We fought our way into the birth canal bar. I thought about calling it the fallopian tube, but it had a little more space than that. It was three in the morning, and the place showed no sign of emptying out. Sedik lead the way to a table that was occupied by a couple, and everyone squeezed in till the couple was nearly pushed out.
“Anna, Annabelle.” Ian was yelling into my face. “Yeh worked today r’oight?”
“Yes” I yelled back.
“Can yeh buy me a beer?”
“Christ, Ian. Sure.” I got up and pushed past him to the bar fighting to get attention from the bartender. I ordered a pivo, and a coke for me. I turned to hand the beer to Ian.
“Wot’s that?” He yelled at me.
“It’s a coke.” I yelled back.
“Just a cola?”
“I need caffeine.” I yelled.
“I ‘ave somefing bet’er for ya. Keep ya up all night.” He yelled.
“Not now.” I yelled back. “But on second thought.” I turned back to the bartender and ordered a glass of wine. Then pushing Ian aside I fought my way back to the table. I sat across from Sedik. His eyes were dying coals — the burning veins showing even in the dark light. His head swung back and forth on a pendulum to the rhythm of the music. Sometimes in a sudden jerk he would pause and press the back of his head against the wall and close his eyes then open them again and sway his head back and forth. Everyone was dancing in whatever space they could find. Francisco was dancing with the two girls in between tables, Marco was dancing in the aisle between the bars and the rows of tables, and Endres was all over the place.
“Annabelle?” Sedik called across to me. I reached my hands over the scared and graffiti wooden table to touch his long black fingers. They were rough from age and hard work but they had a security to them. “You are not dancing tonight?”
“Not yet. I’m a little tired.” I yelled back at him. “How about you Sedik?”
He slowly pulled a cigarette from a pack that had been lying on the table beside our hands and placed it between his lips. After what seemed an eternity to light he took a long and slow deliberate drag; he made smoking look desirable. As he blew the smoke out above his head he swayed it back and forth and looked back down at me. “Maybe later,” He yelled, and then he closed his eyes and nodded off with the lit cigarette between his lips. The room had gotten so crowded that people had spilled out into the space between the two bars. The strong scent of sage and hash filled the room. I turned to watch Francisco as he stomped and threw his arms up and down in a kind of punching action. It was hard to believe less than an hour earlier he had been knotted in a sick ball. Whatever was in Endres’ doctor’s pill revived him. He danced erratically about, his arms and legs stiff and straight like they were fused at the joints. I didn’t know if this was a result of the drugs or if he was really that bad of a dancer. This thought made me laugh at myself. He caught my smile and a grin tore over his face. It was kind and familiar like we had been friends since childhood. I could tell already that he had several personalities. There was a force in that body that couldn’t stay under the skin. I also could tell it was unpredictable, but that smile was overflowing with wicked charm. He came over and danced in front of me till the girls pulled him back into the crowed. Ian pulled a chair up directly in front of me, blocking my view of all the dancing. He started yelling something at me. I scowled a bit at not being able to watch everybody, and attempted to look over his shoulder as he spoke.
“I ‘ope I didn’t insult ya the other night.” He said yelling into my ear.
I felt like getting a real drink. “Lets get a shot of Bechorovka!” I yelled back to him. “Watch my chair.” I yelled down to him as I forced my way into the crowd to the bar. A few minutes later I was back with two shots of Bechorovka and another glass of wine. “Salute!” I yelled and toasted him. Ian threw the shot back and slammed his glass down on the table, jolting Sedik awake. With a startled expression Sedik mumbled something about leaving, and he got up and rushed out the door. As soon as he moved people filled up the space where he had been sleeping.
“So Annabelle- like I was sayin.” Ian started yelling again.
“Annnnnnna!” Endres was dancing next to my chair. He was moving like a blouse in the dryer swaying dangerously close to people but somehow not making contact with anyone. He started dancing around me as I started laughing.
