Thankfully, our flight to the Czech Republic left at six in the morning, and the bakery across the street wouldn’t be open until at least seven. I’d successfully dodged the baker for three days in a row since the incident.
I knew next to nothing about Prague, but the escape from Florence was greatly needed. We all tried to pretend that wasn’t what it was though. We pretended a fun vacation loomed ahead of us and cheerily walked to the bus that’d take us to the airport.
“There’s the Prague Castle,” Alissa said.
On the plane now, we frantically threw together an itinerary before takeoff.
“And the Lego museum.” When Matt spoke, I never knew how to react. Was there a nerd hiding underneath that athletic body or did he have the terrible sort of sarcasm that no one understood?
“Pilsner was created there,” Greg said.
“At the Lego museum?” I asked.
“No, at a beer place, probably.”
“A brewery, dude,” Matt said.
“I’ll pass,” Alissa said. “We have to see the Charles Bridge though!”
Pointless conversations abounded, but I loved it. The more we talked, the less we could think. The rest of the previous week, we’d played board games, drinking games, watched movies, and went on group hikes. Our conversations were superficial and light, something that would ordinarily drive me insane.
Oddly enough, these people I barely knew kept me sane.
After a full day of exploring the ancient beauty of Prague, it started pouring. Alissa complained about some fancy shoes she didn’t want to ruin, and Greg held his umbrella over her feet. It made me laugh, Matt roll his eyes, and Alissa shut up. Everyone won. In ten minutes though, completely lost with only one of our international phone plans working, we just needed a place to stop. A hole-in-the-wall restaurant caught our eye.
“How much?” Greg asked once we got inside.
“Ugh, I’ll handle this: Quanta costa?” Alissa asked.
Matt sighed. “Guys, they speak Czech here.”
“Twelve,” the man replied with a smile. I took in his outfit finally, and then the rest of the establishment. Other than the entrance, the place was almost dark save a few candles on each of the tables—real candles, not that fake light kind. Wooden tables, woven baskets, and peasant clothes surrounded us. The workers were easy to pick out, talking in fancy old accents and waving us here and there. At our tables, we got round slabs of wood for plates, and clay mugs which were filled with mulled wine. After a while, I realized we wouldn’t get silverware for our food.
“My phone’s not working,” Alissa said.
“That’s fine, you don’t need it,” I said.
We slurped our soup and ate chicken with our hands.
“No, I mean, what if we time traveled and now all of our stuff doesn’t work?”
“Dude, all the other people here look like us.” I waved at the customers through the candlelight. Ordinary people.
The magic of this place hit me when someone began playing the bagpipes and an old drum. The female workers hopped up and gathered in a circle, doing dances I’d only seen in shows or read about in books. They grabbed a few random customers to dance with them. To my great amusement, a woman waltzed over to Matt and held out her hand.
“Ah, no. Thanks.” He waved her away.
She put her hands on her hips, pouting, and said something in Czech. In minutes, the woman whisked Matt away. Watching his body, one I assumed would be coordinated, flutter around to the music brought me the most sincere joy I’d experienced in a long time.
Two songs went by, I could tell Matt had no clue what was going on, but he loosened up and actually smiled a couple times. I saw a brief glimpse of what he must’ve been like as a child: happy and carefree before frat life hit. Greg clapped, mocking him, but the music was too loud for his voice to carry and I was glad for that. Somehow, this medieval pub in the middle of Prague was were Matt belonged.
He came back to the table, glowing with a bit of sweat and light in his eyes. I knew I needed to burn that into my memory before Greg ruined the moment.
Sure enough, he did. “Next year, we’ll have to dress you up as a maiden for Halloween.”