Cop from hitting or hurting him in any way, which was true. We ended up being able to find common ground, probably because the words relating to him that came out of my mouth, of ‘protecting him’, appeased his ego.
Now, at around 5 am, with just the two of us in the dorm, the light switched off and the nightmare was finally over.
Early the next morning, I was woken by loud talking from outside. I checked my phone to see it was 9 am, only several hours later. I rubbed my eyes and my delirious, blurred vision regained focus. I glanced across the quiet room to see an unconscious George, bloodied with a fucked up purple face. The memory of the fight returned as I gazed at his face disdainfully. In my peripheral vision, I noticed there was somebody else in the dorm, sleeping on the top bed of the third bunk. My eyes raised to the top bunk, and who did I see? None other than Cro Cop himself, in the same bloodied clothes, as George was, passed out cold.
Both of them snored away obliviously, only metres apart from one another, above the floor they’d been scrapping on only hours ago. My numb gaze shifted from one person to the other, unsure of whether I was actually awake. But I was. Laughter was the only reaction that could be had, as if right at that moment hearing the music cueing for the punch line at the end of an episode of, ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’. I took a moment to take in the absurd humour of the moment, before the owner of the hostel burst in minutes later, waking up Cro Cop to kick him out.
Cro Cop took his things out to the kitchen where several people were, and I followed in, unable to help myself. The awkwardness in the air was thicker than the night before as people looked on curiously. It became tense when George came out, who appeared scared of the guy and demanded him to leave the hostel once more. George’s demeanour hadn’t changed, apart from seeming afraid, but Cro Cop’s certainly had. Cro Cop seemed to be embarrassed and regretful but not remorseful as he was when crying about assaulting someone. Instinctively, it felt like he knew he’d fucked up but was not willing to face the consequences.
I returned to bed after Cro Cop left and later heard George on the phone to the Police station, reporting the assault. I shook my head, knowing the futility of reporting violence in places such as in the Balkans, least of all with police. If anything, reporting something to do with an officer would likely cause more harm than good. But knowing this full well, I was happy to keep that to myself and be content with whatever fate was to meet young George.
I rented a bike for the day to explore the rest of the beautiful island of Hvar. I spoke to Tom shortly on the way out. There was an air of tension still which was to be expected.
“Is his face all right?”, I asked with a fraction of concern.
“What do you mean?”, he asked confused.
“His nose. It looked broken”, I replied.
“Eh. That’s what he gets for having one so big.”, Tom fired back with acid whit but delivered in a manner of true indifference, showing a glimpse of a cold nature that seemed to run constant.
When I set off on my mountain bike an hour later, I stopped at the first beach nearest to Hvar town. My heart sank with dread when I recognised three people from the hostel, including Tom. Everywhere I went on this fucking island, these swine haunted me. With the beach being too small to avoid them, I reluctantly pulled up next to them and had a swim. Joe’s friend and the Canadian girl from our dorm, who’d witnessed the fight, were there. A bitter taste filled my mouth, as he only reminded me of Joe being pushed into the water fully clothed the night before. And she, that morning had given a vague obligatory thank you when I’d seen her in the kitchen as if having all but forgotten what seemed a horrific episode to her the night before.
Severely underslept, becoming irritated by Tom’s yapping and an utter desire to pedal my bike as far away from these strange people as possible, after fifteen minutes I gathered my things to leave.
“Well in case I don’t see you.”, I said to Tom extending my hand rigidly as if having avoided each other for the short time I’d been thereafter he said he wasn’t sure whether he was leaving that day or not. I looked at him with resentment, as well as sorrow for who he resembled so strongly.
“Yeah, mehyt.”, he said indifferently. “Oh. you hear about George?”, he continued, right as I went to turn away.
“Nah?”, I said curiously.
“So the police came to the hostel before. They said they needed to take him back to the station in Split. When they did, they put him under arrest. Cro Cop’s been saying that he’s got a concussion and thinks he needs to go to the hospital because George hit him.”, he continued, with a hint of concern in his voice.
“Shit.”, I said meekly, desperately trying to suppress any trace of amusement on my face.
I hopped on my bike and bombed down the winding island highway, drinking in the stunning views of the Dalmatian coast, laughing to myself and in the face of such an uncanny universe.
When I got back to the hostel in the evening George was there in the kitchen, along with an array of others. I greeted him immediately, needing to know the full extent of the details.
“What happened mate?”, I asked in an ironic tone with enough genuineness to mask it.
“Oh mehyt. I thought they were taking me to the police station in Split for me to make a report but when I got there they put me under arrest. Apparently, he went to the hospital saying that he thinks he has a concussion because I hit him. So they arrested me, then they gave me a bunch of paperwork to sign, all in Croatian so I didn’t have a fookin’ clue what I was signing. I signed it all and they let me go but I’ve gotta go back to Split in the morning to go to court. Not sure what’s gonna happen.”, he said, all with his usual, somewhat stoic tone, seemingly nowhere near as concerned as he should have been.
Perhaps it was a sense of naive entitlement, coming from a strong country in the EU, but little did he know how different things were in the Balkans. I retreated to my bed for the night, laughing to myself every time George’s situation came to mind.
Fortunately, the ferry to Dubrovnik left early the next morning, allowing me to make a swift exit from the sty and avoid mostly everyone. Along the stunning ferry ride, a perpetual smile plastered across my face, as I thought of how utterly poetic the ending to the Hvar saga was. It was the last time I had seen or heard of George since that conversation, and to this day, I imagine George sitting in the Croatian court, after not knowing what fate he had literally signed for himself, and wondering whatever happened to him.
And of course, whatever happened to the supporting actor of the absurd Hvar episode, old crazy Cro Cop himself…