Ian jumped into a seat beside us; he was clearly drunk. “Oi, We ‘ave ta go ta the A-Krop later. ‘Causin I told those g-ells over there,” he pointed toward the two girls he had been sitting on. They smiled and toasted him. “Ahh the French, luvley.” He grabbed Marco’s beer and toasted back.
“Hey.” Said Marco, “Mutha—“
“So’in, I told ‘em we’d show ‘em ‘ow ta get there.” Ian made a sudden jerk of his head and set Marco’s beer back onto the table. “Oh ‘ere? Shite.” He was looking past Marco toward the front door. “Wot’s this? Aww Fuck me.”
A woman, tall, like a runway model, nothing but legs, long hair, and a face like a classic doll, walked through the door. Her dark hair fell over her shoulders down past her waist. She stood looking around the room for a second. She spotted Ian and then rushed toward him, and leaned into him covering his body and face with her hair. He placed his hand on her butt.
I looked to Marco with raised questioning eyebrows to which Marco answered with a shrug, and a drink.
Ian’s hand slid down along her thigh. Their exchange was hushed and brief. She rose from his body, gave a quick short smile to Marco, a glance over to me, then left. Ian watched her go then pulled at his hair, and without a word he went back to the table of the French girls.
“Who was that?” I asked Marco.
“That was Ian’s girlfriend. She’s nice, she doesn’t speak a whole lot of English, but we still have managed to talk a little. You’ll never see her again. He’s going to fuck it up tonight.”
“She is striking.” I said.
“I know. Shame she’s wasting her time with him.”
“So what’s he doing with those French girls?” I asked.
“Being the ass that he is. He always has a new girlfriend. They’re usually beautiful, nice and everyone likes them longer than he does, then he breaks their hearts, and then we never see them again. Gets annoying cause they always cry to me about him. I don’t even like him that much.” He said. “He gets slapped a lot. That’s funny.”
I laughed and finished my beer. “So are we going out tonight?”
“Yeah, but first I want to take you to my friend Sedik’s bar, The Seven Wolves. Sedik is cool; he’s my favorite person here. He’s older than the rest of us, in his forties maybe, he’s kinda like the dad always keeping an eye out checkin up on us kids. Sayin things like you kids ought not take so many drugs, and if you don’t take care you’re all gonna kill yourselves. Course he’s usually high or somethin’. He’s cool as shit. A good, good person. You’ll meet a lot of good people, but he is a good true person. You can’t rely on many people, but he’ll get your back.” He finished his beer than slammed it on the table. “Auf gehts.” He said rising to his feet.
We let Ian know we were stopping at Sedik’s before the A-Krop and then headed out the door. I loved that the man that we were going to meet was the one who kept an eye out for all the kids who did too many drugs, yet he was usually high all the time. I was curious about these friends of Marco’s. So far it wasn’t that out of the ordinary as far as going out was concerned, but like Marco had said, I had only been here one day.
“Tell me a story Marco.” I said gliding my arm under his as we began to meander and zigzag over the cobblestone and paved alley-like streets toward The Seven Wolves.
“What about?’ He asked.
“How about your friends the English girls– the bad drug dealers. That sounds funny.” I loved to listen to him tell stories. I wanted to know more about what it was like here.
“Shhhit tell me about it. Pathetic is more accurate.” He said.
We wandered down Bořivojova toward a street called Krasova, with Marco leading the way. People passed us as we snaked around them.
“Thing is, it’s pretty easy to sell here. There are enough stupid tourists that are willing to buy drugs cause they hear that Prague’s drug scene is really lax, and the club scene is cool so they are willing to buy. Some people come here just to try the club scene. But thing is you don’t wanna get caught sellin. I mean you can go to jail plus there is the Russian mafia and gypsies and probably a Czech mafia.”
We came to a street named Vikova. Marco pointed for us to turn.
“How can you tell Russian mafia from Czech mafia?” I asked squeezing his arm as he swung me around a sharp cornered street.
