My flight arrived at Václav Havel before yours. You were taller than I remembered. The first thing I said was, “I’ve never seen you wear yellow,” and when you laughed you stood on your toes. We hadn’t seen each other in a decade. You wouldn’t stop calling it our ten-year-reunion.
Of course, the changes: You’d cut your hair short; you wore three-quarter length sleeves; your back gained a map of pale brown freckles.
Our hotel room was a single, the last one available. Sleep required some physical overlap. The first morning, I yammered about how sunlight hit the bricks of a nearby building. You chided me—you said I always wrote about light hitting things. “Light has never hit anything, ever,” you said.
You brought it up again the next morning. “Light has a softer touch,” you explained. I thought you said, “Light has a sober touch.” What I’m trying to say is that our differences were plain.
As if making up for lost time, we learned how to fight. We fought at restaurants, subway stations, grocery stores. You told me I’d gotten too skinny and I said ok. The sky formed a grid above us. Walking down Široká Praha, you theorized that humans would one day be islands—you saw us in dark rooms lit only by our phones.
When we arrived at an intersection, I kissed you until you shut up.
Things the Czech told us in English:
“The courtyards are not for fighting.”
“That’s the kind of place you buy women 400 Kč drinks to ignore you.”
“Honestly, go with the duck.”
In front of Tyn Church, a crew filmed a car commercial. We joined a herd of tourists watching the shoot. The car, silver and bulked with curves, was parked on a plush red carpet. A flimsy barrier blocked part of the set from view. An Englishman, one of the tourists, pointed to the barrier and said, “That’s where they keep the women.”
In the beginning, I paid. By the end, you did. Taxis, restaurants, museum admissions. Currency conversion fees and foreign ATM charges hollowed out my accounts. The negatives, the red numbers, the phone calls when I got back—I labeled them irrelevant.
In the bathroom sat a tub big enough for both of us. The water steamed as we climbed in. I clasped your elbows and shoulder blades, your iliac crests. Anything paired and pointed. When we got going, I wanted to put those sharp parts in my mouth. I wish you could’ve seen your face as I raked my teeth across them.
We wandered into a sculpture garden. Bronze, figurative, like knockoffs of The Thinker. They littered the place. I lost you for a moment. I tried to see you through the thick hedges. A guard called out that the garden was closing soon. I found you in a cul-de-sac, your red coat folded over your arms, no sculptures around you. The shaded area flattened your image. An alcove of dark green foliage bordered your head like a crown.
The closest we came: You mentioned Buenos Aires, and I expressed an interest in going there. No plans were made, no dates compared.
Months later, in the grip of a fever, I wandered the city in a dream. Everything was made of eggshell: buildings, streets, lampposts, buses. The whole city glowed white.
I touched a wall and it shattered. I touched a tree and it shattered. Splinters of eggshell crunched beneath my feet. I kept going. After the city was broken, I stopped. My lungs heaved. I heard the ground crack beneath me but made no attempt to move. The milk white cobbles shattered. I fell back into the waking world.
I always cry once a trip. I held back until the last night. We were in bed eating black cherries and drinking wine. You expressed the opinion that real change was impossible. You wedged a cherry between your teeth and plucked out the stem. I cracked. I jammed my head into your chest. Wet cotton plastered my mouth. Your arms wrapped around me.
When the audible part of it subsided, you told me a story. You asked me to imagine a giant rock, a rock the size of the world. You asked me to imagine people chipping bricks out of that rock. “They built a city with them,” you said. “The rock dwindled to a flat basin, a foundation for the bricks. It became a city. It is still the rock. Nothing is lost but form.”
I said, “Bullshit,” wetly and held onto you tighter.
We had different flights back. Yours first. Your unlaundered yellow shirt merged into a stream of gray and brown. I spent my leftover currency on Czech magazines. When I got through the passport line, the agent asked if I was traveling alone. I laughed and stood on my toes. I didn’t know what to tell him.