I sat down next to Rachele. “Hi.”
Her eyes were a soft pink with a light rose outline of her irises. I had never seen an albino person before, and I couldn’t stop staring at her. Her cheeks were smooth like ceramic, but lightly flushed from drinking. She looked like an illustration from a children’s book of fairytales.
“So, where yeh ben?” Her accent was a mix between New York and London. She could have been from either place.
“Oh, I had a delay. Things, stuff. You know, life,” I said, adding an obvious awkward nod to my head. I didn’t feel like explaining that I had spent the past two weeks crying in some closet in Germany because I was moving to Prague, and I was suddenly scared and afraid I was too old to be traveling or too old to be anything. I didn’t know how to explain it. It felt ridiculous to me to feel the way I had felt. I felt weak, and I knew I couldn’t share my experience without judgment or insecurity so I stuttered out some lame flippant excuse that made me appear indifferent.
Rachele’s face remained expressionless as she examined me. “Hmmmm. You shouldn’t leave yeh stuff there on the ground fa very long, there a lot of thieves here.” She took another drink of her beer. “Would yeh like a beer?” she asked.
“Marco is bringing me one. Thank you.”
We sat in silence for a moment. I wanted to ask her questions like, could she go out in the sun or did she have to avoid direct light? But just thinking those questions made me feel like an idiot, as if the woman would burst into flames or something. Would she burst into flames? I wondered what level sunscreen she had to use. I thought it better to keep my questions to myself.
Rachele kept looking at me as if she could read my thoughts. As though she were trying to decide whether I was worth talking to or not. I realized that my indifference to my tardiness might have given Rachele a negative impression of me. After all I stood up her friend. Who knows how he felt that day. Was he mad? Worried? I wasn’t indifferent, but it was too late to explain. We sat in silence till Marco returned.
Marco placed a beer in front of me then sat across from us.
Rachele stood up and pushed her chair in. “Nice to finally meet yeh.” She said to me. “See yeh Marco.”
“Thanks. Nice to meet you too,” I said as Rachele headed up the stairs. I didn’t think I made a very good impression on her, and I wondered how close they were.
“So what the fuck happened?’ He asked, “I was ready for you. Even brought some of my kids to the station.”
Of course he brought his kids to the station. I decided to play dumb to cover up the embarrassment that was quickly rushing through me. “Your kids?”
“The 17-year-olds from my class at the school where I teach. I’d been talking about you comin so long they wanted to meet you, so they came to the train station.”
“Oh, Marco, don’t tell me that, it makes me feel bad.”
“Good. You should feel bad. Lettin’ down eager students like that.” He chastised me in a playful voice.
“I just had — I had some complications,” I said setting my beer carefully onto the table. I knew he was teasing me, but I couldn’t hide my own disappointment in myself.
“Ya, like your complicatin’ ass wasn’t on the train. Well I had a place for you,” he said.
“You did?” This surprised me. He had mentioned that he would find me a place, but I didn’t know he would actually find me one.
“Yeah, but you didn’t come, so I had to give it to someone. I showed it to a couple of Irish girls,” he said, taking a drink.
“S’al’ight. You can stay at my place till we figure things out. My roommate’s out of town so you can sleep in his room till he gets back.”
I scanned the bar, but there were not many people in the place. We were sitting across from each other at a large wooden table with a bench on Marco’s side. Seated next to us at a small table, the size of a chessboard, were a pale thin young man and a woman. The man was unusual looking, very blonde, and very thin. His hair was fine and spiked like white wheat. His features were sharp and elfish. He wore a dark blue jean jacket and dark blue jeans to match. When he talked he moved his wiry arms with broad expressive and sweeping gestures. As he chatted to the girl, he would lean dangerously to one side of his chair and then back toward the other a lot like a metronome. I couldn’t help smiling as he ticked on his chair from one side to the other. Just watching him I felt the impulse to rock my head from side to side to match his rhythm. I imagined it would be challenging to carry on a conversation with him. He held a lighter in his fist and flicked the flame on with his thumb in monotonous repetition. He was angelic, but like a fallen angel from some kind of a comic book, which was kind of eerie.