Written at 8:28 PM on 10-14-06 in Berlin, Germany
Note: The computer I’m posting this from doesn’t have microsoft word so all the commas are replaced with weird symbol thingies. I’ll fix it when I have time.
Well, I’m sick again. Thanks a lot, Julie. Ill get to that in a moment, though.
I spent most of my last full day in Prague hanging around the Shakespeare Café. I did quite a bit of work on my novel and did some reading as well. I negotiated for one of the books that I wanted from the bookstore in the back of the café. I traded in my pocket translation book (which carried with it a general air of uselessness) and a science book Id swapped for a couple weeks ago. Id not opened either book in about three weeks, which I thought was a sign that it was time for them to go. I didnt get much for them, but it lowered the price of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail enough that I was willing to fork over the roughly ten euros for it. I justified this, telling myself that the book would have been expensive to begin with, even had it not been an English book being sold in a foreign-speaking country.
I met up with Julie around 4:00 (I was still feeling fine at this point), and what should we do but go to another movie. Now, I must admit that I have a few moral compunctions nagging at me with regards to the four American movies I saw over a five-day period. I justify this course of actions in the simplest possible way: It was Julies fault. I might have gone to one movie on my own, yes, but she was sick and hadnt yet infected me with her plague so I suppose I felt some degree of sympathy for her condition. If she wanted to relax and go to the movies, then I was happy to oblige.
We watched Thank You For Smoking, which was a parody on a tobacco lobbyist. I expected the movie to be funny and utterly without a message, but it surprised in that it actually had some snippits of moral and philosophical content. After the movie, we headed back toward the town. We went back to the cheap clothing store Id visited the previous day. I saw some appealing shoes, but I decided to resist the impulse buy and to wait and see if I still wanted them tomorrow.
We went to dinner, where Julie had a salad (shed finally resigned to eating well) and I had a pasta dish. Not a great meal, but still filling. Afterwards we returned to the hostel briefly, where I got a shower and she got online and where she finalized her arrangements to go to the UK. It seemed I would be going to Berlin alone. After that, we spent the rest of the evening at the Shakespeare Café, me writing and her reading (the tractor book again).
A strange experience worth noting: So while in the café, this girl came in at about 10:00. She sat in the corner and seemed determined to maintain a frown. She was not frowning at me, or anyone in particular, it was sort of a general expression of displeasure at the world. I found it odd, but thought nothing of it. Well, about half an hour later this old guy comes in, sits down, and starts talking to her. Well, it didnt take long to surmise that he was some kind of cigarette-smoking, modern-day, Freud-like psychologist and had an appointment with the frowning girl. Aside from the apparent lack of doctor-patient confidentiality, we were, after all, in a small café full of people, there were several other oddities about this interlude. After a few words from the Praguian Freud, the girl set out telling her story, which included profuse amounts of drug use (starting at age 13 and including marijuana, speed, cocaine, ecstasy, to name a few), a massive settlement for a car wreck shed been in (she refused the money), a marriage of convenience with a gold-digging husband (who she was no longer with), and a general opinion (for her part) that she had been clinically insane for the past two years and had created an alternate personality.
By the time this tale was spun, I couldnt tell the wool from the spinning wheel. Needless to say, Id stopped my writing. I tried not to eavesdrop, but it was basically impossible. Julie kept throwing me grins every time something strange or absurd would emerge from the girls mouth, so it seemed she was doing no better in her reading. I suspect just about everyone in the café was listening to this odd story. It was the kind of story you watch on a made-for-TV movie, or hear from your cousin who tells you that it happened to a friends brothers sister-in-law. Actually hearing something like it firsthand was a testament to how crazy people can be and that weird shit actually does happen. I couldnt decide whether to feel sorry for this poor soul who had apparently suffered so much, or to feel contempt and want to tell her to get it together. I think, in the end, I felt sorry. She was obviously suffering from schizophrenia or some equally debilitating mental illness and that it had ruined her life.
It became apparent to Julie and me that we were not going to get any more reading or writing done, so we left the café and headed back to the hostel. She was getting up earlier than me to catch her flight and wanted to head to bed. So we bid our farewells with promises that wed meet back up in London with our other former flatmate, the Canadian, Cam, and have drinks before we all went back to separate corners of the world.
I went to bed, totally unsuspecting of the misery that was soon to creep up on me. At first, I was just uncomfortable and couldnt sleep. I tried reading, but then my flashlight died. Afterwards, as I lay in bed, I began to feel this pressure on the side of my face, as though someone or something, lets call Julies Malice, was over me and pushing down. Immediately, I knew that I was not to escape my week with my plague-ridden companion unscathed. Despite constantly washing my hands, avoiding touching my face, and drinking orange juice and eating well, I had caught Julies Malice.
When I was sick before, I rationed out my antibiotics so Id have some just in case I got sick again, and now I was glad that I did. The moment I recognized Julies Malice for what it was, I started on the antibiotics, hoping to deter the malevolent infection. When I awoke the next morning, my suspicions were confirmed. I couldnt breathe through one nostril and felt a niggling need to sneeze, though was never able to when I wanted.
I packed up, had an enormous (and healthy!) breakfast, and checked out of the Czech Inn. Over the course of the morning, that plugged nostril became unplugged and as one might expect, I was soon blowing my nose every couple minutes. Still, I preserved and contented myself by buying presents. I got those shoes I wanted and used the rest of my Czech coins to barter for a black t-shirt. It was a small but glorious reward.
Catching the tram and metro, I made my way to the train station, where I encountered no problem in procuring my ticket through the remainder of the Czech Republic. I had left about half an hours time for safety, and I used it, turning my attention to my new book.
I’ll leave you with that for now. More to come on the train ride to Berlin and my arrival at the hostel.
Tags: Czech Republic, Europe, Prague, sick, stories, Travel