Once again we touch on one of those subjects that has a complicated answer, the before Vukovar vs the after Vukovar Luka.
Were we talking about the before Vukovar version of who I am my answer would be a resounding yes. As far back as I can remember I had a close-knit group of friends with whom I spent most of my time, I was also the first one out of the group to strike up a conversation when we went anywhere.
If you were to ask those who knew me then to describe what I was like they would likely recall me as a practical joker, someone who liked to laugh and was rarely alone. I was always the first to suggest a night on the town after class, or just a gathering of friends in our apartment over good food and wine or beer.
Even after marrying our friends were an important part of who we were and nothing changed in that when Danijela became pregnant with Jasna. When our daughter was born it seemed only natural that she became part of our circle. Carried willingly by any and all only to be cradled by each as she slept throughout the course of the evening.
When we moved to Vukovar, so I could begin my residency, we stayed in contact with those who were no longer part of our daily lives through phone calls and weekend trips back and forth as time allowed. At the same time we found ourselves forming new friendships to fill the holes their daily absences left within us.
Time passed, our family grew by one, and our friendships, both near and far, tightened, we thought life could only get better...we were wrong. The war began and with it came the siege on Vukovar, the death of my family, and with them the death of the man they had all known and loved.
I remained in Vukovar until it's fall, escaping through a side exit of the hospital in those same final moments that Serbian troops were pulling up to the front doors. Even as I fled I knew it was in body only, everything I was, all I'd wanted to be was being left behind in that City, and I was being driven from it.
My escape left me wounded in both body and spirit and at first I allowed myself to sink into a depression that left room for little else. As I struggled for recovery in one of the many displaced person's camps throughout my homeland I disconnected from everyone, including my family.
My healing came slowly and with it came my decision to immigrate to the United States, the farther I could get from my past and the reminders of it the better.
Which brings us to the post Vukovar version of who I became, the loner, because if you get too close it means talking about your past and that was something I couldn't do.
Fifteen years have passed since I lost my family, and in that time I have almost become a mirrored opposite of the man that I used to be. Where once I was open, now I am reserved, where once I was the center of a close-knit band of friends, now I often drink alone. Where once I was the man who swore his love to only one woman, I became one who not only thought nothing of sleeping with a married woman, but would pay for sex as well. Where once I had friends with whom I shared everything, now I keep all my hopes and fears to myself.
I would like to think some of these behaviors are behind me now. I find myself hoping that the fact that I will again be a father will lead me back to where I once was. That the relationship Abby and I are re-discovering will one day become as comfortable as that which I had with Danijela. Lastly, I find myself wishing that Abby and I will one day know and share the joy of true friends as Danijela and I once did all those years ago.