He took a drink then sat it on the bar and stared off for a bit. He quickly jumped back into his story.
“So these two move here from the UK and they’re spending money like fuckin stupid when one of these fool’s wakes up to an empty bank account. She’s checked out their savings and noticed that they didn’t have any savings left. They barely have enough to pay the rent, and since they both fucked off their jobs there was no money comin’ in. So the kids are freakin out about the lack of funds.”
As Marco was talking two people walked up to the bar.
“Pivo.” Marco said then he pointed downstairs.
They both looked at him a second and then headed down the staircase that was at the edge of the bar.
“I don’t know which one of those muthufuckers came up with the idea, but instead of finding a job or pulling together all the money they had between them for rent they decided to spend all their money on drugs. But not to use, so they said, but to sell. The idea was that they would make a large enough profit to pay their rent and have some left over. My friends can be dumb muthufuckers. Like, you’d think maybe Francisco and Sebby could find something other than experiments for cash. Just stupid.”
“Is it that easy just becoming a dealer like that?” I had absolutely no idea how the life of a new drug dealer was.
“Shit, I don’t know. Maybe for people who are good at it but not them,” He took another drink then jumped off his stool to talk.
“They buy a bunch of hash but mostly X. But of course once they buy the shit they decide to celebrate by doing some. And since it’s no fun celebrating alone they invite their friends — us — to party, and of course we all broke as shit and we ain’t payin’. So after about a week, they are low on the product and desperate to sell so they go to the clubs and try to push the shit. But like I said, you don’t want to end up like that non-stop waitress, so you need to be discreet.”
“Like lean up against the wall for people to come to you like in the movies?” I asked picturing the scenario in my mind. I saw the girls and the club in my head: everything was black with the flashing of silver and gold lights, people with slicked-back hair and bomber jackets or trench coats or track-suits I couldn’t quite decide what type of drug dealers I wanted to fixate on.
“Yes exactly. But no one goes up to them because they look like users not dealers.”
“So no one was coming up to them?” I said prompting him.
“No. People would come up to ask if they wanted anything.” He said. “So one of them gets desperate and tells a guy who’s sellin that she’s sellin. He looks right at her and he says she better get the fuck out if she knows what’s good for her. But more Czech like. So she get’s freaked thinking everyone is after them. She grabs the other and they run home too afraid to leave the flat for like a week. So now they’re depressed and broke.”
“But they still have drugs to sell?”
“Right, so they go to Francisco, and ask him if he’ll sell the drugs for them. It’s easy for him. He just leans against the wall with sunglasses on and people walk up to see if he’s holdin. All the time. He’s so fuckin evil lookin, people think he’s the head of the underworld. And, he is fuckin evil cause he sells all of the shit, and then and he takes most of the profits for his standing fee, as he called it, and leaves those two fucked. That’s how he treats his friends. So they get kicked out and then move in with me till they were able to get people from back home to wire them some money to get back to England.”
“But they are coming back? Here to Prague? Praha?” I asked.
“Hell yes, they are coming back. They love it here. Kids are just away at school.” He said jokingly. I notice a subtle falter to his tone, and I wondered if he really believed that they would be returning to Prague. I wondered how important to him it was that they came back and why. Did he have a romantic relationship with one of them, or both of them, was there something he wasn’t telling me, or were they really just like a tight-knit family? He never used their names when talking about them. He just called them the English girls, and I wondered if this was his way of creating some kind of distance or was that how they were known, like Canada Mike, they were the girls from England.
Sedik returned to the bar. He slowly shook his head and poured himself a beer.
“I’m going to have to get a new turntable. So many things are fucked up, it is driving me crazy. You know what I am talking about Marco?” He waved the girl at the table over to join us.
She picked up her drink and purse then stood beside me at the bar. She had a fresh clean smell, like mint and lavender. Her eyes were far greener and brighter than I thought now that she was standing close to me. She was healthy with a strong bright smile, straight teeth and dark weighty lashes. She didn’t seem like a back packer, but like someone who had a home and a job. Someone well settled into her life.
“This is Zuzana. Zuzana these are my friends Marco and Annabelle. I will close up early,” said Sedik. “Zuzana and I were going to stay here for a bit and you two are welcome to stay.”
“No thanks,” Said Marco, “we have to meet Ian at the A-Krop.”
“Oh, Ian,” Sedik said with a knowing nod then he took a drink of the beer he had poured. “Have Sebby and Francisco returned yet?”