“Yeh look like a roight fool.” Ian growled.
I continued to laugh as Endres danced. He danced his way to a white wooden chair, pulled it up beside me, and sat down. But as he did it shattered and splintered under him tossing him to the ground in such a force that he slid under the table behind him. Everyone bent at the waist to get a look at the angel boy under the table.
“Are you okay?” I laughed as I got down to my knees to help pull him out.
Ian crossed his arms over his chest. “Wot a fuckin idjet.”
I pulled him to his feet.
“I’m okay Annnnnna.” He said looking around for another chair, which he found and pulled over, but before sitting, he pressed his hand to the seat to check for stability. “Hi Annnnnna”
“Hey Endres.” I yelled.
Marco danced over, grabbed my hand and pulled me to him in a dance. This was familiar. We used to dance together all the time, especially when we lived together in Paris. Anywhere there was dancing, even if it was playing from the window of a building, he would grab me and pull me into a dance and there we would dance on the street. It was a favorite thing to do together. I threw my arms over his shoulders as he wrapped his around my waist, and our legs slipped between each other’s. Marco shimmied me down to the floor and back up. Our hips pressed together as Marco moved me around the room then back to the table. As he dipped me, I dropped my arms over my head. Endres ran his fingers along the inside of my arm from the soft dent of my elbow to my wrist.
“Wot the fuck.” Ian yelled at Endres.
Marco pulled me back up to him and pressed me into his chest till we were nose to nose. We laughed into each other’s mouths, and he pushed me out into a spin, pulled me back into his arms, and dropped me into a final dip. We bowed to each other after we finished dancing. A girl ran up to Marco and begged him to dance with her. He grabbed her forcefully around the waist and pulled her tightly to him, turned to wink at me, then danced the girl onto the dance floor.
Endres had his hand on the chair where I had been sitting to save it. He beckoned me to sit back down.
“I think I want another drink,” I yelled.
“Are you and Marco lovers?” Endres yelled to me.
“No. Why do you ask?” I yelled back.
“Oh well, the way you dance together. It is so nice the way you move together. You look like lovers.” He yelled.
“No.” I yelled back, “We are best friends. We just happen to dance well together.”
He smiled. Then grabbing my arm he pulled himself to my ear and leaned in close enough that his lips brushed against my earlobe. “Annnnna, I think I am attracted to you. But I must go to the bar. I can no longer stand on my own.”
“Okay.” I yelled. He used my shoulder to help himself stand. “I’ll see you soon?”
He nodded and then stumbled to the bar.
Ian, with his arms still crossed, was scowling next to me. I jumped up from the table and danced over to Francisco and his two girls. Marco reappeared from the dance floor to join all of us. I felt a tug at my jeans and then one at the back of my shirt by the elbow. I turned to see Ian still sitting.
“I fink yer very beu’itful!” He yelled.
“What?” I yelled back. I had heard him, but wasn’t comfortable with the attention. I preferred to dance.
“Nofing,” he said turning away from me.
I returned to the music.
Once the lights came on people forced themselves through the double front doors like a flood rushing onto the morning streets of Žižkov.
“I’m too old for this shit!” Marco yelled, straining his neck and head back toward the morning sky.
Francisco, Marco, and I linked arms and walked home together.
“You and Marco perform well on the dance floor,” Francisco said, leaning into my ear. “I am an excellent dancer you know, but not so excellent when I have to share the dance floor with another body like you and Marco do. I have a great envy over it.” He paused and looked out over the buildings as they rose to greet us in our homeward stumble. “But I still get plenty of vagina.”
Marco and I started laughing.
“I just do not want any tonight. I have that right.”
“Yes. Yes. You do.” I said still laughing.
“You a muthafucka.” Marco laughed.
I heard the sound of laughter fading behind us, and looked back to see through the morning haze. Ian and Endres had their arms draped over each other’s necks and shoulders as they stumbled and fell on their way to the nearest non-stop. At least they had each other.