I know it’s not easy to rid yourself of the past and make the future bright. Living off moments is damn hard and it’s a lot harder if there’s only a few of them.
- From a Letter to a Girl after We broke up
It’s Friday, almost 6 o’clock. The down pour forced everyone to hide inside the mall. There are a few loaners at the bus stop plus a mother with kids. I catch a glimpse of a harmless-looking fellow with the corner of my eye. His moves are somewhat erratic. He digs through his backpack and whips out a plastic cup filled with vodka. Downs it without blink of an eye. Pulls out a bottle of Fanta, takes a few gulps to rid himself of the wretched stink of cheap liquor and repeats this until the bus arrives. He gets on, quickly blends in and gets off after a few stops. Nobody noticed. Nobody cared. This is the only recollection he got from that faithful Friday.
There’s a wonderful breeze coming into this room. Softener from freshly washed clothes fills it with its sweetness. Add freshly assembled wooden furniture to the mix. Music playing in the background. Dim light illuminating the space. If you can imagine all this then you know where I am. Where are you?
You meet a lot of strange people on the train.
Take this guy, sitting to my left across the aisle. He cries when he listens to Evanescence. Snores out loud when he sleeps. Smacks his backpack to flatten it. Tries to call his friend when in a tunnel. He’s the spitting image of the corpulent ballet dancer from my earlier outré journey. The outcast we all know about, but never really thought he existed. The extra piece of the puzzle.
Between January and June I experienced some severe health issues. This made me quit my former job and move from Slovakia’s capital back to my parents’ house over in the East of the country. It was a troublesome move. On top of that, it wasn’t only one “bug” that had me visit the doctor just about every month, but several all at once. I’m still not my old-self, health-wise, but I believe the worst is behind me. During my “off-the-grid” time I traveled several times back and forth to the capital where most of my former colleagues and friends resided. Amid all this, I was able to find a girlfriend. It seemed impossible at the time, but I went along. You could guess from the slightly sarcastic tone of the previous sentence that it didn’t last.
For Easter weekend we decided to travel to Prague and spend some quality time together. At this point we haven’t seen each other for two weeks. We did chat and FaceTime, but that was about it. The intensity decreased with every day. She blamed the nice weather, friends and her need to seize the moment. That last one, that was my idea. I don’t know what was I thinking when I told her that, but I guess it was supposed to be encouraging and make her feel better about her ankle injury because of which she was unable to dance as she was a ballet dancer.
Let’s rewind the clock to December 31, 2013. Why go back all the way to 2013? Well, this is the breaking point for all the troubles, an evening that marked the departure. New Year’s Eve was here. I didn’t feel like doing anything special. It was my last day at my former employer (Amazon) and I felt like going to bed and ignore the festivities and fireworks and all. My former colleague persuaded me to do otherwise. Her and her friend didn’t have any plans for New Year’s Eve as well, so we decided to bash our plans of solitude and nothingness together and see what happens. We all got drunk and ended up at my apartment falling asleep to the fading sound of firecrackers. The next day I awoke to an empty and placid room. All my roommates went back home to celebrate New Year’s Eve with their families or what not. I’m feeling murky and have a hankering for a nice breakfast. Let’s see what can I do about it. Relieved of not having to go back to the glass dwarf (my ample name for the building I worked at) is making me somewhat smile every now and again. I will miss some of my colleagues, but there’s only a handful of those. At this point my health is at its all time low and I can’t wait to get packed and get out of here. I had enough.
We boarded the yellow bus. Got to our seats all the way at the back of the bus. After squeezing into those tiny things the best we could she immediately turned on her iPhone, pushed play and off she went into the world of “House of Cards.” I was left out in the open. The bus was closing in on me. These bats were everywhere. Swooping from left to right in batty patterns. They were trying to hypnotize me. I almost yelled: “Where’s my lawyer!” Then, all of a sudden, all became crystal clear. I wasn’t in a Hunter S. Thompson novel. I haven’t consumed any substance(s) which would cause me to hallucinate and last but not least, I was in a bus and not a cadillac roaring through the Nevada desert on my way to Las Vegas. This one was a little bit more jarring. On the left <- an exemplary couple. On the right -> a girlfriend about to uncover the mysteries of Kevin Spacey. In the middle - me - the lonesome traveler about to get the silent treatment for the next 4 hours or so. Good riddance! If you’d ask me back then and there what I was thinking about the whole situation I’d say: “I feel kind of awkward. Yep, awkward. Really awkward to be frank. Yep. Awkward…*murmurs* This is bullshit. ”
A man sitting across from me took off his shoes, made sure he sat comfortably in the rugged train seat, crossed one leg over the other and revealed a hole in his sock, spot on in the middle of his heel. This man must have walked miles. He didn’t care. He was oblivious to the people around him. The folk in close vicinity had no interest in a raggedy sock story. A camera shutter went off. Its sound spread through the open car. To the photographer’s surprise nobody noticed the odd noise. He remained unnoticed and his secret stayed with him.
