Edited and Introduced by Lissa Tyler Renaud



This is a timely story about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and the manufactured hatreds that foster the wars that demand it.

The author, popularly known as Mika Oklop, came to San Francisco with his family in 1992 as a refugee from the war in Yugoslavia (1991-2001). But he left his heart at home. For the next fifteen years, until his heart-rending early death in 2007, Oklop persisted in writing intimately about the destruction wrought by war upon the people who live it.

Various forms of PTSD are present or implied in stories I’ve published here in Scene4 since 2011. A few examples: in The Former Future, Oklop tells the haunting story of his family’s disorienting journey out of the deadly upheaval in his country. The Marquise of Blue Dreams deals with a friend from home, a war rape victim, who visits San Francisco in a state of shock so deep it’s hard to imagine her ever recovering. In Bay Area for Beginners, Oklop falls into a conversation with a homeless U.S. war veteran who actually fought in Vietnam, but whose disjointed commentary seems eerily to refer to Yugoslavia.

In the current story, The Last Blue, we see what happens if you take a university student from a family of doctors in a good part of a sophisticated town, drug him and put him in a war for a mere three weeks: he’ll come back a traumatized, rambling addict, talking like a bigoted yokel.

As always, Oklop has written as a master of his task. From just a word here or there, we learn that the narrator is a writer who wants to tell the young man Mancha’s story, and who has worked to arrange a Canadian visa and ticket for Mancha. With deceptively simple writing, Oklop confronts us with the anguish of both characters: Mancha, too damaged to make use of the opportunity offered, and his helpless, would-be rescuer who can only try to salvage the situation in a way that incurs a whole new complex of ethical dilemmas.

Oklop’s background as a playwright is in evidence here: the piece is essentially a dramatic monologue spoken by Mancha, until later on, when the narrator reports that he spoke directly to him. That is, until the climactic final section, Mancha is speaking to the narrator, and the narrator is speaking to us, somewhat like a figure in a painting looking out of the frame, directly at the viewer. On the page, sections of Mancha’s monologue alternate with the narrator’s perspective given as a kind of “voice-over.” The narrator’s voice also sets the scene and describes what’s happening, including offering details that insist the reader participate right up close: now Mancha’s head is on the table but his hand is reaching out; now the narrator has sweated all the way inside his own pocket.

The story also contains other elements that signal Oklop’s writerly command. One is his confidence in making up words, describing a woman as “unlaid” and a voice as “hate-less.” Another is two mentions that mirror each other: pigs that eat humans, and humans that eat pigs. And, as always, this writer’s language astonishes. Some of my favorite lines are his descriptions of a face “like an outdated irrigation map” and a body “bent like an embryo”; and the sentence, “I don’t want to go to hell only because I’m not prepared.” This last is the kind of clever line—along with “any war should be proclaimed a non-profit organization”—that Oklop’s fans are still ripping off today to put on T-shirts with his name on them. But all readers will no doubt have their own favorites.

And the last sentence: I’ve read it a hundred times and it still catches at my breath with its insight and the challenge inherent in it for us, his readers, to live disease-free.

Lissa Tyler Renaud, Editor
Oakland, California


*           *           *


Vehicles burning outside a Belgrade hospital during NATO bombing of 1999 (Reuters).
Oklop was a lifetime resident of Belgrade until joining the diaspora in 1992.



The Last Blue

Milan Oklopdzic

“The last time I grew up was Wednesday or something,” says Mancha. “We caught eleven of them Flatskins, and they are, the Flatskins are them Croatian soldiers with no balls. That’s how everybody calls them. I was in charge of three of them, and the Duke told me to take ‘em to the HP Department. And, you know, HP stands for Hungry Pigs. What we did was, we starved the pigs and then threw the human bodies into the pigsty. The point was to witness the pigs going through their whole menu. A pigs’ fiesta. Now, that was beyond me.”

Mancha is 21, a student of electronics at Belgrade University. We sit on the porch of his house on this late afternoon of the XXth century. There is a persistent ray of sunlight illuminating the scars on his head and his left shoulder. The house is located at the top of Banovo Hill, a suburb of Belgrade, and it belongs to his parents. They are both doctors. Mancha sips some more out of a 1.5 liter plastic Coke bottle and reaches for another couple of Demetrin tablets, his favorite tranquilizers. He does not wear a watch.

