I walked through the double doors and headed toward a door that opened into the backyard that was built out of an old courtyard. It was bucolic in a druggy kind of Warholian fashion. Blankets were spread over the small grassy plot. To one side of the courtyard was an actual garden with leafy greens sprouting from the ground and thin tall sticks with twine to make tepees for beans and flowers. The remainder of the small yard was a hard patchwork of grass and dirt. I sat on an empty blanket and drank my wine looking at all the various people that were sitting, laying or milling about. There was a mellow bohemian air to the crowd. People spoke in quiet tones and intimate gestures. I didn’t know any of them. I adjusted my shirt a bit, sat crossed-legged and stared off into the garden. There was a scent of lilacs and cake in the air. Sandy had baked a traditional beranek cake for Easter. I was told it had looked like a lamb, but what I saw passing from hand to hand was more like a slaughtered ameba. A guy wearing a black top hat and stripped bell bottomed pants walked into the garden carrying a guitar and a folded wooden chair. He placed the chair at the edge of the garden, between tomato plants and dangling beans, and sat down. He strummed a few strings of his guitar before he began to play The Velvet Underground’s, What a Perfect Day. I felt suddenly like I was sitting in a photograph.
Sandy ran out giggling and holding up a bottle of white. “Hold yor glasses up if you want wine.” She yelled.
People cheered and held up their glasses. I held up my empty glass and Sandy poured it to the top then moved to the next group. Someone made a joke about her needing a wine skin. Jiri rushed out and grabbed Sandy around her waist and maneuvered her and the wine back into the hostel to the soft boos of those sitting outside. I took a large drink to keep my wine from spilling. A woman with glittery face paint held out her hands; she had a crayon in one palm and an egg in the other. I smiled but shook my head with an involuntary wrinkle of my nose. I didn’t want to color on eggs. I was certain that this crayon coloring business was not a Czech tradition in the decorating of eggs. I was certain it was a “we don’t have any money for dye so let’s use crayons instead” tradition because other than Demitri not one person could color a decent egg, and he was Russian not Czech. I watched the guitarist’s fingers slowly strumming over the strings, his brush so light it seemed as if he wasn’t really touching them. I started to notice a heady feeling, like a contact high, from all the milky people clouding around me. Either that or I was already feeling drunk from the wine. I looked down into my overflowing glass that was more like a chalice by the abundant pour that Sandy offered in her short-lived role as Bacchus.
Endres stumbled through the door in his usual fashion. He wasn’t sober today. He noticed me, trip-walked his way over, and sat beside me on the blanket. He inhaled deeply and then exhaled with a hum.
“I had a nice picnic in the park Annnnnna.”
“Hmmm.” I said, not having any response. I took a gulp of wine and set my glass on the ground. I thought about getting up, but Endres stopped me by laying his head in my lap. I looked down at him, and held my arms up in question. I wasn’t sure what to do. I hadn’t expected to have Endres’ head in my lap. He had his eyes closed and a smile played over his lips. I looked to my wine glass then back to Endres.
“I need to be on drugs, Annnnnna, so I do not think of my first time in Prague.” He mumbled.
Endres’ eyes were almond shaped, and when they were closed they looked like smiles on a happy face. He was really very beautiful. His skin was smooth like porcelain, not a blemish. It was his coloring that was off sometimes, like he would appear blue-grey or with light plum circles under his eyes. But most of the time he was a soft ceramic white with just a faint dusting of blush. Something about his fine features, his sharp nose and chin reminded me of the feminine. I wondered what it would feel like to pull my fingers through his messy hair, and I moved a hand toward his forehead, but I stopped short and set both of my hands on the ground behind me. Now I had a male drug-addicted angel’s head in my lap. Seemed like a perfect scenario for Easter. I looked up at the sky. We stayed like this in silence for a moment until my leg began to get uncomfortable.
“Endres, I’m sorry but my legs are falling asleep. Here you can use my bag as a pillow.” He lifted his head as I removed my legs and placed my bag under him. I stretched my legs in front of me, massaging them for a bit. Endres kept his eyes closed. I wondered what time it was. How late had I slept this time? Endres had already had a picnic in the park. I had thought it was still early since the streets were so quiet, but maybe it was just that everyone was at home with their families. I flipped over onto my stomach beside Endres.
“How long were you in Thailand?” I asked pulling out a blade of grass and wrapping it around my finger.
“Mmm. Nearly a year.” His eyes were still closed.
“How long have you been traveling?”
“Nearly three years. But I do go home in between.”
“How old are you?”
“I am four and twenty.”
“Can you guess how old I am?” I asked still playing with the blade of grass. That was a stupid question; I wish I hadn’t asked it. I sounded juvenile. I realized I was flirting. This was my flirting. Terrible.
Endres turned to his side facing me and leaned his head on his palm. “It is hard to tell.”
I felt a blush wash over me as Endres examined my face looking for my age. I caught sight of Francisco from the corner of my eye as he walked from the door into the courtyard. I sat up in relief at the chance of breaking this awkward moment, and waved to him. He smiled at me, and tossed an orange in my direction. I caught it over Endres. Francisco turned back inside.
