Last stop: Walthamstow Central (short stories)


He lived in London for many years. 43 Camden Drive NW1. He shared a flat in an end of terrace house with his brother Paolo, an aspiring journalist. He even taught landscape techniques at the Royal Academy of Arts for a while and then work in progress seminars in Brighton. Together with Slobodan from Belgrade he opened a tiny gallery, Magic East Art (MEA) next to the Chalk Farm tube station, at the very beginning of the famous Camden town market and was trying to sell works by young Yugoslavian artists. Those were the years of the honeymoon of the “brotherhood and unity” country with all the expats meeting in the Golden Parrot Bar at Leicester Square. They discussed politics, arts and holidays in Istra.

He even got married. To a lady called Harriet Wildworth. They said “I do” at Camden Town Hall. He did not know what he was doing and it felt silly

“I shouldn’t have got married!” He told her after a few whiskies one evening.

“We just spent more and more time together, moved in together and then she started insisting.”

“And why did you?”

“She insisted, she loved me…and I simply agreed. I wanted to make her happy. She did not like my friends, my busy social life, but she really loved me. Then Sarah came along. And Sarah! I would love you to meet Sarah. You remind me of her so much! Unfortunately I don’t see her often enough!”

Years later he figured out why they were not a good match. Shortly after the divorce, Harriet married a politician called Allan Edward Clark, they lived on the edge of Hampstead Heath, went to all theatre previews and holidayed in Tuscany. She even had a cleaning lady. All of that was not his style at all.

“I was never marriage material…”

Maybe Kristijan was the same. Maybe she was scaring him away with her insisting and constant nagging.


They left a cold city afternoon behind as they oozed through the traffic of Kresimirova and then Zvonimirova Streets. When they reached the Kantrida stadium the lights of Opatija were dividing the day from the night and the deep blue of the sea indicated that it was still very cold and summer was far away. She did not care where they were going and how long they would be away.

As they reached the traffic light in Matulji the darkness turned the window into a mirror.

Carlo invited her to spend the weekend in his rural studio, in his kingdom of dust and transparency, with open doors and windows at all times. It was there that he painted his series “Motovun from dawn till dusk”. He walked all over the following hills looking for another profile of Motovun.

“The best sunset over Motovun is from the Beletic Hill. There, the observer is just a tiny bit under the level of Motovun. In spring the sun drops to the left of the hill, then it slowly moves towards the right and drops to the right in the autumn.

“Everything OK with your boyfriend?”

“I’m not sure!”

“Don’t worry too much about it…things get sorted out…eventually.”

As if he was reading her thoughts. She was absent. Trying to concentrate on work (after all she still needed to choose a few more paintings for the exhibitions), but she could not.


She was spinning in a circle, living in a tiny rented place, stuck in a relationship that did not seem to be going anywhere. She tried to arrange her notes from the Art course she did at Uni, tidy her clothes drawers and the wardrobe, the kitchen cupboards and bathroom shelves. She just needed to do something. The line between chaos and order is so small, almost nonexistent.

She felt a pain in her chest and collapsed on the sofa. It was not food; she had hardly eaten for the last few days. She wanted to phone someone, but Carlo was visiting the Oscar Kokoschka exhibition at the Vienna History Museum.

Kristijan rang the doorbell a week after she returned from Dubrovnik. It was late in the evening and she was getting ready for bed. She had not phoned him from Dubrovnik. He had not looked for her when she got back.


He just walked past, towards the living room.

“Hi…” She answered softly, desperate for a kiss, a cuddle, hug, any form of affection.

“I just came to pick up my CDs!”


“I’ll just pick my CDs and then I’ll be gone!”

“Just like that?”

“There’s nothing to talk about! I don’t want to you to turn hysterical. We’ll talk in a while, when this settles… It will all be OK after a while!”

She could not believe her ears. He picked up his fucking CDs and said:

“Bye…Will call you soon!”


OK. It was all over. Her only regret was that it had not been over sooner and that the agony had lasted for so long. She would not have stayed in Rijeka after University. She would have been somewhere else, not necessary happier or unhappier, maybe in another relationship, maybe not, but certainly somewhere else.

It was all clear now: Kristijan had always envisioned such an ending. Othewise he would have put in more effort, he would have moved in. His grandmother kept offering him her flat. But he kept refusing any of these options. She felt like a spare tyre. She was no good anymore because there was someone else … Oh god, that was it, wasn’t it? There was someone else?

OK. He was a jerk, an egoistical and self-sufficient jerk. Mummy’s boy with ironed shirts and a new Fiat Punto as a present for his graduation. He was just a spoilt shit she wasted five years with. Had he told her I really cannot be with you anymore it would have been easier than years of his pretending and her false hopes.

She still could not get rid of him. He was the last thought before going to bed and part of her lazy Saturday mornings. Just like a malign tumour. The tears would still not come. She needed to sort herself out, clean the dishes at least; she did not have clean glasses and was drinking water from mugs. She did not have milk or sugar in the flat, but did not want to pop to the nearby shop as the lady there would ask about him.

There was a concert on TV. Goran Karan performing in Split cried: “My penalty is my love for you”. The other channel is showing a soap opera from Argentina, Venezuela, perhaps Mexico.... Utter rubbish.

She phoned mother and asked if her friend was still in need of someone to manage the gallery. Oh yes. She also told her that it had not worked out with Kristijan. Maybe better this way, mother said.

She couldn’t get hold of Carlo. She wanted to tell him. She walked to his studio. The cleaning lady said he had been taken ill and was in hospital but did not want to tell her which hospital.


Life got easier. New beginnings are difficult but necessary.

A year later she bought Novi List at the newsagent in front of the gallery, just to see what was going on in Rijeka.

What an irony! Of fate. If it exists, and it’s not just the invention of weak people. Or it’s just the irony of pure coincidence. On the very same day – and on the only day she read the Rijeka's local paper in over a year - Novi List published the news of a death and the announcement of a birth. Life always makes a full circle. It makes up for a death with a birth.

In the tiny birth announcement section, which she had never noticed before, her eyes just dropped onto a familiar name – David, son of Kristijan and Nensi.

And in the culture pages a famous art critic had written an inspiring obituary: CARLO STROZZI – THE MASTER OF TRANSPARENT LANDSCAPES.
Copyright Milka Sculac Sennett