Dear Osijek, I am a bit overwhelmed. It has been awhile since I felt this strangely comforting sense of dizziness; an intoxicating experience of euphoria.
Your response to my letter was something that, to borrow cliches, beyond what I could had ever imagined and now I am compelled to reply you. All that I wrote about you in my first letter, I was right about everything. You are my home precisely because you are an exceptionally loving, caring and affectionate city that loves all her citizens unconditionally. And they love you back with an equally powerful passion.
Over six thousand people, a vast majority calling you home, had read what I had written to you and shared with me their love for you. Your local online portals published articles about the writing to spread the word about how beautiful you truly are. And not just you, they complemented me as well for the letter I crafted.
It astonished me. I never believed that I had the capacity to move people anymore. I do think I had the talent when I was younger, but over the years I had lost it. Also perhaps the passion. So I was earnestly touched by the kind compassion you and your people rendered.
The last forty-eight hours I have received several emails and comments telling me how much they have enjoyed what I wrote. Strangers that I have never met, nor most probably will, told me about their sentiments towards you and invited me to visit you with a welcoming heart.
That all reassured me that I was right about you and that the feelings I experienced while living in Osijek were not fictional, an alternative universe where I was hiding. I have never before experienced the intensity of affection that I received from you and your people. And I am telling the truth, complete truth because he is also yours. The man who brought you to my attention.
Admittedly part of the reason for not ever expecting such strong response was the love that took me to your care. The kind of love that most of the world is still not prepared to witness.
When I first noticed that the letter had reached hundreds, thousands of your citizens I was slightly intimated because you still belong to that world. But I was so blissfully moved by the people who stood for me. I know there was an issue about who I love, at least among some people, but I also read how most of people vigorously defended me and questioned the dominant and discriminatory conceptualisation of love. There is a change happening, and I am certain in some years two people of same-sex will embrace each other by the river Drava without a hesitation.
Everything that has happened in last two days has been mind-blowing and I am not sure how to even say thank you, Osijek. Even without me physically being there, you are able to make me experience emotions that carry genuine fondness and tenderness.
I ended my last letter with a slightly sad note as I was fairly certain that I would never visit you again because of the reasons we both know so well. I had imagined if I came again to you, I would tear up just like I did the time I walked on Promenada after two years of separation. I cried for an hour straight as I wandered around your streets. I love you, but I did not think I would be able to bear it all over again.
I take my words back now. I am not sure when I will have the money to come and see you, I am rather poor and I have to continue my studies this fall so I will not have any sort of (sufficient) income. However I have decided I will visit you one day, sooner than later. I will cry, no doubt about it. Not just because you remind me of him, but also because of happiness for being with you again.
So I look forward to seeing you again, my Osijek. I cannot wait to have the mouthwatering cevapi sa lukom at Restoran Bonus where I have eaten perhaps even better cevapi than in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although no one of my friends in Osijek liked Pekara Kruna, I will definitely have their burek that I had almost every single day for lunch. I wonder if you still have the small kebab at the end of Županijska ulica, before the roundabout. Not only was the food good, the lady was so wonderful and friendly trying to make a kebab of my liking despite the language barrier we had. After a few visits I only had to greet her and she would be already preparing my order.
But more than the food I am excited to see all the friends I have there and all the new people I will meet. I want to drink Osječko pivo in Tvrđa and talk about you, our lives and the beautiful world. Party in Tufna that endearingly loves turbo folk before hitting Bastion and poisoners burgers. Buy luxurious ice cream at Hotel Osijek and walk over the bridge, chatting about happiness and sorrow and everything between and beyond. And obviously when I visit you, I will have to go to Lega Lega. If I am addicted to something, it’s stationary and Lega Lega has the best notebooks in the world. I also must buy a T-shirt because I lost the one I had.
It will be a wonderful reunion, my darling. One day soon I will sit again in Brooklyn Cafe, sipping the tasty hot chocolate.
So thank you, thank you for making me feel appreciated, thank you for showing me I can still move people, thank you for reminding me that I am welcome to be with you anytime I wish. I have honestly never experienced the soothing kindness you comfort me with. And I have been in love with multiple cities.
The strong response to my letter showed me how much your citizens adore you, my dear. I had always felt there is something special about the people who you look after. I remember how ecstatic people were when Cameo taxis started their operation in the city; oh and the introduction of Somersby ciders to your bars, the cheerful welcome that they got. It is the little things, the very key to a happy life, that the people in you know to appreciate. Just like they enjoyed my letter. It is not much, but it was enough to make you and them so very happy. I think besides seeing my old beloved friends in Osijek, I am bound to make new life-long friends when I visit you again.
I am off to Oslo now, but I have set my heart seeing you soon. So this is not a goodbye. Rather it is a continuation for our beautiful love story.