I went away to school first to get away from home. That seemed like the smartest and only choice. I had done well in high school, and received a scholarship to go to the State college closest to my hometown. In truth I wanted to get away as far as possible, but I didn’t really know my options. My college was seven hours away from my home. At first it seemed like I lived on the other side of the world, but soon my restless feelings returned and once again I felt trapped in a role or an expectation. I dropped out after a year and a half of college. It wasn’t that I was doing badly in school; it was that I didn’t know what I was doing. I was trying to follow a common path that was designed to create happiness. Yet, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy with the idea. The pattern was laid out, but what about all the pieces in-between? What happened between kids and retirement? What was my life going to be really? I had no idea. I had needed to find something different.
The boys had all disappeared into various pockets of the bar, and I was now sitting in a rickety wooden chair in an even smaller alcove around a tiny wooden table. I had been sleeping and dreaming about my past so deeply that I forgot where I was in the present. We had been drinking for a while, and Feste’s had swirled around me like a kaleidoscope with marionettes of dancing people and voices. I felt a little bit like I was in a Punch and Judy show. Through a series of seat changing and table greeting, I ended up with Ron. I think I had still been avoiding Marco and Francisco, but I convinced myself I was just giving them some catch-up-time. I knew that was bullshit. I didn’t know how to be around Francisco. He would be eerily silent as his eyes scanned the room and then he would explode into a raucous diatribe of tales of his life adventures. I could tell he was examining me. Sometimes from across the room I could feel his eyes on me. I was sitting with a bunch of strangers who had just checked into Feste’s hostel. I had no idea who the hell these people were. They were all Australians, except Ron who was sitting beside me, and, like Ron, they were polished and clean and wearing outdoor gear. There was the sound of a roar, a pounding on wood, and then laughter.
“What is going on over there?” A woman asked looking back toward the bar.
“Those screaming people on the other side of the bar?” Said Ron looking back over his shoulder. “Those are Annabelle’s friends and they are all crazy.”
I scowled, feeling the skin tighten between my eyes, his condescension and overt familiarity had worn thin, and I wondered what had prompted me to join him at this table of non-crazy people. I scratched at my neck, I’d returned to focusing on feeling dirty and now that I was drunk I felt worse. I began to drown out their voices. I could hear Ron talking about corporate America and his new audience seemed to be more engaged than his last. I grabbed my empty wine glass and headed over to the bar to find Marco to see if I could get him to buy a round. Rachele, the albino woman I had met on my first day, was standing at the end of the bar laughing at something Ian had just said. She was dressed in the same pale blue outfit she had been wearing the day I met her. Ian threw his arm drunkenly over my shoulder and pulled me to him.
“A glass of wine, please.” I yelled past Ian to Canada Mike who was working. The music was filling the room and the roar of the conversations caused everyone to yell.
“Rachele. ‘ave you met Annabelle yet?” Ian asked.
“Yeah. We are already of acquaintance.” She looked to me. “You seem to be fittin’ in so far.” She was drunk, and smiling, and holding onto the arm of a shorthaired sandy blonde guy standing beside her. The wine was coursing through my blood stream, and I felt a brief wave of weakness in my body. The room shifted to the left then righted itself. I shook my head to clear my senses.
“This is my boyfriend, Jiri.” She bumped the guy next to her with her shoulder.
“Hi. Nice to meet you.” I said, taking a sip of wine.
Francisco appeared out of nowhere, and pushed me aside to pull Ian into a full open-mouthed kiss.
Rachele screamed with applause. “Men loving men! I love it.”
“Has anyone seen Marco?” I asked.
At that moment the doors that lead toward the hostel swung out as Marco stumbled into the room.
“My shit is fucked.” He yelled.
He stood kind of teetering a bit like he was going to fall forward. A petite girl I hadn’t seen before ran up to Marco and jumped into his arms. He looked at her with surprise as if he was trying to place her face. He started to say something when she smashed her mouth to his. They stood there in the doorway making out.
“Who’s that?” I asked swaying toward Francisco and Ian.
They shook their heads both of them pushing out their bottom lips and holding identical dumb expressions on their faces.
“More drinks!” Francisco yelled to the bar.
The bar cheered as he stumbled toward the girl who had licked him on the coffee table, her arms open wide to catch him.
The room swirled gently and I took another gulp of wine. I felt a hand on my arm and I turned to look at Endres. I could feel his sobriety and it was relaxing.
“Annnnna, I thought you had left.” He said.
I smiled at him. I liked the way he said my name. I didn’t like to be called Anna but Endres dragged out the A and the N like it was a silk ribbon.
“I’m still here.” I said. I was beginning to feel weighed down. Like my body was 30 pounds heavier.
“Well I am going to bed so that I may see the sun.” He said. “Goodnight Annnnnna.”
“Okay.” I said. “Night.” I watched as he walked through the swinging doors to the hostel half wanting to follow him. Marco grabbed me violently on the shoulder, and pushed me into Ian who was standing beside me. His hand was pressed over his mouth as he ran toward the swinging doors. Ian ran behind him screaming about how he was going to watch Marco puke.
“Gross,” I said to no one in particular.
A couple of minutes later Ian came out laughing.
“God. Wha’ a riot. Marco jus’ puked all ova’ the bleedin’ lou! It was like the fuckin exorcist. I though’ I was gonna die laughin’. Look at me I’m fuckin cryin.” He bent over to hold his knees, he was laughing so hard he was coughing.
“And you just stood there laughin’ at him?” Rachele looked over at Ian who was now doubled over.
“Ov’ course.” He cried.
She shook her head disgusted. “You an asshole.”
This made him laugh harder.
Marco came stumbling out from the doors. His face was sagging and gray. He was bent over at the waist like an old man. He stood up, as straight as he could, and walked over to me.
“I’ve gotta go. I’m leaving.” He put his hand on my shoulder to help balance himself. With what looked like great pain and concentration, he leaned into my ear to speak to me. “You wanna go?”
“No! Let her stay with us!” Rachele cried.
“Yeah!” Said Ian. “let’er stay.”
“We’ll take care of her.” They both said. “We’ll get her home.”
“I’ll stay.” I said excited that people wanted me to stay out.
“Yeah!” Rachele and Ian yelled dancing around each other. I hadn’t caused this much excitement ever that I could remember.
Jiri who was still standing in the far corner of the bar signaled to Canada Mike to pour him another beer.
“Suit yourself.” Marco said, and he turned to stumble toward the stairs that lead up to the street.
“Marco,” I called to him, “Can I borrow some money?”
He stumbled back. He shoved his fist into his pocket then pulled out a bill and slapped it into my hand. He turned and stumbled out of Feste’s.
“Let’s go to the A-Krop!” Rachele yelled.