Sweet-lipped Psyche's pale white skin
All the men in Greece dragged in.
And the poor girl's dark brown eyes
Led Aphrodite her to despise.
For Psyche truly was a beauty,
Reputed as brighter than Aphrodite.
If Aphrodite was a dark red rose,
Of which we've written poetry and prose,
Psyche was a pure-white Aganisia
For which they wrote a deep-sea saga.
But she knew it was sore unwise
To find herself level with a Goddess' eyes.
The only proof needed for Psyche
Was the sad fate of the maiden Arachne,
Who challenged Athena to a weaving contest,
And though her tapestry was judged the best,
It was she that ended as the melancholy loser,
For Athena punished her with the life of a spider.
And so it was that Psyche knew
Aphrodite wold claim her life too.
So Aphrodite sent her son,
The lovely, winged, holy one,
Whose golden arrows fly at night
And relieve bored lovers of their plights.
She sent Eros to shoot his arrow
And pierce it through to Psyche's marrow,
Then set before her a crocodile,
The scaly terror of the Nile,
With which she'd fall in love straightway,
And then she'd come to rue the day.
For crocodiles have no love to give,
So it would eat her, and she'd cease to live.
On the sleeping Psyche Eros descended,
Long before the night had ended,
In whose dainty breast to shove
A golden arrow poisoned with love.
He prepared to bury it to the hilt,
But a drop of love on him was spilt,
At the moment he saw her eyes, dark brown,
Look to him and stare him down.
Then Eros went back to his mother
And told her he could not wed another
Who did not shine quite so brightly
As his sweet-lipped brown-eyed Psyche.
So spiteful Aphrodite cursed
Psyche through her red lips pursed,
That the girl would find no husband
Among God, animal, or man.
And Eros this so greatly angered
He could no more with arrows linger
At the foot of lovers' beds
To foster love in their young heads.
The entire world then ceased to love
Whether it walked on foot or hoof.
Whether it swam or flew on wing
It could not love nor gain others' loving.
When love no longer circulated,
Aphrodite it aggravated
To see her temple lying bare
And to feel the gray growing in her hair.
She told Eros he'd have what he desired
If only he would kindle love's fires.
So at the mountain, Psyche's family offered her
And she was borne away on the back of Zephyr
To Eros' golden gay abode
That he and his ghostly servants called home.
In the golden rooms she wandered by daylight,
But she lay with Eros in the dark when came night.
She knew not who her darling was,
But called her ignorance a test of trust.
Never to look upon him by day,
She continued in this way,
Until she longed to visit her family,
Which her husband granted her gladly.
But he held her, and he warned her
Not to let her sisters persuade her.
"They may try to tear you away
By telling you gruesome stories." he'd say.
Then, trippingly, from Olympus she jumped down
To walk the streets of her hometown.
She told her sisters her whole story
And they turned it into something gory.
"He could be a serpent," they'd say,
"Fattening you up for the day
When he can pop you in his mouth and eat you"
Unfortunately, she took their words as true.
"So, when he comes to you at night,
Just gaze on him by candlelight!
If he's a serpent, use this knife,
And you'll no longer be his wife.
But make sure not to spill the oil,
Or his waking will cause great turmoil!
We'll find out about that young buck!
Use the candle, the knife, don't spill, and good luck!"
She walked back to the palace at their behest,
Butterflies banging within her chest.
Could the faceless man with whom she'd spent her nights
Be revealed as a serpent by candlelight?
She did not have to wait for long
To prove her treacherous sisters wrong.
As she lay in the great soft bed,
The instructions tangled inside her head,
And lighting the candle, she almost fumbled,
But when she saw his face, she truly stumbled!
Eros' beauty knocked her senseless,
Leaving mortal Psyche defenseless,
And causing her to spill the oil, which smoldered
On Eros' godly golden shoulder.
He, awaking with a start
Was disappointed to his heart
That Psyche cold be so unfaithful
And make a decision so egregiously fatal.
Then, jumping from the casing, he flew
Out of Psyche's lustful view.
And she, for her part, suddenly found
That from the palace she'd been cast down
To a field of which she had no memory,
Or very dim, if she had any.
In despair, she began to flounder,
Then resigned herself to wander
Until she came to a temple edifice,
Which was, on Earth, Aphrodite's face,
And begged the unseen Goddess hear her out,
Trying her patience with childish whining shouts.
Aphrodite, trying only to divert,
Cast a basket of grains down to the dirt,
And told the weeping lovely malcontent
That if she sorted the grains 'fore day was spent,
She just may see her sweetheart once again.
All she had to do was sort the grain.
But Psyche, though her fingers were dainty and thin,
To separate the grains could not begin,
And sobbing, lay upon the stony floor
That was as cold as the Goddess had acted before.
The ants, which had been drawn to the golden grain,
Bore her load and relieved her of her pain.
In their famously sure and straight black line,
They each picked up a piece of grain so fine
That it might with ease pass through a needle,
And into order they the sweet grain wheedled.
Then at the very setting of the sun,
Aphrodite found the task was done,
And though she praised the poor girl outwardly,
Inside she felt the bloom of hate for Psyche.
So she set her down on one side of a stream,
Where on the other was a field of green,
In which lived Helios' golden sheep
From which she was to obtain some shining fleece.
Then Aphrodite left her there to play,
And flew to Mount Olympus far away.
But Flumen, God of Rivers, raised his head
To warn sweet Psyche from his riverbed
That the sheep were so fierce, if she but pulled one hair,
They'd all turn on her and eat her then and there.
It was better if she waited 'til midday
When the sheep lay down to sleep the heat away.
Then she could cross where the river rushes,
And pick the wool that had got caught in the bushes.
So Psyche followed Flumen's good advice,
And for Aphrodite's cruelty she paid no price.
Aphrodite's blood boiled when she saw
That Psyche had survived it after all.
Again, she tried to send her to her death
And charged her to collect water from a cleft
Which mortal humans could not enter,
And in which serpents would surely spend her.
But now it was an eagle came to her aid,
Who stormed inside and flew between the snakes,
Then picked a pouch of water in its beak,
And back out of the cleft to Psyche it sneaked.
Aphrodite, at her dastardly wit's end,
Devised a horrible place for her to Psyche send.
"Psyche, caring for my ailing son
Has drained each drop of beauty, every one,
From my former glory of a face.
Therefore, I command you to that place
Where Persephone dwells. Then you must beg
For some of her beauty, just a tiny dreg.
Then you may have my son, I give my promise,
As holding him from you has marred my face."
Then Psyche, with tears streaming from her eyes,
Decided the only way there was to die.
In what she had appointed her fatal hour,
She climbed up to the top of a high tower,
But her melancholy was so disturbingly great,
All the Universe moved to it abate,
So that the very tower she climbed upon,
Awoke and spoke to her as if a person.
"Psyche, there is a way to the Underworld alive,
So that you need not from my roofing dive."
And to the Underworld the tower gave her
A route and some directions just to save her,
Then it sternly warned her that not of meat,
Nor of anything but bread in Hades could she eat.
So she followed the Tower's path back down
And disappeared into the heaving ground.
And when she found herself before Persephone's throne
She asked to take a parcel of her beauty home,
Which the emotionless Queen of the Screaming Damned
Without word placed in Psyche's quivering hand.
The hardest part of the impossible task being done,
Psyche headed back up toward the sun,
And, reasoning that she was to see her beloved before nightfall,
Decided to use some beauty from the parcel.
Inside she found not beauty, but a stifling sleep,
Which forever in its clutches would she keep
If Eros had not chancely happened by,
And wiped Persephone's sleep from Psyche's eye.
Then, carrying her on his back, he barged
Into the Hall of the Olympian Gods.
He bade them let him wed himself and Psyche
And disregard the protests of Aphrodite.
