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You're waiting for Sunday. Every movement brings it nearer. You tried whispering, but softness doesn't slow the hours. You grow hoarse. On Sunday, it'll be dark as you go down the elevator, towards a plane he'll board, the glass you'll watch from, a bird flying off, until—an ant—you turn away.
You remember "esperar" from school: to hope, expect, wait for …
It's romantic: "I'll wait for you here." "I'll
for you." Your arrival itself a desire's fulfillment.
You wait for Sunday, but hope only Saturday, unending.
Your head rests against your initials on the elevator wall.
He says "Good day," even late at night.
I smile, walking home from the Vltavska metro, where the sidewalk has tar welts rising like bubbles on a slice of pizza. I want to poke them.
A couple approaches: ugly, holding hands, happy.
I'll go home, do the laundry. Wash the pink-checkered- "like a picnic!" I said that first time- blanket.
I meant to do this before he left, so it would hold his scent. I would curl up and dream picnics.
Knees against my chest, I burrow under my winter coat and close my eyes.
Roast chicken, butterflies, holding hands.
Czech dogs have huge balls. Granted, it is possible that dogs generally have big balls, and I've just been spared the graphics.
But no, really, I bet they're bigger here.
Maybe it's the water. The hounds are practically dragging them along the sidewalk. Men drink bottled water. They don't appear to have trouble walking.
Zdenek and I made a pact. Shook hands and everything. It was at J's going-away party. I'm using the notebook and pen J. left behind, which feels ironic, sweetly misused word. Two thousand, nine hundred words, we toasted. Day three and I'm on Dog Balls.
Marching on the tram tracks towards the embassy, C. talked about the tanks at 2000's protests.
Suddenly, I remembered: "I dreamt about tanks last night."
The woman had said "You come to protest, yet you don't even know what color our tanks are." Ashamed--it was true. I looked around. Desert. Finally: "They're yellow, to blend in." Embarrassed, I didn't ask why the soldiers wore green camouflage
Back on the tracks, near the bridge, he stopped filming. He wanted dissidence talk, not yellow tank dreams. "Sorry, I get weird on camera," I offered. He shrugged, started filming girls with signs.
Uncertainty's been keeping me from sleep like a new lover.
Apprehension's tongue playing on my ear. Excitement widening the gap between my waistband and my skin.
The red devil with Lionel Ritchie hair is casting an exotic woman's image on my bedroom wall.
This morning a hand puppet with horns, his shadow's the subject of an armchair ethnography. Tall, profiled, foreign.
On the plaster, horns vanished, his puppet hand a breast heavy with milk and sex. I'm impressed by his form changing.
I wonder what my shadow's been up to.
I want to see what I can make it do.
My brother said our last name came from Czech. "It means 'mischief'." Hell, I'd always loved Puck, adored Loki. This may have been the best thing my biological dad ever gave me.
I went to my first English lesson, a bit nervous, perhaps already a bit bored with my new job. Mr. Jezek is what you--if you knew the lingo--would classify as elementary. The conversation goes slooowly. Jezek means hedgehog. "Jo," I smiled with oneupmanship anticipation. "Ruchala" is
. I mimed, described, drew "mischief."
The correction took 30 minutes.
ancient Czech farming tool.
feminine form. past tense.
The goldfish was human-sized. He was standing on his tail, hunched, leaning against the wall like a noir detective against a lamppost. We were in a hotel room, one of the upper floors. Dark and beautiful, cushions and tapestries. I told him to get back in the water. He couldn't breathe for long like this. He explained with sad eyes, voice both proud and resigned: the prince, an affluent evil man, ate 1 live goldfish everyday. "I won't end like that," he said. His voice rasping now, too much air. He stood dying against the wall until I woke up.
First I had to move the gift bottle of rum. Under the table. Just knowing it was there still made my stomach turn. No TV. Can't read. Vice on my head. Student-sized hangover. I woke up at 8:30. Having arrived home at 4:30, I would've been fine- it's ok, really- with sleeping through this part of the morning. My body decided I should be aware of what it was going through. It doesn't process like it used to. I'm feeling very old and very young. It was good to get out of the apartment. To play. Tonight I'm staying in.
"I was gonna call you tomorrow," he said. And so tomorrow became the day for discussion. For my measured reference to our relationship, which ended because I left and won't continue when I return. "Tomorrow, then." We filled five minutes I couldn't afford with everything that wasn't what I called to talk about. Not touching the things that were supposed to be said, as he said, "tomorrow." We hung up, me frustrated.. I don't think he feels like that because of things like this. Pretty, funny emo ballad: "So I lied when I said manana, cause our tomorrow never came."
