Moral absolutism. Political correctness. It’s impossible to adhere to it. An hour and a half before the alarm rings. But I am already conscious. Of the daylight in my room, of the impending to-do list. I make the coffee in silence. I notice how the whole flat smells of fresh laundry. I am enjoying the morning light. It is somehow different in September of the northern hemisphere.
I find myself thinking of Hong Kong. Imagining the streets that I know so well. The typhoon hit my city pretty hard. My city. I can’t help but feel like an impostor when I say that but it is my city.
I keep returning to السفير. I don’t think they are surprised to see me anymore. Just glad. The same kafta with hummus and tabouleh. Kahwe. How are you, miss? They still haven’t asked for my name. I finished Mornings in Jenin together with my coffee. It’s impossible to think that I am still the same person. I also can’t explain why it all resonates with me. Our experience was different. Or was it? Isn’t it always the same?
“Love cannot reconcile with deception.”
I called them again. Just to chat. Turn on the front camera. Feel a little closer. Then I walked around Old Town after work. From Újezd past Kampa and back to the National Theater. I keep sticking to the same routes and I don’t mind. Jericho, again. No Exit is not giving me a way out. This is it. That’s the book. I ordered hummus and was surprised how good it was. Olives, olive oil, warm khubz. Buena Vista Social Club. Chan Chan. I decided to stay for its entire duration. Evening bokeh, Vltava, and Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
I slept in. Thirteen hours in total. I should feel rested. I wake up to news of the typhoon that is tearing through South East Asia. I message all my friends in Hong Kong. I can’t stop replaying the videos of cranes falling down, trees being torn apart. It all feels a little apocalyptic.
By the time, we meet in the city it’s too late for breakfast so we just skip straight to lunch at 11:45. Svíčková with a half pint of Plzeň. I decide that this is my last day. He saw us from the car and called me immediately. “Who is that guy you are sitting with? And did I allow it?” It made me laugh and I had to call my parents to tell them about it. It felt good to know that someone is looking out for me even if it’s by sheer coincidence.
I chose the chair that was directly in the sun. I like the way hairs on forearms turn blond. Just like the strands of my hair. From chestnut brown to strawberry blonde in an hour. I couldn’t finish the half pint or the plateful of food. It was all too much. I could feel the way my body was revolting against it. The Czech cuisine is (still) too heavy for me. That’s how I know I am (still) not from here. I never will be.
I am counting off the days, minutes really until I’ll be alone again. I said no visitors and yet I still haven’t learned to say no.
From Kampa through Charles Bridge back to the National Theater all the way back to Old Town Square and up to the Fashion Club Rooftop. The view is spectacular. Then we carried on to Letna’s Stalin. Darkness descended by then. Hunger rose. Back across the river. A burger bar, cash only. Awful live music but we still endured it. By nine in the evening, I could barely keep my eyes opened. And on the way home I discovered Giovanni Kiyingi at Zázemí and I’m so glad that I walked past just at the right moment. I spotted him through a window, someone inside cracked it open for me so I could hear better. Zázemí feels like the most unlikely place to have discovered him. And yet. There’ll be more to this, I’m sure.
Before falling asleep, I check up on Hong Kong one more time. I decide I will go back in the spring again.
“Did you just assume my nationality?” is my version of the absurdism.
8.19 pm. It’s becoming too cold to sit outside. Chronicles of my winter malaise begin.
A series of photos. The red of Prague. With Havel at the heart of it. I see him everywhere lately. I might need to return to his works.
Uvidíme se v Amstru!
The non-responsiveness is still consuming me. On one hand, it upsets me. On the other, I am glad for the distraction.
I recalled the last time we went to the Pivovar together. Last summer, after he dropped me off, after it ended. Just before he came back.
From September to September. I am only just realizing how much has changed. Where we used to be and where we are now. I can only smile.
To be this secure in my bubble. I am flying too close to the sun. But maybe not. Time will show. Aurelius’ Meditations, again.
“People didn’t understand that true intimacy did not consist of sexual intercourse, which could be done with strangers and in a state of total alienation; intimacy consisted of talking for hours about what was most important in one’s life.”
Two hours of sleep. Last night keeps replaying on a loop. They could have been serious instead of just leaving. Too young to know, too brainwashed. If I had a chance to meet them again, I would just give them a mile-long reading list.
I think of the women I have been identifying with: Nicole, Astrid, Josie, Bridget. If they were real, where would they be right now?
He’s away on vacation and there’s no one in the office who would have my back when he’s gone. I am upset that I allowed myself into a situation like that in the first place. Trust. Thrust. The crust is thin. The same shirts, the same face, the same posture. I wonder what it would feel like if I could just replace them in my head. I keep quiet though. Danger now has a scent I am capable of recognizing.
How much longer? How many more days one?
Crispiest and bluest September morning you could imagine. My soul is happy. I am taking it all in. It won’t last too long now. I wide-open the windows and let fresh air and new energy flow in. Sun salutes.
I keep thinking of N. How if we hadn’t met at just the right time, I wouldn’t be the way I am right now. As I pass by his neighborhood, I message him with words of gratitude. He responds almost immediately. I describe the morning to him. We would have gone for breakfast if he was still in the city.
Back at السفير writing a Prague pro/con list. Before had time to finish it, the dilemma cleared itself and instead of a list, I now have a specific date set in the future. I find myself at the Y, Jericho, Pohoda, and Bukowski’s. I meet six of my estranged colleagues; apparently, we all drink at the same places. M’s face is flushed with fever. I can’t convince him to leave so I buy him a beer instead. But it’s his fourth so I threaten to order an Uber for him. That works and we are left alone.
Later, he reads Wild Geese by Mary Oliver to me. It was a poem I needed. A poem I still need. As she wrote, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Then the five of them. All from Tel Aviv and the surrounding cities, which I incorrectly consider to be neighborhoods of the city. We talk about my favorite places: Carmel Market, Jaffa, and Frishman Beach. I impress them by being able to read Hebrew and say a couple of basic things. They weren’t pleased with my political perspective though again I realize that it’s not all black and white. It never was, it never will be.
Another hour goes by. Another group; three from Russia. Similar conversations although I have no favorite places in Moscow. Yet. Later, I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was a coincidence but I don’t think it was. I read too much to be that naive.
Missing v grieving. Refuge v refuse. The problem with the definition is perception.