Then Jupiter, indeed, allowed it obligingly,
For he was a man who greatly enjoyed a party.
Ambrosia she was given so to seal
Her immortality and place her among the surreal.
Then after many years of love and laughter,
Psyche bore Hedone, their lovely daughter.
This is how the beauty of the Human Soul,
Triumphed over the beauty of lust and gold.
All this Eros and Psyche had to take.
All this they endured for their love's sake.
They demonstrate the purity of love,
That is admired by Gods above.
In the end, it is the pure Mariposa
Who is more deserving of ambrosia.
It was 98'.
No, it was 99'.
That was the year.
Yeah, that was the year.
I had just landed abroad and knew no one.
Well, I was there with my girlfriend, Page.
I knew her.
We had to get out of the states.
There was nothing for us there.
We were drowning in that nothingness - that lacking future.
Cookie cutters everywhere.
Everything I saw was like an outline of something that had already happened.
I couldn't sleep.
I couldn't fuck.
I could barely call my parents to let them know what I was doing.
Floating downward like a leaf broken from its stem.
I was scared.
I'll admit it.
I was terrified of the next four years.
Twenty-five seemed so far away and so close, all at the same time.
We had a found an apartment to live in while in the U.S.
We were lucky because people we met later on said it was hell trying to find a place after arriving.
I was never too good at that stuff anyway.
I always felt like people were trying to cheat me or something.
It was small.
You would have said you loved it, but secretly hated it.
One could barely stand in the shower.
Want to spread your arms wide?
Forget about it.
There was a balcony though and you could watch the street traffic from above.
People look so small when your high up.
Down the street, there was a large theatre where they filmed movies.
I rarely saw them shooting, but I could tell it was a good place to.
It was beautiful at night when the lampposts would flicker on, orange spilling on the street.
Everything was damp in the Fall when we first arrived.
"What do you want to do today?" I asked her. She was laying face down on the bed.
Whenever she was hungover, she would do that.
All the covers and pillows over her face, blocking out the world and its light.
I did the same thing, so I couldn't really say much.
We were hungover a lot those first couple months.
Then came the jobs and everything changed...mostly.
She moaned something that I couldn't understand.
I was standing by the window, staring at the pigeons and crows perched on the roof across from us.
They had made a little nest under one of the shingles.
Clever little fucker's.
"Look at those things," I said.
The coffee I was drinking was bitter and made from crystals.
It gave me a headache, but it was cheap and we were broke.
I stepped back to get a better look at their nest and knocked an empty beer bottle around.
She moaned again and rose up from bed, kind of like a stretching kitten or a cat.
Her back was arched like a crescent moon and she stunk of vodka and Sprite.
The blankets were twisted and crumpled and she was tangled in them like a fly in a spiders web.
I went into the kitchen and poured out my coffee, thinking of what to do with the day.
"Breakfast?" she asked me from bed.
My back was to her, but I knew she wanted me to make it.
I put the electric stove on and opened the refrigerator.
"No eggs," I said back to her, "I'll be right back."
She moaned and slithered back into bed.
I threw my jacket and slippers on and made my way downstairs.
"Dobry den," I said to the cashier.
He was a tiny vietnamese man with a extremely high pitched voice.
I struggled to stifle a laugh every time I came in.
"Dobry den," he said back, sounding like air escaping from a balloon.
"Dear God," I thought, "How does his voice box do it?"
I went straight to the eggs, pretending to cough.
All around me were packaged sweets and rotten vegetables and fruit.
There were half loaves of brown, stale bread wrapped lazily in thin plastic.
Canned beans, noodle packets, and cardboard infused orange juice lined the shelves.
Where were the goddamn eggs?
We needed milk too.
Trying to drink that crystalized coffee without it was torture.
I don't even know how I did it earlier.
"I must be getting used to the taste..." I thought.
I opened the single refrigerator they had in the place.
It was stocked with loosely packaged cheese, milk, beer, and soda.
There they were, those goddamn eggs, right next to the yogurt.
I looked at the expiration date of a small carton of chocolate milk and winced.
"Someone could die here if they weren't careful," I whispered to myself.
"Everyding O.K.?" I heard the cashier squeak behind me.
I turned and nodded and showed him the eggs.
He was suspicious I was stealing something.
It was ironic.
I put the eggs on the counter and handed over what the cash register told me.
"There you go," I said and handed him the 58 crown in exact change.
"Děkuji," he peeped.
His voice sounded like a stuffed animal.
I nodded, smiled, and quickly got the hell out of there.
"You know the guy that works at the shop across the street?" I asked the body still in bed.
Well, she was up now, back up against the wall with her laptop on her lap.
"You mean the guy that has the voice of a little girl?"
"Exactly. I was just in there - getting these eggs - and I nearly laughed in his face."
"That's mean," she frowned, staring at her laptop.
Many of our conversations were with some kind of electronic device in between us.
We needed to work on that.
"I didn't laugh at him directly."
She smiled and nodded and moved down the bed a little more.
Only her head was resting on the pillow.
I cracked two eggs and let them sizzle there in the butter and the salt.
"So, what do you want to do today?" I asked Page, "It's not too cold out. We could go on a walk."
"I don't know. Over the bridge and maybe down by the water."
"It's going to be so cold," she shivered.
"I was just out there in slippers and a t-shirt and I was fine."
"That's because you're so big. I'm tiny. I don't get as much blood flow."
I flipped the two eggs and looked down at them.
Golden and burnt slightly around the edges.
Now, just gotta wait a little on the other side and make sure to not let the yolk harden.
I hated that more than anything in the world.
Well, that and hearing piss poor excuses like it being too cold.
It was nice out.
She'd be fine.
"Come on," I sighed. I did that a lot. "It'll be fun."
She looked up at me from her computer with a dead look in her eye.
"What?" I asked her.
"You're such a...nerd," she said.
"No I'm not."
"You're so weird. Some of the things you say sometimes..."
"Let's go on a walk."
She exaggerated the word walk.
I laughed and knew I was being a little too excited about a walk.
"Yeah. So? What are you doing? You're just laying there doing nothing."
"It's my day off," she scoffed, jokingly.
We were unemployed.
Everyday was a day off.
This was not something to bring up.
It was touchy subject.
One had to go about it...delicately.
"We need to find jobs," I stated, "And we can probably ask around or look for signs in windows."
"Oh JESUS," she gagged, coughing and diving back under the covers.
"I'm just thinking ahead so we can stay here. There's got to be something out there we can do."
"Like what?" she asked, her voice muffled by blankets.
"I don't know...something," I mumbled, trailing off as I flipped one of the eggs, "Perfect."
After breakfast, Page finally got out of bed and took a shower.
I tried to sneak in there with her, but, like I said before, one could barely fit themselves in there.
We compromised to have sex on the bed, though I did miss doing it in the shower.
As Page got dressed, I watched her slip those thin black stockings on, half reading a magazine.
I had gotten a subscription to The Review because I was trying to become a writer.
I thought, maybe if I read the stuff getting published - even the bad shit - it'll help.
Later, I realized, this was a terrible idea, but I enjoyed the magazine all the same.
Page finished getting dressed.
I jumped into whatever clothes were on the floor and didn't stink.
Then, we were out the door on Anna Letenske street, looking at the tram, downhill.
"I can see my breath," Page said, "It's cold..."
"Alright," I said as both of us ran across the street, "It's a little cold."
"But it's ok because I'm glad were out of the house."
"If we would have festered there any longer, we would have stayed in there all day."
"And missed this beautiful day," she said mocking me, putting both of her arms in the air.
The sky was gray and overcast and a single black crow flew over us, roof to roof.
No one was out, really.
It was Sunday and no one ever really came out on Sundays.
