After washing my hands in the upstairs bathroom I headed to the lower level of the bar. I didn’t see anyone I knew in the DJ room. I peeked my head around the corner into a room lit by candles placed on a large table surrounded by people that looked like they were falling asleep in a business meeting. The room smelled of booze, beer, and smoke. Heads bobbed to music from the other room rising and falling in jerking motions like fishing flies nibbled by fish too small to catch.
“Yer just in time.” Ian was sitting in darkness at the far end of the table. “I’m rolling a splif right now.”
I found Marco at the end of the table, too, and I pulled a chair up in between them.
“How was work?” asked Marco, his words slurring.
“Fine. You know, it was beef stew, Guinness, and lesbian jokes all night.”
“Hmm. Nice.” He whispered.
I looked around the table. It was like joining the living dead after a feast. Sedik was sitting at the other end staring straight ahead at a blank wall as if he was waiting for something. His look was so intense I couldn’t help but look at the wall with the same anticipation. A dark-haired girl was sitting beside Sedik. She had her head down on the table with her arms draped over her head, and her long dark hair wrapped like a shawl over her shoulders that weaved through her fingers and spilled onto the table. The girl who had licked Francisco’s face had her head arched back over her chair with her mouth opened, and her eyes were closed like she was asleep. No one made any introductions. Marco was salivating as he stared at Ian’s fingers watching intently as he rolled the splif back and forth between his fingertips. The only one talking was some rotund sweaty dark-haired guy with a thinning comb over and wild darting eyes, and an Irish accent. He kept scratching at his double chin speckled with patches of grey and black whiskers at the top of his head. He was fidgety and kept squirming around in his seat like he was itchy. He was wearing a heavy wool overcoat that had what looked like animal hair covering it in large swaths like someone ran a cat over his body in long even strokes. It wasn’t exactly warm in Prague at the moment, but it wasn’t wool overcoat weather either. I watched his eyeballs dart back and forth in the sockets like black beta fish in round fish bowls. I was waiting to see if he would eventually go cross-eyed. He muttered to no one in particular.
“Did you see Francisco when you came in?” asked Marco without taking his eyes off Ian’s fingers.
“No.” I said still staring at the new guy in the overcoat.
Both the girls looked at me. The already silent room came to a stop, if that was possible, even the mutterer stopped talking and looked at me.
“He wasn’t outside?” Asked Marco. He was sitting up straight and alert.
“I didn’t see him.” There was a strange urgency and tension as all eyes, except Sedik’s who was still staring at the spot on the wall, were focused on me. “We’ll I did see some dark mass of a person folded over like a blob against the wall across the street. I guess that could have been him.”
Both of girls got up knocked into each other, and half pushed, half helped one another to their feet, and then they headed out. It was like I had just walked into a farce only I wasn’t written into the play.
“Is everybody fucking stoned or something?” I asked.
“Annnnnnnnnnna, where were you Annnnnnnnna?” Endres fell into the space between Ian and I.
“Bugger off.” Ian mumbled.
“I was at work.” I said, watching him swaying above me like his old self.
“Oh it was your first day, how was it?” Endres’ breath was labored and his words slurred.
“It was fine.”
Ian handed Marco the splif. He took a drag, handed it back to Ian, then jumped up. “Let’s go to the A-Krop.”
“Are you going to the A-Krop, Annnnnna?” asked Endres. His fingers wrapped around my wrist, that I had resting against my thigh.
“Apparently so.” I said.
“You bring us any gifts from the Joyce?” Ian asked inhaling his splif.
“No, Ian, I didn’t.”
“Bugger, bett’a luck next time, r’oight?”
“Right, right.” I said brushing him off.
Outside Seven Wolves, Francisco was crumpled in half and holding himself up with the building. His arms were like tangled ribbons knotted at his side. The dark-haired girl was helping to lift him to his feet as the other one stood swaying next to him. As soon as he was standing Endres walked to him and pressed himself to Francisco then whispered into his ear as he slipped something into his mouth. Francisco swallowed it with a shake of his head, and pushed Endres off, as he tried to regain stability. As he started to stumble forward, the two girls were lifting him under their arms and they dragged him along toward the A-Krop. Everyone, aside from me, walked in a cyclical weave or stumble. They were all so fucked up, and I couldn’t figure out what everyone was on. It didn’t seem like just alcohol. In a few short minutes Francisco stood up straight and disentangled himself from the girls. He started walking with a hop in his step till he was passing everyone and eventually leading the way to the bar.
“What the hell did Endres give him?” I asked Marco who just shrugged in response.
“Whatever you do.” He said with a sigh, “Don’t take any drugs from Irish Bill.”
“The sweaty fat guy scratching at himself at the table.” He said.
“The guy in the wool overcoat? He was sweating because he’s in a wool overcoat in springtime.” I said looking around for Irish Bill.
Endres who was walking on the other side of me smiled and kicked at a pebble then stumbled over his foot, but quickly righted himself.
“Endres?” I asked, “What did you give to Francisco?”
“Oh. It was from my doctor.” He said.
“You have quite the doctor.” Marco said.
Yes, yes, was Endres response before he skipped up ahead toward the rest of the group.