All I Needed Now
The apartment Mami, Oci, and I moved into was on the third floor of a decrepit building in the center of Bratislava. The streets were narrow and winding, most of the streetlights broken by gangs. Tattered Soviet and Czechoslovak flags fluttered from flagpoles; the ever-present banners proclaiming “With the Soviet Union Forever” were covered with graffiti. Scraps of ripped newspapers were blown around, along with greasy cardboard cones, and pieces of chestnut shells. The dark passageways reeked of urine. Wet sand and cement dust crunched underfoot. Grim soldiers marched in formation throughout the squares. People spoke in whispers of robberies, rapes and beatings of pedestrians. Policemen were seen in the daylight, directing traffic, but never at night. After dark no one ventured out. I was frightened, not only at night, but in the daytime as well, unless I was walking with protective adults. Yet I was also happier than I had ever been. I had a Mami and an Oci. I had made friends among the hundreds of kids crammed into the other apartments, in buildings just like ours. All I needed now was a dog.
Andrew Stancek was born in Bratislava and now dreams in southwestern Ontario. His work has appeared in Bartleby Snopes, Pure Slush, Negative Suck, Left Hand Waving, THIS Literary Review, among others.