The night air was cool, and the tram was empty enough for me to find a seat in the back. I felt like I could pass out on the ride home, but I kept my eyes peeled for any landscapes that alerted me to the stop closest to home. The night tram was silent. I listened to the hum of the metal gliding over metal and the electricity buzzing through all the power lines and lights. I got off the stop in front of the chicken shop that was among many other shops pressed into the building, and turned up the street toward our apartment. Marco had given me a key. I let myself in. As I climbed the stairs, using the handrail for support, I thought about how good a full night of sleep would be. The Joyce closed earlier than other bars so I was getting home around one o’clock, which was early compared to when I’d been getting home lately. Yes, I thought to myself, now things were on track. A job meant responsibility. Responsibility meant going to bed early. Going to bed early meant adulthood. I let myself into the flat. It was dark and quiet inside. I turned on the hallway light and saw a note taped to the glass of the kitchen door.
WE ARE AT FESTE’S. COME DOWN. IF WE ARE NOT THERE ASK RECEPTION WHERE WE ARE AND MEET US THERE, WHEREVER THAT IS.
“So much for responsibility.” I said to myself.
I didn’t have to go. I could have stayed home. I had choices, but what if I missed something good. I was imprudent by nature.
Feste’s was empty except for some guy sitting behind the reception desk at the foot of the stairway.
“What time is it?” I asked the guy.
He looked at me with blank unblinking eyes.
“Do you by any chance have a message for Annabelle?”
“Ya. They are at Seven Wolves.”
The cool spring air felt cleaner than it had in days. I looked up at the stars shining down. It was a clear night and a breeze blew over me. The streets had a calm solitude. I hadn’t walked by or heard the sound of another person for blocks. I didn’t know why people were not out, and I didn’t care. I had the city to myself. There were moments when I felt like all I ever wanted was calm solitude. I took deep, soothing breaths, held out my arms in supplication, and spun on my heels like I used to do when I was a child. This was my favorite time walking the dark cobbled streets of Prague. I could be anywhere in any time, and be anything. I imagined I could hear Amadeus’s carriage rolling over laid bricks as he headed toward the theatre, or Kafka’s footsteps clacking over cobblestones. Although, for all I new Amadeus and Kafka may have avoided this neighborhood.
The world was changing so fast and I wasn’t keeping up. The rat race was going high tech and I hadn’t seen a movie in three years. I had no idea what was on TV or what the latest pop culture phrase was in the States. During my last year in Germany, the kids had just started carrying their small phones around with them. Nobody I knew had their own phone that they could take with them. Hardly anyone had a landline, but cell phones were becoming popular, in Germany at least. I wondered what it was like back in the States. Who would want to carry a phone around with them everywhere they went? I felt like a sixty year old woman who was looking at a radio for the first time. But I wasn’t sixty. I wasn’t close to sixty. Things were just moving so incredibly fast. The European continent was talking about a united union, and Prague was still quietly trying to collect herself while adjusting to the greater influx of people, and the possibility of joining the European Union when it happened. If the whole world doesn’t collapse because of it. Some people think it wont work, that our economies may crash, more end of the world stuff to add to the new Millennium. It’s all supposed to end in two thousand anyway. My parents were most likely building a shelter simultaneously as I walked down this quiet street. Maybe that was why I wanted to be in Prague, maybe we were moving at the same pace. I bent down to touch the soiled concrete with potholes that revealed the past, and I ignored the impulse in my brain that told me to stop that there was urine, possibly vomit, and most definitely dog shit right where I was placing my hands. I wanted to feel the heat from the grounded energy of the past of the city. I wanted to feel the lives of the people who were born, lived, loved, hurt, suffered, and died on that street. I wanted to absorb just a teardrop of passion and revolution, and take it and use it in my own life. I wanted to stop being afraid of the unknown, and the big bad end of the world. Who cared? We were all going to die anyway. All of us would die one day; my parents and their neighbors in their carefully secluded and unbending towns, with their churches, and their judgments, and rules. We’ll die too, us bad choice making hippies, punks, kids, people too old to travel, and women without children, and people wanting to see the world just to see it. We were all going to die so why so much fear? Why not live. I supposed I could find that feeling of really living anywhere in the world so why was it so difficult? With a huge exhale I stood up and looked down at my hands. I walked the rest of the way to Seven Wolves holding my hands out palms up like I was a whirling dervish. As I turned onto Vlkova Street I noticed a body crouched in the shadows. It was folding over itself. The streetlight hit the hand of the person and spread through its fingers like light passing through shutters. Their knuckles were pressed against the concrete not ready to pounce but trying to stay upright. I crossed to the other side of the street and watched the figure from the corner of my eye.