We finished off the last of our beers, gathered our things and headed to the hostel. The sun was dropping and a soft lavender light with a strip of blue settled behind the silhouette of the linden trees. As we walked away from the park the dim roar of the beer tent faded into the atmosphere and the approaching night. A gentle chill was beginning to descend around us and we each pulled our arms around ourselves. Marco wrapped his arm over my shoulder and led me back toward Feste’s. Ian marched ahead of us shouting and singing the song “Looking for a Kiss” from the New York Dolls. I watched as the smoke from Ian’s cigarette floated around Canada Mike and his visiting friend Jon, as they ambled on beside him.
“Ya everyone’s in yor house, and they shootin up in yor room, fuckin’ beau-it-ful and gloomed!”
Ian’s lyrics hit us like an aural assault, tumbling off the stone and brick buildings and bouncing like giant boulders of sound toward Marco and I as we walked behind them.
“He always fucks up the lyrics.” Marco said as he searched his pockets for his cigarettes.
Someone slammed open a window above us and shouted at our group. For a second I thought maybe it was someone they knew, but I quickly realized it was intended for Ian’s singing. Ian, without looking in the direction of the voice, held up his two fingers in an English “fuck you,” and sang louder.
“Charming fellow, huh?” Said Marco still looking for his cigarettes. “Fuck” He mumbled.
At Feste’s four of us sat around a table with several pints and shots of Becherovka, a hard spirit made from herbs and flowers. The shot’s strong taste of cinnamon and anise burned deep through my sinuses, down my gullet, and into the pit of my stomach where it heated like a potbelly furnace.
Ian wandered around the bar chatting up various tables of new arrivals. Sandy, the southern girl I had met the day before, was working behind the bar. She was wearing the same loose leather pants and shimmery red sleeveless shirt that exposed her boney arms.
The Canada boys were huddled over their empty pints deep in a heated conversation. Sandy interrupted their discussion to ask Canada Mike something about the morning till. The shots hit me pretty fast. I could feel my nose beginning to tingle with numbness. I scanned the room to look at all the strangers talking in groups of all sizes as though they had known each other their whole lives. Most of these people would be here a day or two maybe a week. Prague was just a stop on a larger journey. Whatever that journey happened to be. Yet, it felt as if we all belonged here at this very moment. It wasn’t until I left my xenophobic parents, that I began to think that we, as in humanity, were all connected. It was strange to have spent the majority of my life around my family, my flesh and blood, and have felt so alone, so isolated, so trapped, and yet, out in the world traveling alone I had felt more connected to strangers. Friendships seemed to happen faster. It was more in the moment. I felt more connected to every stranger in this room than I had ever been to anyone I knew before like I had a divine kinship to them all. We were a tsunami of beings rolling into one another, and powerful enough to destroy and renew with our thoughts and actions; it was kismet. I was kind of drunk.
“Canada Mike works here.” Said Marco, “I tried to get a job here but muthufuckers wouldn’t hire me.” Marco shot a dirty look over toward Sandy then laughed at himself. “Sandy said they’ll need help this summer so maybe I’ll get some work then cause I’ll be out of a job. I’ll still have a couple of students but not enough.”
“Your kids?” I asked.
“No. I teach English to some adults that I found ads for posted at various hostels. I have this Korean lady that I teach every once in awhile.”
A thin willow of a man walked behind the bar and drew his arm around Sandy’s waist. He bent over to speak into her ear. He held his arms up at his elbows with his hands hanging limp from his wrists like a praying mantis. When he straightened up he stood at least six foot-four with his dyed burgundy hair piled on top of his head like a turban adding more inches to his height. He wore heavy combat boots and walked with long slow clumping strides. He was the definition of long; his arms were long, his torso long, his face was long and of course his legs were long, and exposed, he wore short cut-offs with a low waistline. His white t-shirt had been cut off at the arms, and a deep v had been cut into the front, and it had been shortened to show his lightly haired reddish-blonde torso. When he stood he arched his back and stuck out his flat belly. He looked like a seventies glam rocker with his silver and black bracelets, rings, and necklaces that hung around his wrists, fingers, and neck. Knotted loosely around his neck was a red bandana. He poured himself a glass of white wine took a sip then set it on the counter behind the bar before spotting the group of us huddled in the corner then clumped and swayed over to where we were sitting. The man moved like he was pushing through the atmosphere, as if he could feel those gaseous elements blocking his path. Placing his hands with delicate grace on the table while looking at me he addressed Marco.