From the few czech friends I had, they explained to me this was the day to get drunk and cook.
"Far different then what people think in the States to do," I remember telling him.
"What do you do, my friend?" he had asked. He always called me my friend.
It was a nice thing to do since we had only known each other a couple weeks.
"Well," I explained to him, "Some people go to church to pray to God."
He laughed when I said this and said, "HA! God? How many people believe in God there?"
I had heard through the news and some Wikipedia research Prague was mostly atheist.
"A good amount, I'm pretty sure."
"That's silly," he scoffed, "Silly is word, right?"
"Yep. A word as any other."
"I like that word. What else do they do on Sunday?"
"A lot of people watch football. Not like soccer but with..."
"I know what you talk about," he said, cutting me off, "With the ball shaped like egg?"
I nodded, "Yes, the one with the egg shaped ball. It's popular in the Fall on Sundays."
"And what is Fall?" he asked.
You can see our relationship was really based on questions and answers.
He was a good guy, though I could never pronounce his name right.
There was a specific z in there somewhere where one had to dig their tongue under their teeth.
Lots of breath and vibration that Americans were never asked or trained to do.
Every czech I met said our language was a high contradiction.
Extremely complex in grammar and spelling, but spoken with such sloth.
I don't know if they used the word sloth.
I just like the word.
As we waited for the tram, I noticed the burnt orange and red blood leaves on the ground.
"Where had they come from?" I wondered. There were no trees on the street.
Must be from the park down the block, the one with the big church and the square.
There were lines of trees there used as leaning posts for the bums and junkies as they waited.
What they were waiting for, I never knew.
They just looked to be waiting for something.
I kicked a leaf into the street from the small island platform for the tram.
It swept up into the air a couple inches, and then instantly, was swept away by a passing car.
I watched as it wavered in the air, settling down the block in the middle of the road.
"Where's this trammm," Page complained.
Whenever it was cold out, her complaining level multiplied by a million.
"Should be coming soon. Check the schedule."
"Too cold," she said, "Need to keep my hands in my pockets."
I shook my head and looked at the schedule. It said it would be there at 11:35.
"11:35," I told her, still looking at the schedule. There was a strange cross over the day of Sunday.
"No," I said turning to her, "I just want to have a nice day and its hard when you're upset."
"I'm not upset," she said, her teeth chattering behind her lips.
"Complaining I mean. We can go back home if it's really too cold. It's right there."
"No," she looked down, "Let's go out for a bit. I just don't know how long I'll last."
"Ok," I shrugged.
I looked up the street and saw our tram coming; number 11.
"There it is," I said.
"Thank God," Page exhaled, "I feel like I'm about to die."
Even the tram was sparse with people.
An empty handle of cheap liquor rattled in the back somewhere.
I heard it rock back and forth against the legs of a metal seat.
"Someone had a night last night," I thought, "Hope that's not mine."
We had gone to some dark bar with a lot of stairs going down - all I really recall.
Beer was so damn cheap there and there was always so much of it, one got very drunk easily.
I couldn't even really remember who we met or why we went there.
When everything's a blur in the morning you have two choices:
Feel guilty about how much you drank, lie around, and do nothing or,
Leave it be, try not to think about it, and try and find your passport and cell phone.
We made our transfer at the 22 and rode downhill.
Page looked like she was going to be sick.
Her sunglasses were solid black and I couldn't see her eyes, but her face was flushed and green.
"You alright?" I asked her.
"I'm fine," she said, "Just need to get off of this tram. Feel like I'm going to be sick."
"You look it."
"Really?" she asked.
"Yeah, a little bit."
"Let's get off at the park with the fountain. I don't want to puke here."
"Ok," I said, smiling, "We'll get off after this stop."
We sat down on one of the benches that circled around the fountain.
It was empty and Page was confused why.
"Maybe to save money?" I suggested.
"What? It's just water."
"Well, you gotta' pump the water up there and then filter it back out. Costs money."
"Costs crown," she corrected me.
"Same thing," I said, putting my arm around her, "There's no one here today."
"I know why," she stated, flatly.
"Because it's collllllllld and it's Sunday and only foreigner's would go out on a day like this."
I scanned the park and noticed that most of the faces there were probably not Czech.
"Shit," I muttered, "You may be right."
"I know I am," she said, wiggling her chin down into her jacket, "We're...crzzzy."
"We're what?" I asked. I couldn't hear her through her jacket.
She just shook her head back and forth and looked forward, not wanting to move from the warmth.
Dogs were scattered around the brown green grass with their owners.
Some were playing catch with sticks or balls, but others were just following behind their owner's.
I watched as one took a crap in the center of the walkway near the street.
Its owner was typing something on their phone, ignoring what was happening in front of him.
After the dog finished, the owner looked down at the crap, looked around, then slunk off.
"Did you see that?" I asked Page, pointing to where the owner had left the mess.
"Yeah," she nodded, "So gross. That would never fly in the states."
"You'd get shoulder tackled by some park security guard and thrown in jail."
"And be given a fat ticket," she said, coughing a little, "Let's get out of here."
"Yeah," I agreed, "And watch for any poop on the way out of here."
We made our way out of the park and down the street where the 22 continues on to the center.
"Let's not go into the center. Let's walk along the water's edge and maybe up to the bridge."
"Ok," I said, "That's a good idea." I didn't want to get stuck in that mass of tourists.
I could tell Page didn't either. I think she was afraid she might puke on a huddle of them.
We turned down a side street before the large grocery store and avoided a herd of people.
The cobble stones were wet and slick, glistening from a small sliver of sunlight through the clouds.
Page walked ahead.
Sometimes, when we walked downtown in the older parts of Prague, we would walk alone.
Not because we were fighting or anything like that; it was all very natural.
I would walk ahead because I saw something and she would either come with or not.
She would do the same and we both knew that we wouldn't go too far without the other.
I think we both knew that we would be back after seeing what we had wanted to see.
One could call it trust - one could call it a lot of things - but this was not really spoken about.
We knew we would be back after some time and had seen what we had wanted to.
Thinking about this, I watched her look up at the peeling paint of the old buildings.
Her thick black hair waved back and forth behind her plum colored pea coat.
Page would usually bring a camera and take pictures of these things, but she had forgotten it.
I wished she hadn't.
It was turning out to be such a beautiful day.
We made it to the Vlatva river and leaned over the railing, looking down at the water.
Floating there were empty beer bottles and plastic soda jugs.
The water was brown, murky, and looked like someone had dumped a large bag of dirt in there.
There was nothing very romantic about it, which one would think if you saw it in a picture.
"The water looks disgusting," Page said.
"That it does, but look at the bridge. It looks pretty good right now."
We turned our heads and looked at Charles bridge.
Hundreds of people were walking back and forth, specks shuffling to the both sides.
Every two seconds, a flash would go off from someone's camera.
It looked a little like there were tiny firecrackers going off, but without the sound.
"Look how many people are over there," Page murmured, "Let's not go over there."
"Agreed, "I said, "We can go over the bridge before it. There's never people on that one."
"The one that leads to the rail that takes you up the hill."
"Yeah," I said, walking ahead, "That one, but we don't have to go up there if you don't want to."
"I'll see," she shrugged, catching up to me and putting her arm through mine.
We walked near the railing and both looked over the slow moving river.
On the other side, where the cobble stones stopped and a beige beach was, were many geese.
There were ten or so people feeding them cheap bread and the geese were everywhere.
"We could check that out if Page is up for it," I thought, "We'll just have to see."
As we crossed the bridge, we moved through a large group of italian tourists.
They were taking a large group photo with the bridge behind them and we had to wait.
A tram rumbled past us, startling Page.
"Jesus!" she screamed, "I thought that thing was going to hit us."
I laughed, "You're so damned jumpy."
