I woke with a start. I was not staring at neighboring windows that looked into an apartment with lace curtains, but instead at a white stone wall. I felt a warm body around me and had that feeling of dread. I turned around to look at Endres, and sighed with relief as my memory flooded back. I looked at him and then at the bottom of the bunk above us. Endres smelled like stone fruit. When he was sleeping his sharp features softened and looked even more fairy-like or more elfin. I felt the urge to touch his face but I fought it off and instead thought of an escape plan. He stirred awake and opened his eyes to look at me. He squeezed me and pulled me into him and began to kiss my neck and shoulders. Someone stirred on the other side of the room.
“I gotta go.” I whispered sitting up and climbing over him.
He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me on top of him. “No” he whispered, “Stay.”
“No.” I said pulling myself off him nearly falling onto the ground, but Endres caught me and set me on the floor. I stood up and looked around at all the sleeping bodies. Some people were up packing, and others were reading in bed. I found my shoes under the bed and slipped them on. Endres walked me to the door of the communal room shutting the door behind him. He hugged me in a long embrace. I was in a strange panic mode, but managed to fake it.
“I don’t know why you would sleep with me here.” He stepped away from me. “Too noisy. Too many people. It is bad.”
“Yah. I know. Well, bye.” I gave a quick wave and rushed down the stairs toward the bar and out the front doors onto Bořivojova. As I walked I realized I was still wearing Endres shirt. I lifted my arm and smelled my armpit. I smelled like apricots. I was such an asshole. I didn’t know how I felt about Endres. I didn’t know how I felt about anyone when it came to intimacy.
I pushed the door to the flat shut, making little sound, and pressed my back and head against the door. I took in a deep breath. I wasn’t sure why, but I didn’t want the guys to know I had stayed the night with Endres. I didn’t know why I felt awkward about the whole thing. It wasn’t like I did anything wrong, and I was an adult, I could be wrong if I wanted to be, but I couldn’t shake this overwhelming weight of embarrassment. I wasn’t sure where it was coming from; after all I could do whatever I wanted. I was a young American woman traveling free. Hell, backpacking across Europe was permission for a sexual revolution. The damn stereotype was that I was easy. In my travels I was rarely easy. I was complicated, and I knew this about myself, and complication in the lifestyle of a traveler isn’t fun. I didn’t want to reveal this “I’m not a fun easy chick, I’m complicated, and don’t know what to do with myself and that’s why I’m here now” part of me. I didn’t want to reveal it to anyone, not even Marco. It was a strange secret to keep.
The place was still. All I needed to do was sneak into bed without waking Marco. I peeked into Francisco’s room. He was geometrically splayed on his bed like The Vitruvian Man, and snoring, and wearing his small tight boy shorts that were grey and blue. I had the sensation that I was looking in at my half-brother half naked, and the longer I lingered the more wrong it was. I shuddered and turned away from the room. I had seen more of Francisco than I had wanted to. He was an attractive man, but I wasn’t interested in knowing every detail of his body.
I turned the doorknob to the kitchen as slow as possible, to not make any noise, and tiptoed into the room. I shut the door behind me with a quiet click and turned around to see someone sitting in the easy boy. It was a man I had never seen before. He was drinking a beer. It was ten in the morning. Even we didn’t start drinking at ten in the morning. We stared at each other for a beat than a crazy grin spread over his face. I stepped with mild trepidation into the kitchen then I looked toward Marco’s closed door. I wasn’t scared, as much as cautious, like I didn’t know what kind of animal I was facing. It seemed small and fuzzy, but did it bite?
“Hi?” I said.
He didn’t answer but smiled larger. I could tell even as he was sitting that he was short, his stocky build protruding from the chair like he was a pro wrestler sitting in the corner of the ring in between bells. His head was shaved, and he kept rubbing over it, massaging the surface of his skull. He tugged on his baggy brown cords then stood up to adjust them. They hung low on his hips. They looked like Marco’s teacher pants. He returned his gaze to me and started smiling again. I gave a quick smile and then grabbed a glass, and filled it with water from the sink. I could feel him staring at my back. I spun on my heels to look at him. He was still standing in front of the chair. I wondered where Marco was and who the hell was this smiling man. I got the psycho vibe off of him from the second we locked eyes. Not killer psycho, just crazy psycho. I was pretty sure this was one of those humans are animals moments.
“So…I’m Annabelle.” I said taking the first move.
“You are lovely.” His voice was gruff and stocky like his body.
“Thanks. Uh is Marco here?” I pointed toward the bedroom door.
“I wear Marco’s pants!” He shoved both of his hands into the pockets and flared the pants out like a parachute. “I look American huh!”
Marco’s door flew opened and he rushed from the room, physically pushing the guy then me as he ran toward the water closet, while holding his hand over his mouth. He slammed both the kitchen door and the water closet behind him.
The man in Marco’s pants started coughing a laugh and smacking at his belly that was slightly protruding in his stance.
“Here!” He yelled. “I bring you this.” From a paper bag he pulled out two bottles of Becherovka and set them with an aggressive clunk onto the table. “Today we drink!”
“We drink every day.” I said swallowing the kitchen’s water with a mild distaste. “We drink a lot.” I said turning to wash my glass. “Too much.” I said, more to myself than to the man. When I turned back around he was standing close to me. I jumped back startled. He grabbed my hand and pressed it to his chest.
“I want you. Feel my heart. It beats.”
“Holy shit.” I said choking on the last gulp of water. I couldn’t tell if I should be afraid or start to laugh. It was ten in the morning, and already some drunk guy was asking me to feel his beating heart. I knew it was going to be one of those days. He dropped his head to my shoulder.
Marco kicked the kitchen door open and I pushed the man’s head off my shoulder with a shrug. I looked to Marco for an answer. He took two large steps into the kitchen and glared at me.
“My shit is fucked.” He said.