We walked along sharp narrow streets crisscrossing multiple crossroads, turns, and right angles for what seemed like an hour. Every street looked the same in the darkness. I watched my feet like two miniature race cars speeding over cobblestones and brickwork. I had told Marco to meet me at the Hlavní Nádraží two weeks before, but I never showed. I had walked halfway to a station in Germany and then in a fit of panic I ran back to a friend’s apartment. I didn’t know if I was making the right decision. As if there was a right decision. I think I had some kind of a breakdown, but I wasn’t sure. Travelers do not have breakdowns, because we are supposed to be more certain of ourselves — or some kind of mysterious power that makes traveling seem stressless and carefree. The strangest feelings of doubt and insecurities began to fill up inside me until I felt like I could no longer breath. After all, I was twenty-seven, and I needed to face the responsibilities of adulthood, not trudge across Europe as if I could afford it. I had no security, no future. I had no money, and very little contact with my family back in the states. They didn’t even know where I was or where I had been. My parents didn’t understand the desire to travel. My mother thought I’d been switched out at birth and a wealthy hedonistic family was tragically dragging her real child across the continents.
I had been paralyzed with indecision, but I didn’t tell Marco this, in fact, I didn’t tell him anything. I purposely neglected to call him. What if he thought I was crazy? What if I was crazy? Fear can make a person behave in erratic ways. I didn’t want to be controlled by my fears, but I was afraid I was being controlled by my fears. I hid in a closet. I mean literally hid in the closet. It was to be a move from one country to another without having a job or any security or money. People did that all the time. I had done that before in my own past. There was no need to panic.
If I did find Marco, I wasn’t sure if he would be happy to see me. He was teaching at a high school somewhere in the city. During our last conversation, he had told me he was going to bring his students to the train station to meet me. It was exactly something he would try to do. I hoped that the school wouldn’t allow him to do it. I could see him there with all his students watching the trains coming and going. Waiting. For all he knew I could be dead. I dragged my feet along the street behind the Americans. The sound of the dirt scratching against the cold sealed stones reminded me of the distant sound of a train speeding over the tracks. The train I missed. Marco was the only person I knew here and the one person who could help me make Prague my home, and I had stood him up.
“Hey,” the girl said, interrupting my thoughts.
“This Street is called Bořivojova.” She pointed to a placard drilled into the stone of a building. “Isn’t this the name of the street you were looking for?”
I pulled my notebook out of my pocket and looked at the address below the name. “Yeah,” I said.
“Looks like this is your stop,” said the guy.
I waved goodbye to the couple and watched them disappear into the shadows between the buildings. I knew I’d never see them again. I kept waving even after they were gone.
I put the notebook back into my pocket and started wandering along the street looking for a sign that said “Feste’s.” My backpack was starting to hurt. I could feel the straps digging into my shoulders, and my lower back ached. I wandered from one end of the street to the other. The night had a light chill that was only just beginning to hit me. I shivered as I turned to walk back up the street.