What You Remember
In the castle the kings dance through the halls.
With robes and jewels and horses they crown their knights and chop off heads and order servants to fetch more wine. Chalices filled, plates piping hot, thin coins warm from being rubbed by greasy fingers. They overlook all of Prague from their golden thrones.
On a narrow side-street, oddly named Golden Lane, sit the houses of castle workers. Cooks. Seamstresses. Candle-makers. Preserved just as they were: bear rug on the ground, mandolin on a modest bed, book open at the window, crude slippers by a chair with a wash basin. Downward, downward into the cellars where the cold, musty smell fills your nostrils like ether! Treading large stone steps, brace wall, close eyes, inhale.
Five minutes from Baranova 17
there’s a mall. Flora. Here, for the first time in a month and a half, coffee comes in a mug, not an espresso cup. Tea doesn’t cost 4 euros, and neither does a cappuccino. You can sit for as long as you’d like – read another page from the same ten pound book about an ancient cathedral you’ve been lugging around from airport to airport. Speak on the phone to your dearest friend. And somehow between Czech men and women who sound like they’re speaking Russian with a bad accent, you feel closer to home. Somewhere between a distracted sip and another turned page the home sickness becomes a distant, soothing lull. “I love the mall!” we say and laugh, and laugh some more. “I love the mall.”
In the graveyard
the wind blew small dried leaves from tall trees. They rustled in the silence. As birds sang rain drops began to fall. First slowly, then at a rhythm. The smell of wet dirt filled my lungs. I breathed deeper. Water poured harder from the sky, harder still. We ran. Under a small roof we waited for the rain to pass but it didn’t. It kept pouring on old tombs, the kudzu that coated them with a thick blanket, the brown earth. This place is so alive it hurts.
What you remember
are not the Vaticans and Big Bens and Eiffel Towers. Not the historical facts about legions and amphitheaters. What you remember is the smell of Jasmine carried on the cold air, whipping your face through the open car windows as the Italian countryside rolls by. The warm smile of Emiliano from a small bakery in the middle of nowhere who remembers you three years later having only met you once. Laughing at the dinner table. Watching kittens play. Finding pleasure in your own company. Discovering what you mean to the world, and what the world means to you.