“It must be night.” I said looking up at the dusky sky. “How’d I not notice?” I began to peel the orange by first puncturing it with my nails then tearing back the skin. The rind perspired sweating drips of citrus odor onto my fingers.
Francisco returned holding two glasses of wine. He handed the white one to me.
“How’d you know?” I asked surprised.
He shrugged and set his wine down, then picked up an egg and a crayon. He sat behind me and leaned his back against mine. I could feel the heat from Francisco’s body beating against my back. Even with my initial apprehension on meeting Francisco I felt comfortable leaning up against him for support. I couldn’t figure it out. I had a sense that Francisco wasn’t to be trusted and yet he felt protective, like a guardian almost. I decided to stop fixating on it and just let it go.
I peeled off a part of the orange and handed it to Francisco. I fed a slice to Endres as he lay looking up at me. I was not the kind of woman to feed orange slices to a man, but this was not real life. This was an art film. His eyes were hard blue, striking and somewhat insane. His pupils dilated with a rapid pulse.
“Whoa.” I said, “Your eyes just did something freaky.” It was freaky like a snake’s or cat’s eye.
He smiled up at me. I fed him another orange as if pupils pulse into the size of a dime and then back to the size of a pinhole all the time. What kind of drug did that? Whatever it was it made him mellow. I took a drink of my wine. I felt Francisco move against my back as he scribbled with brisk jerks over his egg.
“I remember things I say Annnnna.” Endres said to me.
“That’s nice Endres.” I said feeling pretty warm from the wine.
“What I said to you the other night.”
“That you thought I was attractive?” I said.
I felt Francisco chuckle his back shaking mine. I felt a flush of embarrassment. I handed him another slice of orange from over my shoulder. He took it from my fingers. I took another drink of wine. I really felt like Francisco and I were bonding.
“Where’s Marco?” I felt Francisco shrug.
The sky was continuing to darken as people passed around ribbons to tie onto sticks. It was that perfect light — the magic time that photographers and filmmakers love when the light is bouncing off the spectrum and pulling out the deepest, sharpest colors.
I felt Francisco growl in frustration over his egg.
“You know I think it is going to be too dark for an Easter egg hunt.” I said.
Francisco tossed his egg and crayon into the grass and abruptly rose and headed into the bar.
It was now dark and starting to get chilly. I lay back down onto the blanket beside Endres. I felt fine being alone with him out in the Easter night. I was drunk on wine.
“I love Prague.” He said up to the sky. “Don’t you love Prague, Annnna?”
“I don’t know if I do.” I said.
“Really?” He sat up and looked at me, his expression hidden in the shadow. “You are the first person I have met that hasn’t loved Prague.”
“Well, I don’t know if I do or don’t yet. I mean, I guess it’s not what I expected. I mean my street is kinda trashy.” I said taking a drink. I was drunk and starting to feel a little cold. “Can I wear your shirt?” I asked.
“What? Are you cold Annnnna?”
“Yep.” I said feeling a shiver move up my back.
“I have a shirt you can borrow up in the room. You know Annna, a lot of beautiful art comes out of trash.”
“Yes. Yes it does.” I knew he was right.
Endres stood up and helped me to my feet and led me, wine glass in hand, into the hostel. He walked me up the first few steps into the hostel then asked me to wait for him for a second as he went to grab the shirt. I leaned on a window ledge and finished my wine. I set the glass down on the ledge beside me. I wondered where Marco was and why he wasn’t here. Endres returned. Handing me the shirt he sat next to me on the ledge. I drunkenly pulled it over my head.
“Would you like to share a splif with me Annnna?”
“Sure.” I said.
We sat on the staircase and shared the splif in silence. Once we finished Endres stood up and helped me to my feet.
“I think for tonight I am going to bed.” Endres’ said.
“Oh are you leaving?” I felt my weight sway back just slightly.
“Yes. Tonight I am tired.”
“Well, can I stay the night with you?” If I hadn’t felt so drunk and stoned I would have been surprised at my boldness. My sober side gave me a thumbs up on the forwardness- you go girl– it said.
“What Annnna? Oh no. It is not nice. It is not a private space. It is full of people.”
“I don’t care. It’s not like we’re going to do anything. I just want to sleep.” We were facing each other holding hands like we were about to play London Bridges.
“I don’t know Annnna. Why would you want to sleep there?”
I shrugged. I didn’t have a smooth answer or any answer.
He looked at me for a minute and then dropping one hand and grabbing the other tighter he led me up the stairs to the communal room.
It was a large room with multiple bunk beds and backpacks, sleeping bags strewn around. We stepped hand and hand over bags, and some people who were on floor cots. Endres let go of my hand and made up the bed as I swayed from one side to the other like a top winding down.
“I’m sorry Annnna,” he whispered, “I told you it wasn’t that nice.”
I shrugged and climbed onto the bottom bunk where Endres was assigned to sleep. I pulled up the covers and scooted in toward the wall. Endres got in after me and snuggled up behind me spooning me with his body. He pushed my hair aside and put his face into the back of my neck, and that is how we fell asleep with 25 strangers.