I asked for a beer in a tavern on the road to Mostar from Sarajevo back in 1996. The bartender set up a glass and a warm can of beer. I remember touching the can and correcting him, hladno pivo molim, a cold beer please. The young man said nothing, his forelock of greasy dark hair between his eyes, and he brought me a new can, wet from a hose behind the building, the same temperature as the first.
My friend and host, momentarily distracted, missed the transaction and asked the bartender something I did not understand. “he said that’s the last one for you” he told me. “What did I do?” I asked, offended and hurt. You want a cold beer? He says go back to America and get one. In a country freshly ruined from war, I blunder in mincing about beer vs. a cold beer, oblivious that to drink a beer at all, in a quiet room of strangers and smoke a cigarette, was a priceless gift from God, and that the only good response is živjeli !
I can taste the shame of that Lasko Pivo in the back of my throat as I write this 17 years later, and I would give anything to go back and drink that first warm can, and enjoy it, and buy another.