I woke up early in the morning. Ian had stolen the single blanket at some point in the night.
“Hey, I’m freezing.” I whispered to him.
With a grunt he threw the cover back over me and brushed his hand over my lower back leaving it there for a second then pulled it away. I drifted off to sleep for a moment, but woke again when I heard Ian shuffling around. I sat up to see him sitting in the window rolling a splif. Rachele and Jiri were still lying in bed and didn’t look as if they were about to get up anytime soon. My mouth felt dry. It disgusted me to see Ian smoking as soon as he got out of bed. I felt like crap and was dehydrated.
“I feel like a dog shit in my mouth while I was sleeping.” I said. My voice was hoarse.
“I fink that very same dog shat in my very own mouf too.” Said Ian. “ You ‘ungry? He asked me.
“Yeah,” I said, throwing the blanket off my body.
Jiri mumbled for us to leave the cushions.
Ian took my hand, and with the splif dangling from his mouth he pulled me to my feet.
Wandering through the streets of Žižkov was like wandering through a wild labyrinth of hidden hills. Every turn felt like it was on an incline. I felt constantly lost and wondered when I was going to figure my way around on my own. Ian was singing and talking. I followed him, drowning out his verbal chatter with my own mental conversations.
We turned a corner which opened into a large Y-junction with a restaurant at the center. Sitting out front on a stone bench, under a gold wooden awning with carved flowers and a face like the mystical Pan frozen in a scream, was a rotund man with thick gray curly hair and a thick close-cut beard. Above his head engraved into the awning into the wood was the word, Namirove. I looked up the street past Namirove. I felt that we were close to the A-Krop but nowhere near Feste’s, and where home was, I could only guess.
“Eh! Ian!” The bearded man called out.
“Levi.” Ian said as we approached. “You score?”
“Nah.” He said back.
After quick introductions, exchanges of cigarettes, lights, and ahojs, Ian and I walked the rest of the labyrinth toward Feste’s. Along the way we passed a couple more groupings of men and the same questioning of scoring and not scoring took place. My brief journey with Ian confirmed what Marco had been saying to everyone since I arrived: No one was holding.
Armin, the kid from the night before, was working the reception desk at the base of the stairs.
“Armin?” I asked as Ian headed toward the bar.
“Yes, drunk American girl that everyone loves.”
I winced a bit. I wasn’t the only drunk one in the place, but perhaps the only American girl at the moment. At least I was loved “Do you by any chance have Marco’s number?” I asked.
“What, you don’t have it? Why I thought you were such great friends. Roommates. Lovers, maybe?”
“No I don’t have it.” I said looking at him and ignoring his implications.
“Oi,” Ian yelled to me from the bar, “you a vegetarian?”
“No.” I yelled back at him. “So do you have it?” I said back to Armin.
Armin leaned back in his chair to look up at me, his glasses setting squarely on his round face, as he smirked.
“Perhaps I do.” He said.
“Can I have it?” I asked.
“No.” He said.
“Why not?” I said.
“For two kisses.” He said with a straight face. “For two kisses I give you the number.”
“Annabelle. Oi.” Ian called over from the bar again, “I got some food fer ye.”
“Thanks.” I yelled over my shoulder. I stared back to Armin. “Gimme them cheeks.” He stood up leaning forward, and I planted a kiss on each cheek. “Can I have my number now?”
Armin sat back down, “For kisses go, those were the most beautiful ever in my whole life.” He wrote a number down on a scrap of paper and handed it to me. “Here is your number.”
“Thank you Armin.” I said taking the paper. “Does everyone work here?” I asked.
“Depending on who you mean by ‘everyone,’” he said, pulling out a magazine and leaning back in his chair.
I walked over to Ian who was sitting next to a Czech gutter punk holding a small dachshund. He was feeding bits of ham to the dog off of Ian’s plate. “Ahoj,” he said to me.
“Dobrey den.” I answered back. He smiled at me and chuckled, shaking the single thick and faded red dreadlock that grew out of the back of his shaved head.
“ ‘ere.” Ian pushed a plate of ham, two eggs, and baked beans in front of me. “I tell ya, I ‘ad to fight this punk ‘ere jus’ to git ‘is bleedin’ pup from eatin yer ham.”
The punk chuckled. “Fuck you.” He pulled another piece of ham off Ian’s plate. “Bugger off, ya fuck.”
Ian started laughing loudly, “Wot the fuck sorta soddy punk runs ‘round with a wee piss of a dog? I ask ye.”
“I don’t know, Ian, I think it’s pretty cute.” I said with a sly smile at the punk.
“Gets me the birds, Ian.” The punk said.
“Ya the birds.” I laughed.
“Fuckin riot. Birrrrds Shite. I luv American. Hah! Birrrrds. Sh-It. You speak American?” He laughed to the punk before scooping a spoonful of baked beans into his mouth.
“Nah.” The punk pulled out a rolling tobacco and started to roll a splif.
I walked to the phone by the front door to call Marco. I looked at the unusual pay phone for a minute, skimming the instructions.
First dial then put the money in the slot.
I dialed then put the money in and waited as the phone rang.
“Hello?” It was Marco’s voice on the other end.
“Hey, Marco.” I said into the receiver.
“Hello?” He said again.
“Hi? Marco can you hear me?” I raised my voice.
“Heeeelllllloo.” His tone was snotty.
“Marco,” I yelled, “we must have a bad connection.”
“I don’t know who you are foo’ but you be wastin’ your money.” Then he hung up.
I looked at the receiver a second, and then over to Armin who was smiling broadly at me. “I think the phone is broken.”
“I think you need to read instructions.” He said.
“I did.” I looked back at the phone instructions. “First dial then put the money in and…” after putting the money in was another line of instructions: Once they pick up push the red button. “That’s just stupid.” I said.
Armin laughed at me then went back to his reading.
I re-dialed. This time when Marco picked up I pushed the red button. “Hello,” I said.
“Was that you who called a second ago?”
“Didn’t press the red button, huh?”
“Yeah, thanks for calling me a fool.”
“Well whose the foo’ who didn’t read the directions?”
“I read the fucking instructions. I’m calling to let you know I’m on the way home and I wanted you to let me in because I don’t have any keys.”
“A’ight. Don’t get nasty now. I think I broke my leg last night.”
I glanced over to Ian and the punk who were now sharing the splif. Ian was picking at my plate. Sandy leaned over the bar to reprimand them for trying to light up inside.
“Are you standing on it right now?” I asked into the receiver.
“Then I doubt it’s broken. I’ll see you in a few.” I hung up.
Ian strolled over to me and leaned against the phone that was attached to the wall. “Ya comin wit us to the park?”
“You must.” Called the punk from his chair at the table.
“No. I’m leaving. I have to work tonight.”
“Ah ye.” Said Ian, “Don’ forget ta bring back somefin’ special fer the kids.”
“Right, right.” I said with a wave of my hand. I had no intention of bringing anything back for the kids. I was beginning to understand that navigating my way through Žižkov was a bit like walking through a fun house of wind up jack-in-the-boxes all looking to score.