“So where are you from?” He asked Endres.
“Oh cool. You guys have a handle on your economy. Man you must be traveling high in this city. What’s your currency called?”
“So you guys decided you’re not going to be a part of the EU when it happens, huh? Crazy. That’s going to be nuts. I just hope the dollar stays strong.”
“Is Ron your friend Annnnna?” Endres asked me.
“We just met. I’m drinking wine.” I said taking a gulp.
“His hair smells nice.” Endres said.
“I’m from Minneapolis,” Ron interrupted he reached his arm across my body to grasp Endre’s hand. “You ever hear of it before?”
“Annnna?” Endres whispered into my ear.
“You look nice this evening.”
“Why thank you, Endres.” I didn’t think so, but it was nice to hear the compliment.
“Hey,” Said Ron- “I never asked where you guys are from.”
“No kidding?” Said Marco. “I think you did.”
“No. No I don’t think so. Anna where are you from?”
“It’s Annabelle, and I’m a Viking.”
“Really Annnnna?” said Endres. “Are you Scandinavian?”
“Maybe,” I said, “but don’t I look like a Viking?”
Ian sauntered into the alcove with his arm around the shoulders of a heavyset Slovak boy.
“Oi!” He yelled drawing all eyes on them. “This is Armin. Armin everyone.”
“Heloo, Marco,” Armin said, “sipping yor beer like a woman I see.”
Marco lifted his beer in a toast and took a small sip while daintily elevating his pinky.
“Cheers an all that shite! Helllllllo Annabelle. ‘eard you got ‘ired at the Joyce, brilliant place to work. I used to work there washin up.”
“Till you got fired.” Said Marco
“Till I got fired. It’s good yer there. Now we got’a new drug connection bein that Dor ‘ardly comes round no more.”
“Yeah. Why is that?” Asked Armin.
“Ahh, she says we ony ask ‘er ‘bout getting us drugs.” Said Ian.
“That is all we ask her.” Said Marco.
“Well, aint I a fool. Guess I shoulda asked ‘er ‘bout ‘er day?” Ian laughed. “Well aint like she’s got anyfing interestin’ to say any’ow, but the drugs were always grand. But ‘ey we got Annabelle ‘ere an not ony are you a connection, yer intrestin’.”
“Thanks Ian you’re a generous man of words.” I toasted him.
“Yeh, I knows. After alls I’m a romantic. Enough shite!” He threw his arms up into the air. “I ‘ave a surprise! ‘ere e is back from the institution—”
Armin and Ian stepped aside and a tall thin man in a white low cut v-neck shirt and shredded blue jeans stepped into the alcove.
“Francisco!” Ian announced.
For a moment his face was hidden behind the slanted archway. He quietly stepped out of the dark corner and scanned our faces. Francisco was tall and sinewy with muscles like a long-distance runner. His olive complexion and black hair contrasted his limestone-colored eyes that invaded whomever he was looking at. His face was unshaven, and the dark stubble framed his determined jaw line. He had strong handsome features under the scraggly half beard and shaggy unwashed hair that fell over his forehead.
He swaggered over to the coffee table and stepped on top of it then stared down at everyone for a second before slowly crouching down to our eye level. He stared at the three of us on the couch with steely examination. It felt like a test. As if he was daring one of us to say something about him standing on our table. He could kick our drinks, he could grab one of us, he could make a joke. He could do anything. He was silent. His unkempt bangs fell into his eyes as he scanned our faces from Endres, to me, to Ron, and then back to me. He snarled, showing a mouth full of jagged and crooked teeth. It was as if the room turned silent with his presence, and I wasn’t sure if it was really happening as I was seeing it. I was filled with a sense of unease and ambivalence. I thought of the park outside of the train station on my first night. I thought of the shadows and having the sense that someone was standing in the darkness watching me, watching to see what path I would take, waiting to see what I would do. I was thinking, “This dude would totally hang out in the park at the train station.
I looked at Endres; he had his usual dazed expression and appeared completely unfazed that Francisco was crouched on our table. I rolled my eyes, of course Endres didn’t care. This was probably something he’d do, but jauntily swaying upward and buoyant instead of couched tight, pressed in, and barbarous. I took another drink of my wine then looked to Ron whose expression was like that of a cow: eyes wide and mouth open in mid cud chew. I snorted an unexpected laugh, spilling a small trickle of wine over my lips. Francisco focused his intense gaze on my face, as I wiped the drops of wine from my chin and looked to see if any had fallen to my shirt. I felt his eyes follow mine.
“Ah for fuck’s sake!’ Marco yelled. “What are you? A fuckin’ animal? Muthufucka’ be comin’ in and crawlin’ all over the tables an’ shiiiit. You needs a bath. You stink.”
Francisco spun and jumped down from the table. He grabbed Marco by his shoulders then leaned in and gave him an aggressive kiss on his cheek with an exaggerated smack of the lips.
“Francisco, this is Annabelle.” Marco said wiping his cheek. I still had my nose in my wine glass.
“Whelcome.” Francisco said, relaxing his eyes. He sat on the table facing me then he reached out his hand for a handshake.
As I opened my mouth to say hello and offered my own hand, a young woman pounced onto the table beside him nearly knocking him over. She wrapped her arms around him then licked his cheek — a long slow lick. I could not suppress the sneer of disgust that washed over my face. This man had just returned from some crazy military institution, and she was licking his face. She had no idea the last time the cheek was scrubbed. This was the man whose bed I was sleeping in. A man having his face licked like a cat by some chick on the coffee table. I had no idea how to feel right at that moment.
Ron, still with his mouth open, made a little coughing sound.
Francisco pushed the girl off, and she comically rolled onto the table. He stood up, and stretched his arms over his head and roared, “I’m ready to DRRRRRINK!” He thundered over to the bar with the girl following closely behind him.
“Are you shitting me?” I said looking at Marco who shrugged in response. “He’s our roommate? I’ve been sleeping in his bed? When were the sheets last washed?” No wonder I felt so dirty.
Ian and Armin followed after Francisco who was already surrounded by people cheering his return and patting him on his back and arms. Armin returned shortly and squeezed onto the couch. He slammed down three shots of Bekorovka. The shot glasses clacked against the table and the liquid reverberated like miniature tremors. He threw back the first shot. “Tonight I drink! I think I drink a lot!” Then he slammed back the other two shots in quick succession. “You with me?” He said pointing across to Marco.
Armin rose and moved in toward Marco throwing his weight around his body in a bear-like embrace. He half dragged Marco, who was willingly cooperating, to the rowdy party that had gathered at the bar.
Endres pushed himself off the couch and looked down at me. “I think I need some air. Are you leaving tonight Annnnna?”
“Eventually.” I said uncertain if I wanted to join the celebration. I wasn’t sure how things were going to be now that Francisco was home.
“Perhaps you will.” Said Endres. I looked up at him as he walked away, and moving in a perfectly straight line he walked toward the stairs completely sober.
“Who is this Francisco guy?” Asked Ron. I had forgotten he had been sitting on the couch. “And what’s the big deal with him? I feel like I’m supposed to know the guy or something.”
“He’s Marco’s roommate.” I said with a heaving sigh. “And mine, too, I guess. He’s been missing for a bit. Voluntarily.”
“Crazy.” He snorted.
“Yep.” I said watching the crowed of merry makers yelling and laughing at the bar. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Francisco. Was he real? Was he safe? Time would tell, I knew that much. It always does.