Marco grabbed the plates from the table and set them in the sink. He looked for a rag then lifted all the dishes and shoved the rag into the drain and turned on the faucet. Then taking a bar of soap, he started rubbing it vigorously under the water. There was a loud explosion as the shower door flew open.
“Holy shit!” I yelled jumping from my chair.
“Mutherfucker!” Marco yelled juggling with a plate. “I told you that shit is scary.” He resumed with his dish washing.
I sat back in the chair and kept my eyes on the shower door. There was no way I was showering in this apartment.
“So now there’s five or six of us livin in this flat. These two English girls, they usually have jobs, but they both fucked off, and tried to be drug dealers, which they sucked at so they didn’t have any money. Francisco’s run out of his experiment money, and this kid Ian never works. I’m the only one with money — but barely. So no one can really afford to go out, right? But somehow those fuckers, Ian and Francisco, find a way to not only go out but they get blown out. They come home, break a bunch of shit in the kitchen area, drink all the juice, and one of them pisses on the floor. Of course all of us are sleepin’ and those fuckers wake us up, and one of the girls steps in the piss and slips an’ falls- her ass is all soaked in some fool’s urine. She gets all mad and shit, and all of a fuckin sudden it’s my fault, and the girls are yellin’ at me, tellin’ me I need to get them out, and I’m fuckin tired, but I go ahead, and take them out of the house. It’s early, like fuckin early, like five-in-the-fuckin-morning early, and we’re on the worst street in Žižkov where all the gypsies and Russian mafia hang out, and here’s me — the only black man in Prague an’ shit with two stupid fucks who are drunk and stumbling just askin to get shanked. So we’re at the non-stop havin some beers — that I paid for — and the waitress is this bitch who’s rude to us, and she’s been fightin’ with a bunch of guys sitting in some dark corner. I’m sick of the place cause it stinks, and I’m tired, and Francisco and Ian are pretty much passin out which is gonna get us kicked out anyway, judgin by the waitress’s mood. So I drag their asses outside and prop ‘em up against the phone booth while I decide to call my mom. It was afternoon or something on the east coast, so I called her.”
“Well that is certainly when I would decide to call my mom,” I said.
Marco pretended to be holding a phone in one hand and holding the other up opened palmed like a picture frame.
“Okay so check it out: those two fuckers passed out on the sidewalk and I’m on the phone in some rickety-ass 1960s phone booth, that you know also doubles as some muthufucker’s toilet and I’m talking with my mother, and I’m teasin’ her about Prague bein’ dangerous, cause it’s not. I tell her it’s worse than Philly cause she gets worried ‘bout me an’ shit cause no matter how long I’ve been gone or how old I get I’m her baby, but I tell her I’m just joking that it’s a great city that its safe n’ shit. I mean I don’t tell her about all the drugs and shitty apartments. I’m an adult you know. But moms are moms and they don’t want to know what you’re really doing. All of a sudden, all these poliza start pullin up and surround the area where we are, and my mom’s on the phone goin’ ‘What’s going on?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh shit their gonna arrest me.’ You know cause if you’re a black man in the States and a bunch of cops circle around you while you’re standing in the fucking phone booth your ass is gettin’ thrown in jail. So I basically scream.
“Ian and Francisco wake up freakin’ out, tryin’ to shove into my booth like we’re the fuckin’ culturally diverse Three Stooges, and they’re cryin’, ‘We got hash man, we got hash,’ and I’m like ‘Then get the fuck outta booth, muthufuckas!’ and my mother can hear all this shit. Then the poliza start ropin off the area next to the phone booth and they start walkin into some alley by the non-stop. My mother’s all, ‘What’s goin on?’ and I’m telling her that it’s nothing. Just the TV. I push those two fuckers out and try to calm her down, tellin’ her it’s fine. That I screamed cause I thought a saw a spider or whatever. So then Ian goes over to the alleyway and looks in and starts gaggin and then he runs back to the phone booth and, while I’m still on the phone, starts yellin’ ‘Man, it’s that waitress! She’s fuckin dead, man! Someone slit her fuckin throat — they nearly took her head off! There’s fuckin blood all over’! Then Francisco runs over to look but the poliza grab him and pull him back, and then they grab all of us. They’re screaming at us. Ian’s screamin’ cause he saw the waitress. Francisco is screamin’ cause he didn’t, and I’m just yellin’ as they push us away from the scene while my mom’s there swingin’ on the line.”