“No and I’m kinda worried cause I haven’t heard anything from them and they’ve been gone a lot longer than usual.” Said Marco.
“Get themselves killed someday.” Sedik pursed his lips and sadly shook his head.
Zuzana turned toward me and smiled.
“So,” I asked. “Where are you from?” This was the default thing to say to someone when you first met a person and had no background on him or her or no idea how to start the conversation. It’s polite fiction that you hope can develop into deeper conversation. I did love to find out where people were coming from since you never knew where in the world their lives had taken them or where they were going.
“From here.” She said. “Prague.” She smiled once again then said, “So you came from Germany? Sedik told me his friend Marco had a friend missing that was to come from Germany.”
Her voice was soft and slightly staccato with flitting inflections.
“And you had lived with Marco in Bavaria and he said you also lived together once in France?” She asked.
“Yeah.” I answered.
“Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”
“Nein.” I said feeling sheepish.
“Oh. Parlez vous français?”
“Un peu, mais tres un peu.”
“Oh.” She had a well-earned look of puzzlement on her face.
“I know. It’s pathetic. I do want to learn. I mean I learn enough to get around, but I can’t have conversations. I was on an American base for a while you know. I was getting a little better at French. Maybe if I stayed somewhere longer than three or four months at a time.” I tapped at my beer glass. It was pathetic living three years overseas and only being able to ask for beer — and only up to ten glasses at a time. I could say “please” and “thank you,” but I was really a linguistic tragedy. I was a perfect example of the old joke: What do you call a person who speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call a person who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call a person who speaks one language? American.
“So, I take it you can speak those languages?” I asked.
“How many languages do you speak?”
She thought for a moment and inhaled her breath. “Seven.”
“Seven? Jesus.” I said.
“Sedik knows nine.” She said.
“Yeah, I heard. What languages do you speak?”
“German, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish, English and of course Czech. Sedik is teaching me Swahili.” She had no smugness in her voice. She was sweet and kind in every way and mentioned her languages as if this were just how she was raised. And it was how she was raised.
“Wow. How’d you learn so many?” I asked.
She shrugged. “We had to learn Russian in school, and with Germany so close we had to learn German. I really like Italy so I learned Italian. Since I had learned that Latin language I went on to study French and Spanish. My favorite language is French. After the Velvet Revolution, and when I was able to raise up some money, I had lived in France for a bit to study, but I love Italy. French I like to speak, Italy I love to live. My Spanish is okay, but my English is not so good.”
“Well, it’s a hell of a lot better than my Czech.” I said grabbing my glass.
“You speak any Czech?” She raised her eyebrows and sat up in her seat like an excited child. She had completely missed my sarcasm.
“No.” I said into my beer. “I would like to learn though. I hear it is a tough language to learn.”
Zuzana smiled once again at me, and shrugged. “Yes, I guess. It is a rather difficult language. If you would truly like to learn I will teach you.”
“You will? I couldn’t afford to pay you.”
“No. That is fine. I would like you to speak to me in English so that my English can get better and I will teach you Czech.”
I sat up straight in my seat, “I would like that.” I felt excited. I wasn’t exactly certain why I felt so excited. I was terrible at learning languages, but I felt like it was a great opportunity for me to learn and to get to know Prague intimately. I imagined myself having heated conversations with strangers or being able to read in Czech or sitting at a corner café on a Sunday morning reading a Czech newspaper. I’d have an excellent accent of course.
“When would you like to meet?”
“Um. God, I don’t know, whenever you would. I don’t know my way around yet so I wouldn’t even know where to meet.”
“Mmm, here maybe? Seven days from now?” She suggested.
“Here? Sure. Yeah seven days from now. Uh, what time?” I asked.
She shrugged again. “Seven p.m.?”
“Yeah sure that’s great. Seven. Seven at seven wolves. It will be fun.” I said, smiling.
Marco tapped me on the shoulder and I spun around to face him. “You still wanna go to the A-Krop?” He asked.
“Yeah, sure.” I said.
“It’s fun.” Zuzana said leaning back in her stool and kicking her legs out like a little kid. “I have spent many a long night there. I sometimes do not get home till the sun comes up. It’s terrible.” She laughed and looked at Sedik who gave a sly smile, like sharing a secret, and then nodded as he grabbed a rag and began to wipe down the bar.