"How do we get to the hotel?" she asked. Naive and unaware of her secrets I was yet to uncover, I looked up all the trams and paths we could take to get to the hotel. Bought the tickets at the info booth and was leading the party of two to the nearest tram stop. "Let’s get a coffee?" she pleaded. "Sure." I responded. "There’s a Starbucks right around the corner." After a round of Chai and Cappuccino we were all set to carry on in our journey. She seemed starry-eyed. She confessed about her last visit when she was 16 and that she missed the city and its beauty. When we got to the hotel it was up to me to take the hit for the accommodation. She would pay me back a few weeks later or so, once her salary from the theater gets in, she explained. I agreed, but was feeling uneasy about the last minute confession. The room was on the smaller side, but had everything we needed. It was courteous and had decent facilities for a 3 star hotel. The sum I payed downstairs included a one device internet pass. She got instantly on and then quickly apologized for not asking whether I wanted to get on with my iPad or not. My uneasiness began to grow.
Whisking by stations and hillside panoramas she looked me straight in the eye and said: “Hey, would you like to play a card game?”
"Would you like to have a drink with us?" asked the youngster sitting right next to me heading for a Techno-bus-trip to the Netherlands with his equally intoxicated buddy.
"Fahrschein, bitte." asked the kind Austrian train conductor.
"You don’t even know what racist means!" yelled the ticket agent.
We were ready to eat. Next stop, Prague’s Hard Rock Cafe. Because the tram stop was just a few feet away from the hotel it was all too convenient and tempting not to take it. We still had to walk a bit, but we found the famous restaurant quickly. Spreading across three floors it’s apparently the biggest Hard Rock cafe in Europe. After a few moments of waiting we were shown to our seats. After a few drinks a good meal and huge desert the night was ours for the taking. We made love that night. We took quick showers afterwards. Barely uttering a word to ease each other to sleep we went to bed. I couldn’t fall asleep that night. Staring into the light reflecting on the ceiling an occasional muffled roar of the tram breached the slow invading silence. Nothing could break the slant of yellow intruding the room. The minuscule window fed the limelight. It could be wonderful eavesdropping through the skylight onto Prague at night. Even though there wouldn’t be much to see past the rooftops, it seemed to be the most comforting place at the time. After closing my eyes for just a short moment sleep hit unexpectedly. I drifted into Neverland all too quickly.
My neck troubles started when I was working for Dell, or rather it began with shoulder strains. It was my first “real” job coming out of school and I was thrilled and excited to work for a huge and somewhat respected PC corporation. I wanted to use my English as a mean of getting things done as opposed to teaching it at a private English school during my university years. Don’t get me wrong, working there helped me come one step closer to realize who I really am, but I knew it wasn’t my final destination. My health deteriorated substantially after I started at Amazon. My lifestyle at the time, eating habits and disgust for the job all came together on December 31, 2013.
We explored, ate and took photos. It seemed to be the most wonderful Spring day to discover the city. Blatantly strolling through Prague’s vast old town, unaware at the time what the lover in disguise had in store, I gave myself away to Her. I gave myself away so she can do with me as she pleases. No one in the world would persuade me this wasn’t a great weekend out. After undergoing an operation, still having neck movement issues and being weak from all the procedures I was masterfully blindfolded by the girl and the beautiful city. Blissful, joyous and delighted I gave myself away to both of them. Laying in the grass on a man-made island between one of the bridges of Vltava I dreamed of a peaceful future in the Czech capital.
This grand scheme.
This play on emotions.
This was a simple “Let the kid have some fun before you whack him” situation.
"This is not working out," she confesses.
"We don’t have a lot of things in common," she continues.
"We don’t laugh about the same things," she adds.
Morning breakfast turned sour.
"Why didn’t you tell me before we left?" I argued. "We could’ve saved ourselves this trip and experience."
With an apologetic tone in her voice she said: “I’m sorry I ruined Prague for you.”
I looked at her and with a straight face answered: “You haven’t ruined it for me. Some things can’t be ruined by people.”
Silence broke. It blasted its way from all corners of the minuscule hotel room. Twisting our vocal cords whenever we would look at each other. Barging any syllable or sound. She became hideous. I was a monster in her eyes. We were creepers making each other’s lives miserable. Wretched. Pathetic. Bitter.
We had to spend the rest of the trip back in each other’s presence.
It was a chore.
The hotel room door closed shut and with it the last three months with this girl.
It’s late June. My neck issues gave in after a shot of Botox. Most of my health troubles resided. I was on a train again. The semi-occupied couchette became restless as we gained speed. This was our penultimate stop. Next up, the final destination, Slovakia’s capital - Bratislava.
People were asking the roaring landscape if we’re there yet. I replied in a hush tone: “Almost.”
Thanks to @Yablko for his kind critique.