By twenty five, Erica had surpassed me in her pursuit. She was a senior staff writer at a well-read newspaper and was even set to intern under Wolf Blitzer at CNN. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous. She was “making it” on this path we’d chosen, while I, for the most part, was still in the Styx, picking ticks from my underwear and washing my balls with creek water.
One day while visiting my folks, I got a call. It was Erica and she sounded elated.
“Guess what, Hans!” she said.
Ummm let’s see, I thought. You’re being personally awarded the Pulitzer by Dan Rather in a g-string?
“Joe and I are having a baby!”
I was blown to shreds. I knew she’d met a guy and gotten married, but I never expected her to go the kid route so soon. I congratulated her, of course. Underneath, I wondered what would become of our little dream.
Over the next few years, Erica moved further and further in a different direction. Where once she strapped Vipers to her feet and braved snowcapped peaks, she now strapped diapers to her tyke and rode hub-capped Jeeps. That’s not to say I wasn’t happy for her. I was just disappointed that I no longer had a companion to run with and a competitor to run against.
By 2010, the nomad’s footprints had all but faded for Erica. She was now living the domestic life with her sweet baby and hard-working husband in a small condo just south of LA. Before moving to Prague, I went to visit her. She cooked us chicken tikka masala, and we looked at photos of my recent trip to Africa. As we flipped through pics of me cliff-diving in Zanzibar and off-roading in Ethiopia, I noticed her eyes. They were flecked with a tearful longing for something long since forgotten. At one point during our viewing, the super-tramp in Erica kicked through her skin and twirled her to life. She started bouncing up and down around the living room and yelling:
“Joe! Wouldn’t it be awesome if we went to Africa together?!”
Joe, though kind and curious at heart, is hardly built for the road. He just sat there in his loafers, gripping his kneecaps and sweating his crew-cut to a shine.
“I think we’d do better in Florida,” he said.
Erica popped like a teardrop on a stove coil. She withered to the Indian style position and sagged her head. I told her and Joe it was time I got going. I gathered my crap and hit the door. As I reached for the knob, Erica stopped me. She turned me around and pinched my elbow.
“Bring me back some stories, will ya?” she said.
I told her I would.
A month later, I boarded my plane for Prague. I had three bags of a junk, a hundred bucks in my pocket and a drinking problem the size of a church spire. By the skin of my nuts, I got a job teaching English. I set up shop at a crappy flat in Žižkov – the grittiest hood in the city – then commenced learning the local tongue and exploring the local bars. In the three years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen, done and written some wicked shit. But this post isn’t about all that. It’s about keeping my promise to Erica.
Last July, while at home for her brother’s wedding, I saw her for the first time since leaving. The minute she got the chance, she sat me down and opened her peepers up real wide.
“So tell me about Praaague!” she said.
I folded my arms and chewed the side of my mouth. Had Erica been one of the boys from back home, I’d have spilled my filthy stories like a bag of used condoms. Truth was, I was ashamed to tell her most of what I’d done. Not cuz’ she’s woman, mind you, but because she’s, let’s say, more “religious” than I am.
But Erica’s no dummy. I’m sure she sensed her alcohol-and-caffeine-free spiritual affiliations were puttin’ the pinch on my inner devil. Even still, I could see her eyes were filled with images of castles and cafes and torrid romance. I had to give her something. While I thought about how to address this, she rephrased her question.
“Well, can you at least just tell me what the average week is like for Haaans in Praaague?”
Like a jerk, I spit her alotta horse crap about “interesting students” and “beautiful sights.” I should’a ditched my pride and told her the following …
Note: I reserve the right to occasionally alter the character names, descriptions, and/or event details in my posts for the purposes of identity protection and “fluidity of story.” If this puts a kink in your panties, read someone else’s blog, homey.