“I was only there for three weeks. Couldn’t take it anymore. But the point is that you cannot contract out of the war. You cannot contract out because you are too weak. You have delegated all your violence, all your romance, all your dignity to the image of the State, which it then spews on you. You have no freedom. When they want you in the army, they take you. ‘Would you like to vote for war today, dear? Would you like to vote to go to Sarajevo and have your cobblers shot off? Would you like to
vote, dear, to have your brothers and sisters bombed for sixty bloody days with a pause for tea and time to paint your legs because I’m afraid we’ve run out of stockings?’”

His parents work for the government owned public hospital. They rebuild the injured bodies and send them home before they actually heal… because, my dear, the place is overpacked with wounded soldiers and civilians. They are making pretty good money by Yugo standards. I believe that any war should be proclaimed a non-profit organization. A non-profit asylum
event. Mancha got out of the hospital after having two brain surgeries. He is also suffering from what they term “arbitrary discharge from the speech center.” His thoughts come out in packaged sentences with illogical pauses in between.

“It was the bloody wristwatch, comrade. I was hungry for one, the brand new Rolex. It was there, just sitting in the middle of this field, begging to be picked up. And me, hurting so badly for one. So, it was wired, all right. I touched it, it went off and pieces of this cold metal landed in my frontal lobes. Can you imagine, a brand new Rolex being wired? I woke up in this improvised hospital and the nurse told me—you won’t believe this… She said, ‘Sometimes an enemy is so big that like children we cut off our heads and say I’m not here.’ But I was there. I was there. That unlaid broad was telling me about being here and there?”

Mancha raises his voice, but doesn’t make any appropriate gestures. His ultra high comes from the pills.

“They were feeding us with Pemoline or something. I don’t recall the right name for what got us so bombed. We stayed awake for 90 bloody hours, so up and cheerful that killing a dozen enemies was like a little mermaid singin’ a song to a human on the shore. The whole idea is enemy, you gotta make that clear. We got to the point when every human body appeared to be a moving target. Where was I? Yeah, the watches. Now I do a freak-out number from clocks and watches. I’m sure glad you don’t wear one. See what I mean, I don’t trust anyone.”

His face looked like an outdated irrigation map. Before a drought introduced new parameters. He speaks in a low,
hate-less voice.

“I got the clue, comrade. The code for staying alive is inventing the enemy. An Eskimo can make a great enemy. Do Eskimos go to church? Do they make church bells out of ice? They’d ring timidly, but they’d ring. I feel bad, that’s why I have to invent me an enemy. They are the worst. Kill ‘em all. Shoot their brains
out. Use their bodies as ashtrays. Suck their eyeballs. Yes. A Jewish Buddha from Jamaica will be my enemy. …Sorry.”

It is getting dark. Mancha does not feel like turning the porch light on. His eyes glimmer, his voice lower than a whisper.

“I’m a walking body now. Do you know who killed me flat dead right after I was born? My parents, comrade. They planted that Titoism disease in my left lung. Cancer-like, it entered my mind. My mother had Tito’s picture above her bed. She told me Tito ate Red Star ice cream out of a giant chalice. New Year’s Eve. She also said that her cousin, a professional scuba diver, used to put a live fish on Tito’s hook while the old man was fishing. The same thing with wild pig hunting: they’d feed the poor animal tranquilizers. She used to tell me that Tito died of insomnia, that he couldn’t sleep because he knew that little Mancha refused to sing in the chorus for his 75th birthday.”

Mancha’s head is on the table now, and his hand is reaching for some more Demetrins. His eyes are closed tight. Hardly moving his lips, he speaks to himself. I have an airplane ticket for him to Toronto, prepaid. It’s in my pocket, all wet, because I’m sweating like crazy. We’d somehow worked out his visa through Mr. Denys Laliberte at the Canadian embassy. I tell him that he should fly away.

