I turn off the last of the lights and lay down just as the sun begins to rise. The fresh light pushes its way through the cracks of the window shade, impatient to reach my tired eyes. It’s been one long day directly following an even longer evening. My body is exhausted and aches in familiar places. I want nothing more than to fall asleep at this moment; deep, undisturbed for twelve hours at least.
I don’t wake to the sound of my alarm or the unavoidable noises of hostel roommates. Instead, I’m greeted by the sound and smell of fresh rainfall. I stretch my body and yawn deeply; my dry lips crack at the strain. I wet them with saliva and sit up. This memory foam mattress has done me well. I inhale the freshness of the morning and attempt not to run through the list of things-to-do this week while I’m still coming out of this sleep coma.
In the City Center, women wear their best dresses, ones with slits up the hip or that are too short, but always form-fitting. The city is expensive and full of transients, just as I remember it. There are far more signs in English, however, not how I remember it. Tourism has undoubtedly picked up here as evident by the free walking tours meeting in the square and the influx of westerners walking around with backpacks and metal canteens for water. Historically, Skopje wasn’t always the capital city of this country, but the influx of businesses and its location in the Balkans has made Skopje a growing city. Rental prices have skyrocketed, large residential developments continue to go up and there are new bars/nightclubs (it seems) every other week.
I’m nostalgic about this, my fourth return to Macedonia. More mindful of the rapport established and what having lived here represents in my life. I collect these experiences like coins in a personal piggy bank of priceless memories. The humidity is at 90% these days, reminding me how much I adore European summers. Strangers stare at me as I peck away on my phone; the strange foreigner wearing sandals in what’s shaping up to be a thunderstorm. The wind picks up, thunder booms overhead then the sky opens up. I duck under a wooden overhang to avoid the summer rain. The cracked cobblestone streets of Old Town flood quickly as storm drains dump small rivers of collected rain now plummeting from the rooftops. The atmosphere spits lightning in an angry protest; a warning that I may be stuck here for more than a little while. At the same moment I take my eyes off of my phone and raise them to watch the sky, a patron runs across the alleyway to request a photograph. I smile politely—roll my eyes internally—I’m trapped here so I figure why not. And so it begins, I tell myself.