Aleks never read my screenplays. In our early days—seventeen of them, to be exact, between our meeting and our wedding—he was reading Charles Bukowski in paperback. While I thus mistook my future husband for a hard-bitten intellectual belying the fragile spirit of a poet, the better description might be "blathering drunkard."
Aleks had been a dog trainer during his mandatory service in the Yugsolavian National Army. He skipped the country on a seaman’s visa before the outbreak of its civil war, when his duel ethnicity would have forced him to pick a side. We met one New Year’s Eve aboard a cruise ship, where I was a rookie journalist researching a travel guidebook and he was tending the midnight buffet in a white dinner jacket. He gave me a wink and a sprinkle of extra walnuts. I liked the way he said the word, as though it began with a “v” and finished with a “shh.”
The next time I heard from him he’d been fired and deported following a fistfight with a roughneck pastry chef from the wrong side of France. He only got as far as Frankfurt, since the Serbs had bombed the airport in his hometown of Dubrovnik. He hoped I’d come help him either escape back into Croatia or use my journalist credentials to return him to the U.S. I was half-way across the Atlantic before concluding, mysteriously, that wedlock was the best plan of attack.
I brought my surprise husband home to Miami, where he joined Mickey Rourke’s back alley boxing gym, discovered illegal drugs and struggled mightily with the pitfalls of capitalism, such as holding down a job. By night, he worked as a bouncer for actor Sean Penn, who then owned a South Beach bar called, ironically, Bash. Intervening during a bar fight one night, Aleks was seriously injured, nearly losing an eye.
He gave me half the court settlement in our divorce, and I used it to move to Hollywood and become a screenwriter. Aleks went to Marseilles to join the French Foreign Legion, but was deemed too large—and I’m guessing too often snockered—for covert operations. Last I heard he was in Dubai bodyguarding a Saudi sheik
All these years later, people often wonder why I never write about him, my real life hero with so many oversized flaws. Back in film school, when I mentioned the details in an e-mail to Obi Wan Kenobi, my legendary structure professor wrote back, “Is this fiction?” The trouble with writing your life, as Mr. Bukowski might have agreed, is even a fine, aged truth never goes down as whisky smooth as the lies.
Posted August 27, 2006