“Russians frown when they kill you. Czech’s smile.” He said.
“Seriously.” I lost my grip on his arm. I was floored that he would know something like that.
“No.” He said rolling his eyes at me like I was stupid. “I don’t fuckin’ know. I just assume there has to be a Czech mafia because why not? Everybody’s gotta make a buck, and why not in your own city? But, any guy with slicked-back hair dressed in black slacks, a black turtleneck, and wearing a cheap fake leather bomber jacket is probably Russian, and that makes him mafia. It’s like I’m setting up a movie here, Annabelle. I gotta getta agent- this shit’s golden!”
He began to walk twice his usual speed, which was already pretty fast, then turned and disappeared into a doorway under a bright painted sign that said, The Seven Wolves. The bar was empty except for us, the bartender, and a girl at the table near the large pane glass windows. The place was painted a rustic red and there were graffiti art paintings on the wall. There was a set of stairs by the entrance way that lead down toward another room.
Marco walked up to the bar and began talking to the bartender, a sinewy tall black man with ashen skin and round melancholy eyes; even when he smiled there was a trace of sadness that washed over his face. The man poured a beer for Marco then poured another drink and walked out from behind the bar to set a tumbler down in front of a young woman with thick straight shoulder-length hair. Her face was turned away from us and I could only make out the roundness of her cheekbone and the light flush of pink that contrasted against her crème skin. The corner of her mouth pulled back into a smile as she reached for her glass. The bartender placed his hand on the back of her head saying something to her. He brushed his fingers over her mahogany hair then walked back behind the bar and stood for a moment in front of Marco who was already drinking his beer. He pulled out a stool for me.
“Basically don’t fuckin’ try to sell drugs. It’s fuckin’ stupid.”
He passed his beer to me. I took a drink.
The bartender behind the counter was counting money from a small till at the far end of the bar.
“So, like I was sayin’ — risky. Now all us muthufuckers had been partying our asses off this winter, spendin’ all our money, drinkin, fuckin doin drugs, whatever we can get our hands on, but not peeko. Stay away from that shit if anyone offers you that. It’s lower than crack, fucks you up. Kids that do that shit just don’t seem right after.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“Household chemicals, shit gasoline — I don’t know. Fucked-up stuff that fucks people’s shit.” He took another sip. “So we are blown out all winter, priorities whacked, money spent first on drugs, second on shelter or food.” He finished off the beer and pushed the glass away from him. “So these two girls had been living in England makin pounds, so of course they come back with all this money because the pound is strong.”
The bartender finished counting his till and walked back to Marco and grabbed the empty pint glass that Marco had pushed toward the edge.
“Sedik,” Marco said, “This is Annabelle.”
“Oh yes.” He said with a soft smile. “The missing friend. Nice to meet you, Annabelle.” He turned his gaze back to Marco, “I have to go downstairs and fix the turntable. Somehow it is not working. Do you want another beer before I leave? You Annabelle?”
We both answered yes, and Sedik poured two glasses of beer.
“If people are standing here, Marco, tell them to go downstairs will you?” Sedik was possibly the third or fourth person that had called me the missing friend. Marco had told everyone that he was expecting that I was arriving on the train that day.
He handed the beers to us and then walked over to the table with the girl. He whispered something to her. She turned to look at Marco and me. Her bright green eyes flashed in our direction as she gave a quick smile then returned to looking out the window.
“Sedik is from Africa,” Marco said. “He can speak nine languages. I thought about having you work here, but you need to be able to speak Czech.”
“You speak Czech?” I asked.
“I can say beer downstairs.”
“Oh I wanna hear.”
“Pivo.” Then he pointed in the direction of the stairs. “I will, though.” He said taking a drink of beer. He stared at the inside of the glass for a second. His expression became serious like he was contemplating a thought or examining the beer bubbles. “I’ll learn. I live here now. I can say more than that, but not enough.”