"No I'm not. I just get scared easily when I'm hungover or tired."
The Italians had finished taking their picture and we walked in front of them.
"I wish you would have brought your camera," I said, looking at the Charles bridge.
"Me too, but the light isn't that good."
"Really?" I asked. I didn't know anything about photography other than to point and shoot.
"Yep. Too dark." Page had done some photography in college for sports and concerts.
I looked up into the sky and saw that the sun was just starting to come out.
It was about 1:30 in the afternoon and I noticed that this was the time the sun would show - if at all.
We went down a flight of steps that lead to where an abandoned green house stood.
There was nothing inside but broken clay pots and trash.
The windows were stained with streaks of dirt, bird shit, and thin vines that crept up to the ceiling.
As we walked in, there was another couple taking pictures of the glass.
There was another group huddled in a corner in a circle drinking beer and smoking.
They were laughing about something and I was hoping it wasn't us.
Other than the clay pots and trash, there was nothing else inside - not even planter's boxes.
From the looks of it, the place had been raided and ransacked a long time ago.
What anyone could get from a few splintered pieces of wood and dead plants, I had no idea.
We walked through the greenhouse in five minutes and to the edge where the path ended.
The ground was wet and muddy. I put out my hand so Page could take it as she walked.
We tip toed to the very edge as the water lapped up against the tips of our shoes.
In front of us, paddle boats floated atop the water, their driver's peddling wearily along.
"We should do that one of these days," I told Page, "It looks fun."
"Look at them," Page laughed, pointing, "Do they look like they're having fun?"
I looked at the paddle boat she had pointed to.
The peddler looked to be exhausted, sweating, and out of breath.
The passenger - who looked to be his girlfriend - had her head tilted back, looking up at the sky.
"Well," I said, "That wouldn't be us. We would take turns."
"Why?" she asked, stepping backward to get out of the mud, "You're stronger than me."
"And that makes me be the slave, paddling you around?"
"No," she said, "That makes you the gentlemen. Chivalry or whatever it's called."
"Sounds like a bunch of a bullshit. Look at that poor guy. He looks like he's about to pass out."
Page laughed loudly and was making her way back to the stairs.
I squinted my eyes and stared at the paddle boat with the couple inside.
"Poor bastard," I thought, "Guy doesn't stand a chance...he'll never make it out alive."
After crossing the bridge, Page stopped to get a bag of potato chips.
Whenever she was hungover or tired or both, she would inhale potato chips.
I would give her a lot of shit for it, but I would have a couple, and she would dish it right back.
The sun was out now, but a wind blew past, reminding us that it was still cold.
I wanted to make it down to the edge of the water where I had seen the geese.
Pages teeth were chattering again and I looked down at both of our shoes, which were wet.
I knew of a cafe on the way to the castle, only a couple blocks away.
One of those places that is never crowded, serves good, cheap hot food, and is all wood inside.
I could never remember the name of it, but I knew they served this stuff called Red Velvet beer.
It wasn't so high in alcohol that you would get very drunk, but you would definitely feel it a little.
I liked to go there when I was hungover to take the edge off or have a drink and not get drunk.
Page had finished her potato chips and jammed the empty bag in her purse.
She could finish a bag of those things in a minute flat. I'm not joking. She loved those things.
"It's 2 o'clock," I said to Page, "Let's get a drink at that place that serves the velvet beer."
"It's so expensive though." To her credit, it was pretty expensive, but I saw no other options.
"Only 60 crown," I told her, "We can afford that."
"You can?" she asked, raising her eyebrows, "How?"
"I borrowed some money from my mom for rent and VISA stuff. She let me have a little extra."
"Yeah. I think she feels bad that we don't have a lot right now and we are traveling."
"That's so nice," she mused, "I always feel so awkward asking for money."
"Let's walk and talk. I'm getting cold from being outside so long."
"Good idea," Page said, walking with me, "I'm freeeeezing."
I put my arm around her and rocked her back and forth, trying to warm her up.
"It's not workiiiiiing," she said, rubbing her hands together.
I sighed and unwrapped my arm around her shoulder, defeated.
"Hey!" she screeched, jokingly, "Put that thing back around me! Why'd you do that?"
"You said it wasn't working, so I took it off," I said flatly.
"I was kidding," she said, "It was working." She took my arm and wrapped it around herself.
Page was so crazy when she was cold. She turned into a different person entirely.
We walked like that for a little while until my arm got tired and I swept it off of her.
As we made our way to the velvet beer, we looked up into the hills.
It was wide and light green, with hundreds of apple trees lined up, one behind the other.
I had heard the hills were once used to grow grapes and that the wine they made was very good.
Mostly whites, with a light and clear taste, and so fresh it felt like you were drinking spring water.
I had only had that kind of once, at a party if I remember right, and I drank the whole bottle.
The wine hadn't got me drunk, just nice and lucid and sharp, like good alcohol does.
I pointed up the hill to show Page where they were still growing grapes.
She stopped and crossed the street and went down an alley to get a better look of the hill.
I followed behind her, watching her move through the tourists and down the alley.
We passed an old antiques glassware shop and a modern thai restaurant that looked to be closed.
The streets were slick and wet from the mist that hung above our heads.
Coming up from the other side of the alley, we got a wider view of it all.
It was very beautiful, the hill, especially with the gray fog hovering behind.
The dark lime green of the hill and the sky clashed in front of us.
"How would anyone ever maintain this place?" Page asked out loud.
"I have no idea. It would take a lot of work, though."
"Going up and down those hills everyday, cutting all that grass."
"And pruning those apple trees, too," I said.
"Those are apple trees?" Page asked, excited.
"I think so, " I said, putting my hand over my eyes, straining to see better, "I see little balls in them."
"Let's go get some!"
"They're probably not even ripe yet and they're all the way up the hill..."
But, she was already gone, running up the steep path to where the trees stood.
"What about the velvet beer!" I shouted at her.
"It'll be there when we get there," she yelled back at me, "It's not going anywhere."
I slowly started walking up the hill, "You have a point," I mumbled.
I had never seen her run so fast for anything.
Page was up the hill in three minutes, where it took me ten to walk up.
When I got to her, she already had ten bright green and red apples in her arms.
I got closer and saw she had about five in her purse.
Her cheeks were flushed and she was smiling like mad as she washed them in the wet grass.
I came up behind her and wrapped my arms around her, nearly making her drop everything.
Page leaned her head back on my shoulder and we both looked up in the sky.
"Your'e so cold," I whispered behind her ear, swaying back and forth.
"My feet are freezing," she chattered. I looked down at her leather boots and they were soaked.
"Well, you ran up that hill like a rabbit in the tall grass. What'd you think was gonna' happen?"
"I just wanted the apples," she said like a child: innocent, guilty, and playful.
"I just wanted the apples," I repeated, mocking her smiling.
She wiggled out of my arms, swung around and looked at me, her eyes wide. She paused.
I started laughing. There was nothing else I could do.
"Don't mock me!" she screamed, "I'm just playing around. You're always so serious."
She had backed away from me a little and I followed her. I felt like she was going to run away.
"I was kidding," I tried to tell her, "I was only poking fun because you sounded like a little kid."
"No, I didn't," she pouted, looking at all of the apples in her arms.
"I'm pretty sure you were." I tip toed towards her, my arms wide open.
She fell into them and nestled into my chest, "You're always so warm. Why are you always warm?"
"Blood flow," I explained, making it up, "That and I drink too much."
She didn't say anything, giving me all her weight.
I took it all and leaned back on my heels and we stood like that for a long time.
As we made our way down the hill, we bought a plastic bag for the apples in a small shop.
Page dropped them all inside and the store clerk laughed when we did it at the counter.
"What are you going to do with all those apples?" I asked her as we walked down the sidewalk.