“Hey, Marco, how are sings?” he said in what sounded like a German accent. His tone and cadence were as long and drawn out as his face and body.
“Fine.” Said Marco looking around the room.
“So, who is dis beautiful woman you have sitting at your side?” He smiled at me and gave a slow wink.
His pants were cut so low that if they were any lower you would be able to see his pubic hair coming out from under his belt buckle. I shifted in my chair and tried to adjust my gaze.
“Man, you need to pull up yor pants.” Said Marco.
“You are quiet funny, Marco.” He took my hand and gave it a slow long shake. His fingers wrapped like rice paper around my hand. “It is nice to meet you, my name is Cash.”
“Hey, Cash, why don’t you bring us some drinks.” Said Marco.
Cash let go of my hand and stood back with one crooked arm on his hip, and arched his belly. “I don’t do the table service you know that, Marco.” He turned to look back to me. “But, since your new friend is here I’m happy to help you.” He clumped back to the bar to pour our drinks.
“Muthufucker needs to pull up his pants, he be showin his pubes n’ shit.” Said Marco. You know he does that shit on purpose, cause that muthafucker is too put together.”
“Maybe it works for him.” I said.
Marco stared at me a moment then looked back to Cash. “Humph. Whateva’.” He snorted then as if in an afterthought, “maybe I should try it.” Then he snickered, “just jokin’”.
Cash placed the drinks on our table then he returned to the bar where Sandy was serving a patron.
“So those English girls, your old roommates, they were drug dealers?” I asked over the rising roar of the bar.
“Fuck no.” Laughed Marco, “they tried but they sucked. Look at that muthufucker.” He said gesturing at Ian who was sitting on the laps of two giggling girls. “They think he’s charming an’ shit but they don’t know he’s just after them to buy him drinks. And they will.” He pursed his lips then threw back a shot.
Marco and I were now sitting alone at the table with our backs against the wall so we could watch everyone. At the back of the bar was a small piano and two large swinging doors that lead up to the rooms of the hostel. People were standing everywhere and all the tables were full, it was busy compared to the night before. A train full of travelers must have just come in. As we sat quietly taking in the crowd the double doors to the hostel flew open and slammed against the walls. I jumped and caused Marco to jump.
“God damn muthufucker.” He yelped, “Give me a muthafuckin’ heart attack. What the fuck?” He said glaring at me as if I knew what had caused the door to fly open.
It was the blonde angelic boy from the night before. He had stumbled out of the doors and was leaning against the piano. He shook his head as if to wake up, and, half running half walking, began to move toward the exit. He stopped and stood in the archway beside our table with his hand bracing himself against the wall near the seat closest to Marco. He was thin and muscular, but had an unhealthy malnourished look that showed in his dull skin tone. His hair was spiked and messed either on purpose or by not making any effort. He nodded his head down and popped it back up again, then looked at us. His eyes were slant and mischievous and the color of blue ice like glaciers that you would see in Alaska. The white around his irises was flooded with red. He had an ethereal magnetic glow to him, but he also looked totally fucked up. I wasn’t sure if he was going to sit down in Marco’s lap, fall down, or keep walking. His eyes rapidly darted from Marco to me, and back to Marco. He had a sharp nose that pointed down to his thin sharp lips that suddenly pulled into a devilish smile before he pushed himself off the wall, and then stumbled out toward the front door.
“Wow.” Said Marco looking around the corner at the guy.
“My thoughts exactly.” I said. I shook my head a little to shake the effect of his presence. I felt like I had picked up a contact high just by looking at him.