“Seriously? She was dead?” I asked, “ And you were right there? I mean that- that’s fucking scary. A waitress got murdered right next to you guys and you didn’t hear anything?” I stuttered over my words because honestly it freaked me out. Serial killers. Everywhere. I could hear my father’s voice in my head saying, ‘you see I told you not to go out there nothing but rapists and murderers’.
Marco slowly shook his head. “No. Isn’t that fucked? They probably killed her in the non-stop and then threw her body in the alley.” He sat back down then jumped back up again spinning toward me. “Shiiiit I bet they killed her as soon as we walked out the door. You know, that fuckin’ coulda been us muthufuckas. We coulda been cut. That’s evil. I bet the Russian mafia did it. I bet she owed them money. Or she was being too much of a bitch.” He shrugged and sat back down. “Then the week after, some guy robs me by pullin a knife on me.”
“Jesus.” I said, beginning to feel a bit nervous about where I had just decided to move. “Your poor mom.”
“Yeah. Shit I know. Thank God she’s poor or she’d uv’ flown over here and dragged my ass home. Sucked. But nothin’s happened since we moved over here. Just two streets over.” He got up and walked over to the window and leaned out. “Worst fuckin street in Praha!” he yelled, his voice carrying over the empty lot. “I hope no one heard me.” He chuckled. “I gotta get some sleep,” he said, stretching his arms above his head.
“Me, too,” I said standing.
“Hey. You wanna go to school with me tomorrow?” he asked while kneeling down to shut the music off.
“Yeah I’d love to go to school with you tomorrow,” I said. “I wanna see you teach.”
“You gotta get chor ass up early.”
“What’s early?” I asked.
“Oh that’s not bad.”
“Not yet,” he said. “A’ight. Goodnight.” He disappeared into his room and shut the door then opened it again, and peeked his head around the corner to look at me. “Hey, Annabelle, I’m really glad you’re here.”
“Me too,” I said. “Thanks for inviting me. Sorry I was late.”
“S’alright. You’re here now. Night.” Then he shut his door.
I sat in my chair till I saw the light from under Marco’s door shut off, and then I headed into Francisco’s room. I sat on the edge of the futon. The cotton and fibers had turned into hardened lumps causing the mattress to feel like clumps of packed dirt shoved into fabric. It was something to sleep on. I was exhausted and still hungry. The tuna patty was not sufficient to fend off the ache in my stomach. I lay back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. I thought about the waitress at the non-stop. I thought about my father. My father: a paranoid man. He was certain that if we ever left home we would be killed in some horrible way. To prove his point he would cut out every news article and recite every news story that involved the rape of some poor woman or some terrible murder, and tell it to my sister and I like he was telling bedtime stories. The further away the city the more gruesome the tale. In case we didn’t believe him he would often leave the cut out article stuck to the fridge or slipped between the pages of our schoolbooks. Before I left for Europe my father’s words of wisdom and support were, “well, I sure hope I don’t read about you in the paper”. Marco’s story made me anxious and excited. Gypsies, mafia, and dead waitresses in alleyways: it was like something out of an old pulp fiction. Then there were the people, his kids; all the ones who had gone away for whatever reason, like selling their own bodies for medical experiments. It was like all of my father’s words of warning were coming true in this one place only not as terrifying as my dad’s news articles. I was ready for whatever came my way. Except dead bodies. I didn’t know if I was safe, but I didn’t feel unsafe. I fell into a deep sleep dreaming of winding cobbled streets, dark alleyways, and insects eating chicken and tuna from the branches of tall trees. The dreams were somewhat unnerving.