Taking photos at Metrostav. Conspicuous small bundled girl with camera and tripod. A big smile and friendly, stupid manner help. They say something…"fotograf." smile, nod, chuckle. They say something else, inflection rising. "Mluvim maly cesky" (I speak little Czech). Thumb and index finger spread to show smallness of knowledge. "Maly." Smile, laugh. They reply, smile, walk away. I kept waiting for someone to get angry, mean, accusative. To think I was going to sell secret construction site photos to their biggest competitor. I wasn't, but it's like Customs- when doing nothing wrong, importing nothing, I'm still afriad they'll find something.
Graham began ordering his coffee black as a teenager because that's how Agent Dale cooper drank it. In an admittedly uncool gesture, I now admit I would feel cooler if I took my coffee black. Travis made me instant coffee but it didn't keep me from drifting in and out during the old "Solaris." I'm not sure if I saw the real ending or dreamt a new one. Made conversation at the bookstore today. "I'm moving in one week." He figured I must have lots to do before I leave. "No." "So, what? Just pack up and go?" I smiled.
My last day with my intermediate class and I decided, goshdarnit, we were going to have show and tell. I know the average age in the room is 35. I know my "mad libs" attempt failed horribly. No one could think of a "funny word, plural," not even me. "Donkey" was the closest we came. But this would be different, this show and tell: full of conversation starters and classroom intimacy. Dasa brought her husband's painting, a replica of a famous work. Her friend had a similar version hanging in his summer cabin. A thief broke in to steal it.
I talk to my camera a lot, in a precious way, a bit like Gollum talking to his ring. Hopefully not as annoying as the film character. At least no one is paying to see me. Eating the special of the day at the creperie. The sun was out all day, enough to make me question my decision to move. The old man at the next table has been having a lengthy conversation with himself. I listen in a bit, but he mumbles and I don't know the language. Maybe he has an imaginary camera; they are discussing the weather.
My mom has gifts from year after year of 1st grade classes. She'd carefully take them out of cardboard boxes and plastic bags to show them to me and my grandmother. They were generally rickety or rackety and the plastic Santas in May would always live close to their packaging. Three of my favorite students gave me a going-away present: a glass beer mug, engraved: "Mile Jill…" It's the nicest the word "dear" has sounded in any language. I know next time I see my mom, I'll gingerly unwrap the tissue paper and translate the engraving. I know she'll understand.
I'm back at Creperie Bretagne. Sitting at the same table J. and I shared on our second date, where he teased me for scratching my head while thinking, where I finished all of the raspberry and vanilla ice cream crepe we were sharing for dessert. "I try not to be gluttonous," he said. I didn't worry that he'd think I , great consumer of desserts, was a glutton. I was thinking about something, and he scratched my head for me. Tonight, though, blueberries and chocolate sauce. Scooping the last sauce from fingers to mouth. Scratch my head with sticky fingers.
My head is full of lists, as is my pocketbook. I rewrite them on scrap paper during each tram ride. Tell E. about the new bookshop I think he'll like. Pick up my paycheck. Give M. the speakers left to me on the condition that I'll leave them to him. I need to buy Becherovka for J. and cigarettes for everyone in New York. I especially need "Grilovani" packs, the special pre-packaged spice packets that make the best roasted chicken. I'm convinced that I'll be alright in NY if J. will come over and cook grill spice chickens with me.
A photographer I admire bought me coffee this morning. We had to communicate mostly through his wife, who was lovely like one of my favorite college Spanish professors. They shared the style of women married to older successful men. I bought painted eggshells to carefully import to waiting family. They are oranges and greens, specifically for Easter but I expect mom to multi-task them for other holidays as well. I bought shoes, on-sale, but still it felt frivolous and exciting. I would wear them tomorrow but I hear there's a blizzard in NY and what if my footwear is sensitive?
I can't see the bottom half of the screen because Italian heads are in the way, but on the top half the girl is giving a graduation speech, telling her audience and my plane to "Go, go out into the world, and DO IT TRUE." It's truly awful, though there was a funny moment when one character was hit by a car, as we wish this would befall all the other characters as well. 10,400 meters altitude. -61 degrees Celsius outside air temperature. Maybe it's the science kids who like that information. I just want to know time until destination.