“The whole world is closing in on me. I’m going to have a
rest. …I’m going way out. It’s not the house that’s closing in on me, it’s the people… I’m going to have a rest: twenty one days voluntary patient as a mental war addict. The sky is closing in on me. When I shut my eyes, the bloody gray turns to blue… I need this blue badly. When I close them eyes, I think of flying. Fly where, comrade? I don’t want to go to hell only because I’m not prepared. I always miss something… Even after they shoot your head off, you miss your hat. When they break your teeth, you still miss your toothbrush. I’ve heard more screams in three weeks than all the music in my entire life. I’ve stopped counting them… Let me tell you—I recall hearing a dead body screaming. The scream after death is long and loud. It goes straight to the sky and paints it gray. But then, after that, if there’s any after that, there’s a long silence. There’s nothing after the scream, comrade… Silenzio. See, it’s your silence, not theirs. It took me some time to figure out they’re screaming in another world.”

I offer him the ticket, saying that Toronto might be a great place for him. He raises his head and tries to talk to me with his eyes open. I even give him some good reasons to leave the country. I even mention the communist surroundings.

“I just hope,” Mancha says, “I just hope that you’re not a romantic novelist. Because… I want to rage through the world of romantic novelists with a vast pair of pliers, unflaring people’s nostrils. Reason is an emotion for the sexless. No luck here, comrade. I miss the goddam blue. When I shut my eyes, the blue enters my body. It’s not just the light shining bright, it’s my part of heaven. When I close my body down, I fly there for free. Don’t need no tickets, okay? I think you better go. When I let the blue charge me, you may go blind. Hit the road, comrade, okay? I have my moments.”

I was ready to leave. I had to. I must have been leaving when I heard him falling off the chair. I turned around and saw his body bent into an embryo. I dropped the wet ticket on the table, and I think I was on the porch stairs…

“Take the bloody paper with you,” Mancha said. I don’t need it, crutzo… Don’t need no artificial wings. I’ve engaged in exile, silence, and cunning, don’t you see? I flew too close to the sun. I can talk about the heat, not you. Take the ticket and fly for me. Tell me everything about Toronto, but don’t try to be objective. I stay here. I was born to die here. Don’t send any postcards, okay? Hey, here comes the blue… Go before it blinds you.”

I remember his voice, the shape of his body, and the enormous blue coming in over the hill. I was on the stairs. The house didn’t look at all ghostly, it was a peaceful, top of the hill, family home. The next thing I remember was a night I spent in Toronto. No blue sky, no happy faces, none of the reasons for taking off. I’ll send Mancha a letter one of these days. Not necessarily a long one. Might begin with…

“Objectivity is the first and last stage of any disease.”



Protest march against 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.


*          *           *


Oklop’s works online can all be found in the Scene4 archives, which provide these links:

December 2015

Jazz Confessions of Mika Oklop: "Factory Sealed"
By Mika Oklop

Edited and introduced by Lissa Tyler Renaud -2015/1215/lissatylerrenaud1215.html


July 2014

By Mika Oklop

Edited and introduced by Lissa Tyler Renaud -2014/0714/lissatylerrenaud0714.html


November 2013

Sketches from “Faxvel: A Novel by Fax”
By Mika Oklop

Edited and introduced by Lissa Tyler Renaud -2013/1113/lissarenaud1113.html


March 2012

"Amerika for Beginners": Bay Area Adventures of
Mika Oklop
By Mika Oklop

Edited and introduced by Lissa Tyler Renaud -2012/0312/lissarenaud0312.html


December 2011

"The Former Future": The U.S. Writings of Mika Oklop
By Mika Oklop

Edited and introduced by Lissa Tyler Renaud -2011/1211/lissarenaud1211.html




Cover Photo: Milan Oklopdzic (Mika Oklop)

December ‘93/January ‘94 in his family’s apartment in Pacifica, California.

Around the time he first sent me The Last Blue.

Photo courtesy of the Oklop Estate

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Lissa Tyler Renaud - Scene4 Magazine

Lissa Tyler Renaud, Ph.D. is director of InterArts Training (1985- ). She was co-editor of The Politics of American Actor Training (Routledge), and Editor of Critical Stages webjournal 2007-14. She has been visiting professor, master teacher, speaker and recitalist in the U.S., Asia, Europe, Russia, Mexico. She is a Senior Writer for Scene4
For her other commentary and articles, check the Archives.

©2016 Lissa Tyler Renaud
©2016 Publication Scene4 Magazine




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