"Eat them!" she yelled, "These are ripe and ready to eat. I just need to wash them better."
"Why?" I said, "They look fine to me."
"I just washed them in the grass. Look, "She took an apple out of the bag, "This one's got dirt on it."
I looked down at it and there was a dry patch of dirt covering the whole of one side.
"Gross," I grunted, "You'll definitely need to wash all of them again."
"That's what I'm saying." She popped the apple back in the bag as we reached the front of the bar.
We scanned the menu and saw the food was relatively cheap.
French fries or hranolky was only 35 crown and the meals were around 115.
"Are you hungry?" I asked Page, as we walked in.
"I want some hranolky." She was taking her coat off and sliding into the booth.
I slid in behind her and we sat together, shoulder to shoulder, looking over the menu.
No one had greeted us as we walked in. Only the bartender who had nodded and smiled.
I didn't see any server's to order a drink, but knew it was bad custom to order from the bar.
Eventually, the bartender came over to take our order. He told us the waitress was on a break.
"Va velvet pivo, prosim," I told him.
He smiled and walked away, probably thinking my czech was that of a four year old.
An impossible language, especially for an American. So many tiny nuances of the mouth.
"What'd you think of my czech?"
"Pretty good," Page said, "Much better than mine."
"Yeah. Any czech I try to talk to has absolutely no idea what I'm trying to ask them."
"It's so embarrassing," I sighed, putting the menu down, "I wish I was better prepared."
"We just moved here," Page said, trying to comfort me, "You'll get better."
"Do you know what you want?"
"Yep," she said, pointing to the menu, which was glossy and clean, "French fries and veggies."
"Where's that?" I took the menu in my hand, "The veggie part."
"Somewhere in appetizers. It's cheap, like 20 crown or something."
"I'm gonna stick with beer," I said, "Not too hungry."
"No," she moaned, looking at me, "If you don't get anything, you'll eat mine. I won't have it."
"Huh?" I asked, feigning ignorance, "I never do that."
"You always do that," she said, "Every time we eat out you either eat the scraps or eat mine."
"Fine," I said, taking up the menu, "I'll get a sandwich or potatoes or something."
"I'll get a chicken sandwich and eat half now, half later. It's only 115 crown."
"Get it!" she shouted, laughing.
There was no other customers in the bar except for us and it was very peaceful and secluded
We sat back against the wooden bench and looked around the velvet bar.
The kitchen was behind a swiveling half-door and a looked to be no bigger than a walk in closet.
I leaned over Page to see who was in there.
Two older woman, both leaning back against the stove, were standing there and chatting.
Short and fat, they stood there like some form of gatekeeper's.
They looked be very bored, yet very content with having nothing to do.
I felt bad we were about to order food and interrupt whatever they were talking about.
Page was gazing out the window, most likely looking for passer by dogs.
She loved dogs and anytime she could get a glance at one, she would scream, "Look at that DOG!"
Ever since we met, she talked about getting one for us, but it was impossible.
No place we ever moved into would ever let us have one. It was kind of sad, if you think about it.
"Va velet piva," the bartender said, placing the two beers down in front of us on coasters.
They were a golden, burgundy color behind the glass and the foam on top was a creamy beige.
"And anything to order for food?" he asked us, switching over to English.
"Chicken sandwich for me," I said.
"Hranolky and..." Page paused, awkwardly reaching for the menu, "Zelenina."
The bartender laughed," The vegetable platter or plate?"
"Which one's cheaper?" I asked, laughing with him.
"The plate is good for two people, unless you are very hungry?"
I looked at Page, who shrugged back at me, "Plate will be fine," I told him.
"Plate of zelenina, hranolky, and kuřecí sandwich," the bartender said back to us.
"Perfect," I said, nodding and handing him the menu's, "Děkuji."
"Prosim," he said, and walked to the kitchen to put in the order.
"That's what the word for chicken is," I said to page after a moment, "Kuřecí."
"Gah, I can barely say that. Kur - jet - see...I know that's wrong."
"We'll get it," I told her, "One of these days we'll say chicken, pig, and vegetables no problem."
Page took off her scarf, which she had wrapped around her neck, and laid it on her lap.
I kept repeating kuřecí under my breath, really trying to get it right.
Eventually, Page made me stop and we sat again in silence, waiting for our food, hand in hand.
The bartender had started the small gas fireplace near the door.
I leaned my elbows on the table and took out a tattered tourists map of Prague.
The corners were ripped and frayed, but only the legend was missing, which I already knew.
Scanning over the length of it, I tried to find a small side street we could get lost in later on.
Page had leaned her head back on the hard wooden bench and closed her eyes.
She tried to get herself comfortable by wiggling and rocking in her seat.
The bench creaked from her movement and I laughed under my breath.
"Why are you laughing?" she asked me, looking over at me with one eye.
"Nothing," I told her, lying.
"You're laughing at something. I can tell."
"You're making the bench creak with all that moving around you're doing."
She sighed and moaned and leaned forward, "I can't get comfortable in these things."
"They're not meant to be comfortable," I told her, "It's that old, gothic, medieval look."
"I agree completely. My back is killing me, but we've already ordered and can't go anywhere."
"Maybe I can ask for a cushion..." she said out loud, raising her hand to catch the waiter.
"No! Don't," I hissed, but the waiter had already seen her and was coming over.
"Yes?" he asked. His face was taught and worried that we needed something extra...
Page smiled at him and said, "Do you have a cushion or anything here? The seat is very hard."
I looked away - anywhere - out the window, down to the floor, trying to keep my gaze away.
"Of course," the bartender said, sounding relieved, "Is the seat very hard?"
"Yes," Page laughed, embarrassed, "I just can't seem to get comfortable."
"I'll get you one from behind the bar. Just a moment."
He hurried behind the beer tap, grabbed two cushions, and brought them over.
"Here you go," he grinned, handing Page and I one.
"Děkuji," we said together, both of us blushing.
"Prosím," he smiled and turned to go to the kitchen to check on the food.
I exhaled, laughing a little, and took a drink of my beer.
It tasted warm, crisp and full as the bubbling foam came up and over onto my lips.
"What?" Page asked, innocent, like nothing had happened.
I paused, then asked her, "How's your cushion?"
"How's yours?" she asked, looking forward, the glass of beer in her hand.
"Like a cloud has just floated underneath my butt, to tell you the truth. I'm hovering."
"Me too. I'm glad I asked. What was the big deal?"
"I just don't like to ask too much in these kind of places."
"Why?" She had turned to look at me and was genuinely worried; her eyes were wide and white.
"Because we are obviously not from around here and I don't want to annoy anybody."
"By asking them for cushions?"
"Yeah," I said, "And speaking in English and juggling around what we wanted."
"Is it that bad?" From the look on her face, I could see she was starting to understand.
"Not bad," I put my arm around her shoulder, "I don't want to be a bother to any of the locals."
"I see what you mean," she said, leaning into me, "But I don't think it was really that big a deal."
"It wasn't, really. I just don't like to inconvenience anyone."
"I know what you mean. It is a very awkward feeling."
"Especially when you don't know the language at all," I sighed, "I wished I did."
"Me too," she agreed, "Oh! Here comes the food."
She moved away from me and settled in her cushion, acting like she hadn't seen the food.
We were still the only one's in the place. There was really no way we wouldn't have seen it.
"Zelenina a hranolky," the waiter said, putting the food down, "A kuřecí sendvič."
He was humoring us, but we acted like we knew what he was saying anyway.
I raised my hand for the chicken and Page for everything else.
"Děkuji," we both said again. I felt like that was really the only word we knew.
"Prosím," he nodded, "Anything else?"
I shook my head, my sandwich already in my hands, "Perfect. Everything looks perfect."
