This is a collaboration between Elizabeth Endara (writer) and Crystal Ward (photographer).
Across from the post office and down the street from the bus station, there’s an abandoned wine factory. It’s a crumbling building filled with trash. During the war, it was used as a sort of base for Serbian forces. The reports from those days say things like “the Serbian police opened fire from their position near the wine cellar.” The headlines present the situation as “volatile.” Only we, here in the present, know how volatile it truly was. A few steps from the wine factory is a memorial for the dozens of civilians who lived and died in this small town. Too many of them innocents, too many of them children. But the wine factory stands, itself a memorial of the past, yet it has lived to see today.
The factory now sits alone behind overgrown bushes and bent over fence posts. Tall, grey, quiet, but occasionally disturbed by pot smokers and young lovers. We were neither. It was cold and cloudy. We hopped over a cement wall, narrowly avoiding the long thorns entwined in the surrounding tree branches. It was a cold day that got colder when we walked inside, and then we were hit with it: the depth, the ghosts, the symmetry.
Anything abandoned can be turned into a symbol. This wine factory became a monolith of space mostly filled with the deepest dark corners. Everything frightening lived in those corners, the monsters from our childhood and demons from our past. We avoided them by staying within the patches of light, only making mad dashes through the dark when we had to.
Dark rectangular pits stacked on top of each other became more than holes. They were the empty graves of a few people we used to be and a few more people who stopped breathing fifteen years ago. We could have sworn that we felt our past lives blowing through our hair. Or were they the ghosts of those innocents whom we never got a chance to meet? That’s the thing about symbols. They can mean anything to anyone.
Symmetry is something that is so goddam romantic and so utterly unachievable. But we stood there in the middle of all those angles and all that geometry and pretended for a moment that every brick in the left wall was absolutely identical to every brick in the right. These bricks became our love lives. Each one was a person who we got the chance to love and love well, and they loved us back fiercely. Every young child lived to meet his identical soul. No paint peeled off the walls because of the passing of time. No ceiling collapsed from the weight of the rainwater. No two hearts were ripped apart because of lies, fear, kisses, or death. But it was not so.
We opened our eyes from that dream and remembered the crumbling and how things fall apart. Wars fall apart, thank god, but not before lives do. Hate falls apart, but so does love; not always or every time, but enough for it to be a true thing to say. We humans so often create a crumbling past and live in a crumbling present. And so we left the wine factory as it was: crumbling.
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