I woke up hung over. I moaned as I turned on my side toward the window. The bed I was now sleeping in was almost level with the window, which on one hand was nice because I could stare out over the street without moving. However, it was a little scary to think I could roll out and fall five long stories to a quick death. Marco had teased me saying that the fall would be so quick I probably wouldn’t even wake till I hit the ground and then it would be just like a flashlight turning off. I had thanked him for the refreshing insight. I lay on my side somewhat comatose looking at the white lace curtains in the facing window of the building across the street. They looked fresh and clean — not dingy and brown like the curtains in my room. The exterior of the neighboring building looked as if had been repainted or power-washed. Our building was a faded lime green stained from time and streaked from pollution and moisture. The grime looked like finger paint or those art pieces done by cats. My eyes moved down toward the street where the angel jutted out like an awning covering anyone that stood under her. It was baroque, I thought, or art nouveau. I didn’t know why I was bothering to guess. I started to get a headache from the thinking. It was Easter morning. Holidays were sudden events. Even though Sandy had us color crayoning eggs a few days ago, I hadn’t really understood that it was already here. While having drinks at Feste’s, Rachele had cornered me and made me promise that I would go to Feste’s to help paint or color crayon, and hide Easter eggs for all the guests. I really didn’t want to go. My head was throbbing, my stomach felt like it was rotting: another morning in Žižkov.
“Priorities, priorities,” I whispered, as I sat up. I threw the thin blanket from my lap.
Marco was still asleep curled up in a fetal position with the covers over his head and a single air hole.
“Marco,” I said. “I may be dying.”
He didn’t stir. I stared back out the window.
“What time is it?” I said, not giving up on waking him. “Why aren’t there any clocks in this place?”
“Time is irrelevant.” He mumbled.
“Oh true. I suppose.” I stood up and my head pulsed. I sat back down. “Oh my god. My head is throbbing.” I sat for a second, took a few breaths, stood back up, and grabbed some clothes. I headed into the shower room.
Back in the bedroom I put on my shoes and pulled my hair back with a headband. I sat staring at the opposite wall. I suddenly remembered that there was a clock in Francisco’s room. Funny, the one who had a job didn’t have a clock and the one who didn’t did.
“You taking off?” Marco’s voice was muffled under the duvet and his body remained still.
“Yeah. I told Rachele I’d go to Feste’s and help paint, draw, whatever, decorate the eggs.” I grabbed a sweater and pulled it over my head. “You going?”
He tugged the cover from his face and peaked at me with squinty bloodshot eyes. “I’ll wait for Francisco then go.”
“Kay.” I headed out the door.
“Watch out for little boys.” He called to me.
“What?” I said stopping in the doorway.
“It’s Easter. Just watch out for groups of little boys, especially if you see them holding birch sticks.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I said peering back into the room.
“And if you see one with a lot of ribbons on his stick? Run.” He rolled away from me.
“That sounds a little pervy. How old are these boys I should be looking out for?”
“It is very much pervy.” I heard Francisco call from his room. I wondered if he actually ever slept.
“Eleven.” He mumbled, “the age when you barely start understanding sexual symbolisms.”
I walked down the stairs humming to myself. “Easter,” I said out loud my voice echoing in the stairwell, “A time for coloring eggs with crayons, having egg hunts with drug addicts and for some reason running from little boys with sticks wrapped with ribbons.” I pushed open the heavy wooden door and stepped out into the cool bright, late morning. “Ah smog. It’s Easter.” I said this to the angel across the street, and tried to do my best Francisco imitation. “I have a premonition that I may end up drunk tonight or lost or both.” My hangover was fading as I wandered through the cobbled and broken streets. I heard a sound and stopped for a second to listen. I thought I could hear the screams and laughter of children. “Fucking Marco making me paranoid.” I paused a moment longer. Then kept walking toward Feste’s. It occurred to me as I passed the Churchill statue that I had been talking out loud to myself a lot lately. I didn’t know what to think about this revelation. I kicked at a cobble that was pulled loose from the street.