He chuckled, "Perfect," he nodded and went back behind the bar.
After a few bites, I put my sandwich down and leaned over where Page was eating.
Not to say anything to her - she was too preoccupied with her food - but to see into the kitchen.
The two, short ladies were still there, but now one was sitting on a large, wooden crate.
It looked to be some kind of meat or vegetable box. The lettering on it, I couldn't understand.
The other was smoking a cigarette and scratching the back of her head where the hairnet tangled.
As I was looked over, the one on the crate caught my eye and quickly looked over her shoulder.
She said something quickly and the other one looked over at me too.
For just a second, the three of us were locked in stare.
Not a one of us knew what the other was thinking.
Page sat there eating away not caring about anything other than the food in front of her.
The second passed and the lady smoking dropped it in the sink and pulled the water on.
The other got up from her seat and began to violently scrub the grill with a metal sponge.
I - unsure why they started to do any of those things on my account - went back to my sandwich.
The bill came and it was less then I thought, which I always love.
"How'd you like the food?" I asked Page. She was putting her coat back on.
"It's freezing in here again. How did that happen?" She hadn't heard me.
"No idea. How'd you like the food, though?" I repeated.
"It was good. They were crispy and greasy, just what I needed."
"Good," I said as I looked over the bill, "What about the veggies?"
"Superb," she exaggerated by kissing her fingers and flaring them out into the air.
"Good, good. Looks like you owe me around 120 crown for everything."
"That's cheap!" she exclaimed, "I thought I was going to have to spend more then 200."
"Me too," I said, taking out my wallet, "I only spent 200 but I got a sandwich and a beer."
"And some of my fries," she mumbled.
"You wanted to eat all of them by yourself?"
She hated it whenever I took any of her food.
"It's just annoying," she explained.
"I'm sorry," I said, licking my fingertips, "I guess I don't think about it."
"It's O.K." She took out her wallet and dropped a 100 crown bill and a 50 crown coin.
"You're tipping?" It was customary that you didn't have to tip the waiters.
"Yeah. He gave us the cushions and looks like they're pretty dead."
"You're right. I should tip. How much do you think?"
"Like 50 for you."
I looked at the bill and tried to figure the percentage out in my head.
"Fuck it," I said and put a 200 crown bill and two 20 crown coins on top of Page's money.
Page brought the bill and money up to the waiter who stood behind the bar as I put on my coat.
My chest felt tight and my hands were cold after being heated up by the food.
I watched as Page tried to say thank you in czech and smiled; she'd get it eventually.
She came up to me, shaking her head, "I gotta' get better at czech."
"Why's that?" I asked her, putting my arm around her shoulder, walking out the door.
A wind hit us as we walked outside and we moved closer to one another.
"It's just so embarrassing when you're trying to say something and you can't."
"I'm sure they get it all the time. Don't worry."
We walked across the street and looked down an alleyway that looked to open up into a park.
"Do you want to walk through there?" I asked Page. Her scarf was wrapped around her mouth.
She nodded and quickly ducked into the alleyway in front of me.
I let her walk in front of me and noticed the cracked, light beige color of the walls on either side.
They looked like they'd never been repainted.
From the roof, water dripped down from various places.
Upon a closer look, I saw a large bird's nest in the gutter rail.
Nothing seemed to be inside. Only the twigs and dead grass sat there.
Further down, I winced as the cream colored wall was interrupted by black and neon green graffiti.
For the first time, I understood why it was illegal.
The act itself seemed so selfish, yet I understood why the art had become popular.
There was a mixture of defiance, rebellion, and the ignorance of youth, as well as danger.
Pondering this, I figured someone would come and paint over it eventually.
Nothing stays the same forever.
At the end of the alley, we walked onto a wide, square lawn.
On the other end, where two benches sat apart, was an old couple, bundled up with a newspaper.
The other bench was empty and Page and I walked toward it.
We turned and sat down, looking out onto the empty green grass.
Page wrapped her arm under mine and gripped both of my hands with her's.
"You're so warm," she shivered, "Why are you always so hot and I'm always so collld."
"I have no idea," I stated, "Maybe because I'm bigger and I drink more then you?"
The logic seemed right.
"And you're Mexican. That's probably why you're always so warm."
"I'm Spanish too," I reminded her.
"You've got that hot blooded temper in you."
"That's true. I do get pretty mad pretty fast."
"Yeah. It's scary."
"Really?" I asked. I looked at Page and could see she wasn't joking.
"Sometimes you get really mad and get a little afraid of you."
"Like I'm going to do something?"
Shame and guilt swept over me like an icy wind.
"I don't know. Nothing like that, but," she paused, "I don't know. It's hard to explain."
"Well, I would never do anything like that. I just get mad sometimes."
"I know you do. So do I. You just get mad more often, that's all."
"I need to get better with that," I said to myself, looking over at the old couple on the other bench.
One looked to be asleep and the other one, who wore a black beanie, was still reading.
"I'll get better," I told myself.
"You will," Page said, getting up, "We both will."
I put out my hand for her to take it.
She did, pulling me up to her.
I jokingly fell into her arms, giving her my full weight.
She barely was able to hold me up.
"Jesus, you're heavy," she said, pushing me up to my feet.
"I'm not that heavy," I said, nodding to the old couple on the bench.
We crossed over a bridge and stopped to watch the fire colored leaves float on the water.
I could see small fishes swimming downstream, but Page couldn't see them.
Trying to point them out, I hoisted her over the banister, and she nearly fell in.
"That would have been awful," she exhaled, "I probably would have died."
"I don't think I would have jumped in to get you."
She stopped and looked at me, her lower lip jutted out, "Are you serious?"
I looked at her and shrugged, "That's a big fall and the water is pretty shallow."
"You wouldn't come get me!?" shouted Page, poking me in the stomach.
I backed away from her, laughing, "Of course I would. Of course I would."
"You'd better. If I die, you have to die with me."
I scoffed and ran my fingers over my face, then through my hair, "Yeesh, that's heavy."
"It's true," said Page simply, "I die, you die."
She walked ahead of me, down another alley to get lost in.
Eventually, after shouldering through tourists and novelty shops, we came to the clock tower.
It was about 4 o'clock, a little past, and we had just missed the show.
I wasn't sure what it was about, something to do with money and death, but I wasn't sure.
The golden symbols on the clock reflected the light of the sun down onto the wet cobble stone.
I turned to look at the crowd behind me; there were hundreds of them, their flashes popping.
Page was closer, looking up and studying the large, rusted hands of the clock.
They looked like they were barely moving, almost as if time had stopped after the show.
I walked toward her, also looking up, and saw various bodies leaning out of the tower skyward.
They were so high up and I couldn't make their faces out; only flailing arms and distant voices.
When I reached Page, a trumpet sounded from the tower and everyone on the street looked up.
"You know what this is about?" I asked Page.
"No idea. I wish I had brought my camera."
"Why?" She rarely brought her camera anywhere and I was confused why she wanted it now.
"Because you're supposed to take pictures of these things," she shot back.
"Why?" I asked again.
"Shhh," she hushed, "I want to hear this."
The trumpet player sounded like duck being strangled and I couldn't stand it.
I whispered into Page's ear that I was going to get a coffee.
"Get me one too, please," she said.
She placed a fifty crown coin in my hand without looking away from the trumpet player.
I kissed her on the cheek, trying to hide my confused frustration, and moved through the crowd.
"For such a serene place," I thought, "It sure attracts a good amount of freaks."
"Hello," I said to barista behind the counter.
I decided to forfeit speaking czech for the moment.
"Hi," she said. The sides of her face were flushed red and I realized it was freezing inside.
"It's really cold in here," I said, looking around for some kind of heating.
"Prosím?" she asked me, then stuttered and asked again in English, "Sorry...excuse me?"