Saw J. Visited the office, his feet smelled from the wet-dry wet-dry cycle the slush is causing. Out to dinner, at a place called "Peep." Great to see him again but it's strange to be planning dates: "OK, so let's hang out some time this weekend" when three weeks ago we lived together. We agree it's strange to be bombarded by the conversations around us, at the next tables, on the metro I mean subway. In Prague you just tune most things out. Now I'm attacked by that girl's high pitched opinion of DJ Frankie Bones and his mistress's whining.
There were times in college, confronted with a paper whose topic seemed-- unnecessary-- when I'd go to a show and remark to friends: "Why doesn't it just write itself?" It was my standard slacker line, though I'm not what you'd generally call a slacker. But it was never completely a joke. It was the same in junior high, when my room would get messy: I'd half expect to come home and find it self-cleaned. There are still times I pause before entering a room or clicking open a mostly blank word file. Someday, something will have taken care of itself.
Saw Dre, my college roommate, for the first time in almost a year. I am confused and uninteresting-- congestion forming a huge bubble around my head-- it's hard to think, and I think she'll leave thinking I've grown boring. I work to remember that she's a friend, and that some people understand things like bubbles, things like colds. Met each other's friends at a bar full of silence. Jukebox wasn't on and it was a customer- bartender stand-off. J. began his book at this bar ages ago. M. is drunker than he seems. Dre and I are ready to retire.
Spent the day with J. and the family. I was hoping for the beautiful sun of the past few days-- for a long walk with the dog or the nephew, sunny domesticity-- but it's quintissential prague weather in NY. Rainy and gray and I'm achy and we're congested. Then we are less congested but medicine heady instead. Columbo is on-- J's all-time favorite show-- the rain hitting the window as he sleeps through the episode, snoring lightly. My head on his chest rising and falling while Columbo proves that the cocky son-in-law is the art-stealing murderer. Fingerprints give him away.
Talked to K. a few hours ago. I always tease him for being a boring, well-employed medical physicist who makes good money doing what he loves-- but right now things aren't going so well for him. This shocks and depresses my system more than my own problems. I feel clammy. There are some people whom I expect to have drama, attract it, rollercoaster ups and downs. But K. is stable. No, Stable. There is something in the sound of his voice, his inability to pay attention to anything I'm saying, his temporary hopelessness, that makes me feel like I'm sinking.
Lines from February emails I haven't deleted from my inbox: "eagerly anticipating your return to the states. well, that might be a little zealous but it would be great to see ya again." "O, why hath God forsaken us in these troubled times, such that a brother can't even open his e-mail?" "They're going to rock it, have no fear." "I myself will be flying in from Scotland to help" "Please use this address from now on." "Then they'd want to take pictures with me and push my hands against their breasts. It was just strange and confusing to me."
I have to rate things. Prioritize, order in first month last month fifty-dollar increments. Do I need bedroom walls to reach the ceiling? Do I care about apartment osmosis- walls so thin that sound passes through the living room membranes-- a music, movies, and sex biology party? A good heater in winter versus a roof for summer barbecues. A good friend many stops out in a bad neighborhood. Strange hair products and odd cooking smells in an unbeatable location. A fire escape, grease stains, a fixer-upper, an extra half bathroom, a nearby bar, a coffee shop, a place called home.
Grown unaccustomed to the options of a full bar, I try to remember what I used to drink. "Whiskey," I recall… but then it tastes strange, or maybe it's just cheap. Still sipping 20 minutes later, agitated, I realize I used to order bourbon, and never liked whiskey at all. I recount a story about a friend of mine in New Haven--something that happened a year ago. I stammer. I can't remember his name. "Isn't that strange? He was a pretty good friend…" I wonder. The boys across the table just stare. I realize this doesn't happen to them.
While I dislike the people on the train, with their loud, dumb phonecalls, awful-smelling food, and passive-aggression, I probably know these vinyl seats better than either of the two places the rails connect.
Years ago on those seats, after a rainy, miserable weekend away, I realized I loved someone. I was chilled, tired, perfectly content resting my head on his shoulder.
Two years later, aisles away, I was with the first boy to always fall asleep on my shoulder before I could fall asleep on his. I rested my hands on his ears, so the passing conductors wouldn't wake him.
I didn't know you loved Tootsie Pops-- I wouldn't have given it away. Or, if you told me while she had it that you needed the lollipop/ tootsie complimentary pair, I would have gotten it back and cleaned it with my mouth and given it to you. When you said it was the tootsie part, I thought I'd get her to mail me a tootsie roll for you, but it turns out that won't do, since it's not the tootsie part alone but only in the pop. So, really, I'm sorry, but strange things happen to people with complicated tastes.
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