It was a blue spring day, the smog was light, and there was a soft low wind lifting twirls of dust into the air. Summer was just around the corner. I made a note to myself to spend less time in the bars at night and more time out in the city during the day. It was unusually quiet on the streets. I didn’t pass one person. There was the sound of laughter from far behind me. The sound had echoed and ricocheted between the buildings. It was like the laughter of children, of boys. I had no idea what Marco meant, but I wasn’t about to get hacked apart by some rampaging Czech children of the corn. I looked over my shoulder and then back down in front of me, barely missing a pile of dog poo.
“Damn it.” I muttered. “Poo don’t pause for Easter.”
I jumped the pile and ran the rest of the way to Feste’s.
Jiri was standing behind the bar and Rachele was leaning one arm on the counter talking with him. She was wearing her usual light baby blue colors. Jiri placed a wire basket of boiled eggs onto the counter and Rachele took the basket and set it in front of Dimitri who was dipping the eggs in a dye. Dye. Actual Easter egg dye was sitting in a bowl with several boxes of crayons, and loose crayons, spread out around him on the table.
“Happy Easter.” I said, feeling cheery anticipating dying some eggs, which I hadn’t done in years.
“How are ye?” She asked giving me the once over with her pink eyes. Her tone was bored.
“Fine.” I said.
She nodded then walked away. I stood looking for a moment where Rachele disappeared into the back then slowly spun on my heels to face Dimitri. Sandy was leaning against the wall next to him, smoking a cigarette and staring ahead with a vacant expression on her face.
“So, you need help with decorating the eggs?” I asked them.
“No.” Answered Dimitri not looking up at me. Sandy looked down to Dimitri as if that was the first sound she’d heard all morning. She gave him a slow dreamy smile and then returned to her cigarette.
“Okay.” I was a little deflated. I was glad I forced myself through a hangover for this. I had the impression that Rachele liked me better when she was wasted. I stood at the bar. Cash was working. He saw me and gave a long drawn out smile before leaning over the counter like cartoon version of a melted candle. He rested his jaw in both palms. “Vhat vould you like?”
“Well, being that it’s Easter, I think I’ll have white.” I said.
“Don’t you mean red, za blood of Christ?”
“I’m more of a pagan. You know spring, light equals chilled white wine.”
He smiled at me and pulled himself like adhesive from the counter.
“So Cash, Marco told me to watch out for groups of little boys. What’s that all about.”
Sandy giggled behind me. “Aw, that’s right.”
He placed a glass in front of me and poured the wine. “It’s a Czech tradition.”
“What is?” I said taking the glass.
“The little boys, they take switches an’ hit the little gurls.” Said Sandy.
“Wow.” I said, perplexed, and amused. “That sounds— fucked up.”
“Zhere’s more to it. Za branches are suppose to be from birch trees or veeping villows,” Said Cash putting the cork back in the bottle and setting the bottle in a fridge under the bar. “Now some are bought. Za boys hit za girls till za girls give zem an egg and tie a ribbon on za stick.”
“What do the girls get?” I asked.
“A good whippin.” Giggled Sandy, “isn’t that right Dimitri? A real good whippin. But you can’t have my eggs.” She giggled more. “Oh no. No. No. No.” She snorted and curled into herself as she chuckled.
Dimitri kept his eyes on his eggs and didn’t respond.
“Alright.” I said looking back to Cash. “Is she high?”
Cash shrugged. “Probly. You should go outside into za garden.” He said this gesturing with his Gibson hair toward the double doors. “Ve are going to have an Easter egg hunt.” He flipped his finger at my drink. “20 krowns.”
I pulled a coin from my pocket.
“You’re alvays smiling and laughing. It’s a beautiful sing.” Cash said leaning in again this time resting his jaw on one palm.
I handed him the coin holding it between my thumb and forefinger. He reached for it but gently caressed my index finger before taking the coin
“Thanks.” I plucked my drink from the counter. “I’m gonna go look for eggs.” I said. The caressed finger bit, I thought, was that a come on or an accident? Maybe everyone was high.