"Sorry, I don't speak any czech. I said it's very cold in here."
"Yes. Heat is broken." She pointed upward at the ceiling and frowned.
"That's too bad," I said, "They should get on that. It's very cold."
She smiled blankly and stared back at me, unsure what I wanted.
"Oh," I smiled, shaking my head, "I need to order."
She laughed, but didn't say anything and looked at the other barista's. They grinned back at her.
"Uhh...one medium drip coffee and a cafe au lait, please."
"Ok," she mouthed, poking the computer screen in front of her happily, "Anything else?"
"Oh," I started, "Can you make the cafe au lait with soy milk instead of regular."
"Yes," with a swipe and another poke, "Anything else?"
"I think that'll be it." I hand her my czech debit card.
She looked down at it and up and me. Maybe she thought I didn't look like my name.
She paused a moment more, then swiped it and handed it back to me.
"Thank you very much," she said, looking over my shoulder, "Your order will be ready soon."
I was brushed to the side and thrown into a field of other tourists, all rubbing their hands together.
It didn't take very long for me to get the drinks.
That surprised me.
Those czechs know how to make a good, quick cup of coffee.
I smiled at the barista who had helped me, but she didn't see me doing it.
Hate it when that happens.
You always look like some desperate kind of creep, hoping for a scrap of acknowledgement.
She was probably too busy to notice me.
Maybe she did and just wasn't able to smile back.
She was with a customer.
I wouldn't want her to get in trouble, anyways.
We were in the center of the square.
It probably paid pretty well.
I wouldn't want her to lose her job on account of a smile.
That would be terrible.
"Cafe au lait with soy milk for you," I said, handing the drink to Page.
"With soy!" she exclaimed, "That's so nice. Did it cost more?"
"Like ten crowns," I lied, "I know that you like it and I like getting you what you like."
"That's so nice," she gave me a kiss and smiled, "Was it busy in there?"
"Very," I said, "And freezing cold."
"Heating was broken."
"Oh God," Page sighed, "I'm glad I didn't go in there."
We made our way to the main square, away from the clock tower.
The crowd had dispersed and the streets were almost empty again.
When we got into the alley's though, everything seemed narrow and pinched.
On every corner, there were peddlers flapping around opera and ballet flyer's.
I snagged one and looked it over.
"Good God! They want 500 crown for something like this."
"Let me see," Page said, taking it from my hand.
"And all you probably do is sit in an old church and listen to the echo of singing."
"It's a tourist thing," she explained, "What do you expect?"
Page crumpled up the flyer and tossed it in the trash, "I do feel bad for those people."
"The people that have to hand out those flyer's all day. That must be tough."
Page was always thinking about the people with shit jobs.
Whenever we would see a trash guy looting garbage cans or waiter's getting hassled, she'd cringe.
I knew why to: she'd had plenty of shit jobs in the past
Waitress was one. Bar back another. I knew she worked in a hospital at one point. Late hours.
"Maybe that's why she was going with me?" I wondered, "I've had a lot of those."
"Yeah," I replied, "They have it pretty rough, especially when it's so cold out."
"I would die," said Page. Her voice was scared and grateful.
We walked up the hill into the main center of town in the middle walk way near the gardens.
All the plants and flowers were dead now, but there was no trash or anything like that there.
I decided we should walk in the center to avoid the club promoters and heavy foot traffic.
Any more tourists elbowing me or people trying to hand me pamphlets would have done me in.
As we continued up the hill, I stopped and turned around to see the view of the city buildings.
Bright neon signs flashed, mixed with large billboards of chiseled women wearing dead faces.
Store window mannequins stood poised and ready to sell to passerby's in mute.
Because we seemed to be so far up, both sides of the side walks seethed with tiny black dots.
Flashes of cameras and the low hum of everyone talking at once filled the wide square.
And witnessing all of this hysteria, were the original buildings, stoic and ancient behind it all.
I had seen pictures of the square in the 1920's and before, and everything was so perfectly simple.
The walls of the buildings were cracked and worn, but standing with pride and originality.
They had nothing hanging or beeping or demanding people's attention.
A window here or there would display what they sold, but all in modesty and class.
If the two pictures were put together, I don't believe any resemblance could be found.
The only thing one could possibly recognize is the architecture of the buildings and the square.
Stripped and sacrificed, the buildings stood there like dolled up relics, too tired to breathe.
Page and I couldn't walk in the center of the square any longer because it opened up into the street.
We were forced to cross and enter into the surging fray of bodies going up and down.
The metro tunnel shot stale, damp air up and out of the stairwell, smelling of fresh urine.
Page hurried past me and up toward the crosswalk, but I stopped and watched two cops.
They had their doberman pincher sniffing a pair of hobo's leaning against a crooked tree.
The two being sniffed out stood there shaking and wondering what the hell was going on.
I'm sure they had something on them that was illegal, but what it was, I had no idea.
The dog sure did though. He wouldn't let them be and the cops just stood back, staring.
But, after a minute, the dog lost its scent or interest and sauntered back and laid down.
"Too bad," I mused, pensively, "I would have liked to see an arrest in broad day light."
Page had just started to cross the street without me and I ran up to her and took her arm.
"Where you going so fast? You trying to get rid of me?"
She just shook her head and looked ahead. I could see she was so cold she had turned mute.
"Did you see that dog sniffing out those two junkies?" I looked over my shoulder toward them.
Page shook her head back and forth, no.
The both of us walked up a yellow and orange leaf covered hill and down into a tunnel.
To the left of us was a large mural of graffiti and names I would never be able to pronounce.
To the right was a pizza booth, some kind of italian sandwich bistro, and a Russian shop.
We stopped in front of the Russian place and noticed a tiny window with a woman's head inside.
There were glistening pink sausages, pickled neon orange carrots, and bright red peppers.
A single knife hung by a piano string hung behind the woman, swinging back and forth.
Nothing looked like it had been touched.
Nothing looked like it had been sold.
Everything looked like it probably had since they had opened shop 657 years ago to the day.
The old woman said something to Page and pointed to a jar, but she smiled, laughed, and ran off.
"Děkuji," I smiled, embarrassed that I didn't know it in Russian.
I ran up behind Page again, who was up the ramp from the tunnel and on the sidewalk now.
As we walked up into Prague 2 and Vyšehrad, the sun was just beginning to set.
I stopped, Page continuing on, and turned around to see the expanse of the city.
People passed me as I looked at the clock tower and where the Charles Bridge was hiding.
I couldn't see the castle, but I knew it stood there behind the building beside me.
They lit the castle up every night and I wished at that moment Page and I could watch it.
To be within those walls and underneath the ancient cathedral going from darkness to the light.
Turning, I started up the hill, following up behind Page once again.
The 22 tram rambled past us, but we were late to jump on and ride it to our stop.
"We are so close anyway," I comforted Page, "Two blocks."
"So collld," she shivered, "I just want to be in our bed with the covers all around me."
I put my arm around her, "Almost there."
We walked like that, holding in our heat, until we reached the potraviny across from our house.
"We should really get something to eat," said Page, "We aren't going to want to come back out."
"Yes..." I agreed, "But what?"
My stomach reacted in both pain and pleasure. I liked them, if I'm being honest.
"Does sound good," I said, weighing other possibilities, "Do we feel like cooking?"
I took out my phone and checked the time.
It was only 5:30 and we would be in the rest of the night.
"We should cook something," I said.
"Like what?" asked Page.
"I know of this cheap potato soup recipe with chives, milk, and salt. It's simple, but good."
She put 60 crowns in my hand," Sounds good to me. I'm going to go upstairs."
"What?" I asked, looking down at the coins.
"It's so cold, I can't stand it. I need to get upstairs where it's warrrm."
