I had read an article somewhere, once, that Gerald Ford created the five-day workweek in order to promote productivity in the working American man. Ford’s purpose was, so I read, to get his great motor vehicles out onto the new highways in an increased and efficient speed. This was progress. I had also read somewhere that the American public school system was structured around the seasons in regard to harvesting and planting, and that the government had the authority and power to create daylight savings all in regard to “saving energy” or getting people to work a greater number of hours. My understanding or what I understood to be time was actually something that could be manipulated by the few to control the masses, and this coupled with my new time structure on travel which was based on train schedules, hostel lock-ins and outs, and PX military work schedules, taught me that time as I knew it or thought of it was completely irrelevant to what it really was. There was no time and there was only time. Time was like a long continuous string floating in liquid space with no beginning and no end. No matter how hard I had tried to place it into clean charts with solid lines: little boxes in a tower of squares with beginnings and endings, time did whatever it wanted- swerving and billowing like dandelion seeds in the wind. It was chaos. I had only been in Prague for a week, but it was difficult to tell when the days actually began and ended. Days felt simultaneously like one long day and two long weeks. This caused me to panic because I felt like I needed to find a job immediately, not only because I didn’t have a lot of money, but because I needed to create a box for my time chart. I needed something to try and slow things down. On the outside, the clouds appeared still, they were moving slowly on some ethereal pattern and minding their own lovely business. I saw them as rapidly moving storms that warned of a tornado that would uproot me once again and send me flying somewhere, and everywhere to nowhere.
Somewhere deep in my brain a voice was saying, don’t you think it’s about time you got out of bed? Don’t you think you should be getting a job? My body clock was telling me it was rising time. I peeled back my eyelids and stared with blurry vision at the angry digital numbers of Francisco’s mini alarm clock. Two p.m.
“Oh shit.” I said out loud. I rolled onto my back. The flat was silent. I got up and walked toward the shower room. I passed Marco’s room, his door was still closed, and headed into the shower to brush my teeth. I squeezed the last bit of toothpaste from the tube and stared at myself as I brushed. My eyes looked like two puffed marshmallows. I yawned and then splashed the cold metallic smelling water onto my face. I slapped my cheeks till they turned a bright pink.
Back in my room I sat on my bed staring off toward the wall. “I can’t do this every night.” I mumbled to myself and then I fell back on the hard futon. I massaged my forehead with my fingertips. I needed to find a job. I didn’t want one. I just needed one. It was great not having a job; I hated working. I’d rather get paid to do what I liked, and as soon as I figured out just what that was I planned to go out and get that job. But right now I needed to find something before I ran out of money. We were already out of toothpaste.
I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds of the street below. The neighborhood block was very quite. I never saw another person on the street except once or twice, usually some woman walking a small dog. Maybe it was because I hadn’t been outside during the day when normal people were going to work or heading home from work. Maybe it was because I just got here and didn’t know anything yet. I sat up feeling anxious. “I should do something.” I said to myself. But there wasn’t anything I could really think of that I wanted to do. I lay back down. I wasn’t feeling ambitious or independent. I wanted Marco to wake up so he could entertain me. I wasn’t so much bored as I was uncertain as to what to do with myself. I flipped onto my stomach and put my face into the lumpy pillow. “I’m boring.” I yelled into the pillow. I started kicking my feet against the futon and I had a satisfying childish tantrum, then I fell back asleep splayed out like a gutted fish, all dead and boring.
I didn’t even bother to check the time when I woke up again. The sun was still up, which was all I needed. I stretched. I was traveling, living on the road. It was about time I got a little yogi. I tried meditation. I crossed my legs, rested the back of my hands on my knees, pinched my fingers to my thumbs, closed my eyes and waited. I did that for about a minute before giving up. I looked over at Francisco’s books lined up against the wall. He had about 20 or 30. It was strange staying in a room and sleeping in a bed that belonged to someone I had never met. I knew nothing about him except that he was from the Ukraine, he looked like a drug dealer, he never worked, but sold his body for medical experiments, and apparently got laid often. I didn’t want to think about that particular bit of information, his exploits, as I lay in his bed, especially since I didn’t know when the sheets had last been washed. Laundry. What do we do with our laundry? I pulled out On the Road by Jack Kerouac. All of Francisco’s books were in English. My eyes scanned over the titles and authors, Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs, Thomas Wolfe, Kurt Vonnegut, J.D. Salinger, Jack London… he had a certain type of writer he liked. I wondered if he actually read all of these books or if they were part of his décor.
Marco pushed the door to my room open and rubbed his eyes before putting on his glasses. He looked down at me sitting on the floor with Francisco’s books spread out all over. I looked back at him. “He likes Hemingway.” I said holding up The Sun Also Rises.
“What time is it?” Marco asked.
I glanced at the clock. “Five p.m.” I said flipping through the pages.
“Oh shit. Lemme tell you the rules of this house,” he said while rubbing his neck. “If you awake don’t be quiet. Bang around make some noise or else us mutherfuckers will never get up.”
“Marco?” I said spinning to face him. “Do you ever want to have a family? Have kids? You know, be a grown up?
“Why? You wanna make a baby?”
“No. Just thinking.”
“I already gots a family. I’ve got family back home. Family here. I’ve got plenty of kids. I got you. I don’t need anything more.” He said with a shrug. “I’m hungry. Have you eaten?”
I shook my head.
“Let’s go shopping.” He said.