She smiled and ran across the street and into our apartment building.
I went inside, grabbed a sack of potatoes, a plastic jug of milk, and some chives and paid.
As I waited for the elevator, I struggled to remember the exact way to cook what I said I could.
Page wouldn't notice the difference either way.
As long as it was warm, didn't taste like cardboard, and had some salt on it, she'd be fine.
The meal was good.
It warmed our stomachs and there were leftovers for tomorrow.
We ate in bed and laid our only two bath towels down where we sat.
For some reason, Page lit two candles and sat them on the window sill.
Across the street, spotted windows were warm from the lights burning inside.
Everyone was tucked away, hiding from the cold and the approaching dawn of the day.
I looked at Page in the candlelight, watching her eat, seeing shadows dance across her cheeks.
Her beauty was as simple as a flower petal, yet complex as a painting.
There are so many other things that I am at a lost to remember, now.
They are somewhere inside of me, hiding, elusive, and wondering when I will find them.
As I took a bite of my potato mush, I warned myself not to get too sentimental.
"You know the one thing we forgot to do today?" I asked Page.
"We forgot to look for jobs."
"Well," she sighed, "We were just too busy with other things."
"What other things?" I asked.
"Breakfast, the walk, the bridge, the bar, the beer, the park, the clock, and the square."
"We did a lot today."
"Yes," said Page, "Too much. And to add job searching on top of that? Forget about it."
I no longer felt guilty about not even once looking for some kind of job prospect.
"What's that saying?" asked Page.
I noticed her bowl was clean as she placed it on the floor.
"Hm?" I asked.
"There's this saying...there's always tomorrow. Is that a saying?"
"I feel like I've heard it," I struggled, trying to remember, but failing, "Somewhere, some place."
"Well," Page said, turning herself from the towel and laying back, "There's always tomorrow."
I put my bowl on the night stand and laid back with Page.
We kissed and held each other, not caring about tomorrow, only trying to get warm.
Page slowly drifted into sleep and I let her head roll and fall onto my chest.
The two erect flames of the candles stood reflected onto the window overlooking the night sky.
I too laid my head back, closed my eyes, and fell asleep with the weight of Page upon me.
Born to a body I do not know
formative years spent in ignorance
crashing trucks together, hot wheels
running them off the curb outside
with my best friend
He is distant now
same classes, same neighborhood
lives spent together
running through fields and muddy waters on rainy days
Familiar friend reaches for my hand
he kisses it, wet lips leaving trails of hope
a life spent apart
running through absent moments, a blissful craze
does he know me?
He holds me close, hands on my cheek
he kisses my lips, leaving a fire inside of me
a life come around
recognition a threat to a blissful moment
he knows me…
…and kisses me again
Don't lose your confidence
Never distrust Providence
Remove your ignorance
Patience is a must
Your mind, you dust
Body mustn't rust
Always be honest
Hopefully you live
In God, ever believe
The best, you give
Better to forgive
Choose the right path
To toil, take an oath
God and hope, trust both
Don't die like a brittle moth
God-faith helps thrive
As He makes us survive
Our belief, He does revive
He helps peace to be alive
Take efforts and await
After showing your might
Being happy is right
As joy, you can sight
True efforts never die
They appeal to the Sky
God keeps His eye
Upon those who try
Good luck my dear
Pursue without fear
If hard-work is here
No place for tear
I carry the shallow weight of my own regrets.
I carry the guilt of my mother who felt she could’ve done more for my grandmother.
Nights spent, teary-eyed phone calls to the nursing home.
I carry the comprehension of my father.
Hundreds of times he’s defeated me at chess, at card games.
I am his knowledge.
I carry sorrow from soccer games lost and triumph from games won with the stench of wet grass and caked on mud still fresh in my memory.
I carry the weight of high school, the pressure to get into college, the weight of rumors and the regret of not paying attention in class.
Feeling hopeless and defeated when I fail a test, though I remember I can carry the power of success.
I carry the daily jeers and spite of my peers and my teachers.
I carry the burden of my mother’s size eight firmly up my ass when I don’t do what I’m told.
I carry three-day weekends and the joy of a snow day.
I carry my blood, my veins, my organs.
I carry my bones, my cartilage, my flesh and my hair.
I carry my beating heart and the sound it makes letting everyone around me and myself to know that I’m still very much alive.
I carry the ability of perfect hindsight vision, the ability of blind foresight.
I carry my friends, the pressure of their own burdens.
I own the ability to make them smile, the ability to cheer them up when I don’t know how to help myself.
I’ve carried some of them for as long as I can remember; some I can’t carry anymore, and some I’ve just started to carry.
I carry love and passion; I carry hate and abhor.
I carry confusion, delirium, nostalgia of days past.
I carry insomnia and sleepless nights dreaming up at my ceiling of life to come.
I carry my dreams, both physical and mental.
I carry what I aspire to be.
I carry photography, a story of my life through pictures, through captivity, through still frame.
I carry my wishes.
I carry the beach, the waves that crash down onto the shore and onto me and the salty residue that lands on my flesh and hair from staying out too long.
I carry stupidity, I carry charm and I carry luck.
I carry the regret of anonymity and the fear of being alone.
We all carry that; no one wants to spend life alone.
We carry expensive wedding bands and the pressure to say “Yes” and the hope that she’ll say it.
I carry the everlasting gaze of older relatives, some who have passed on to a better world.
They won’t have to carry anything anymore.
I carry countless vacations and holidays spent with my cousins and the millions of laughs we have shared.
I carry reminiscences of vacations and of meeting new people, people who I tried to stay in contact with, but alas, distance prevents friendship.
I carry the knowledge of the traveled world and the confusion of the uninhabited, undiscovered land.
I am a world traveler, I am a superhero; I am what I want to be and I carry that.
I carry a tainted mind.
A mind spoiled by politics, by war, greed and corruption of not only the government, but of my parents as well.
I carry the ignorance of thinking I’m right and everyone else is wrong, the false sense that I know what is really going on in the world and that I, and I alone, can make a difference.
I carry the benefit of living in a prosperous nation, a flourishing town.
I carry the thought of uncertainty of impoverish nations and how they live everyday without food and water, while I sit here and type on my own personal laptop.
I carry teenage angst.
I carry thoughts and memories of former lovers.
Some girls who have grown up to be different than what they once were, some who haven’t changed a bit.
I carry the thoughts of wonder, should I have said something to her?
I carry individualism, not being afraid of letting you know who I am and what I do.
I am myself and if you can’t deal with it then you won’t have to carry me anymore.
I no longer carry these words; my thought have been poured onto this paper.
My future holds the risk of not knowing what I will carry tomorrow, but I know I will carry life.
I know I may not be able to carry this all, but one thing is for certain: I will carry myself.
We've become a
civilization of diseases
thinking death won't ever find
Our minds are scrambled
our bodies are damaged
our food is poisoned
our skies are toxic
are forces of processes
When we are not humbled
by nature's power
we inflict our wounds
upon ourselves in
the names of greed
and self protection
and no one knows
what it really means.
Fearful of the silence
we fill our skies with
babbling on in endless
while traffic stalls
at a hot stand still
depletion of every last glimpse
of the past.
in the stench
I am lost today
as anxiety, death and desperation
from every corner
screams my name.
That's why I came
to these woods
where the illusion of
wild fires burn
just down the lane
as you know
as you say
its always been this way
when bodies hung
at every cross-roads
hunger, power, ignorance
I'm sick with
every disease I
I float upon these tranquil
we are reminded of the peace we all
really can know.
I sweat deep warmth
In the grouchy storm
Because my body’s worn
In a cold dress
In a melting mess
Sized from ignorance
I peel labels
Torn through significance
I reveal the stress
But given this test
All the cut feathers
And opened chests
Cause me to digress