The following events took place on night tram #54, Stromovka Park, and Výstaviště sometime during the winter of 2006, between the hours of midnight and 5 AM,
I turned my head slightly when I felt someone or something brush my shoulder. Because of the two hoodies I was wearing, seeing anyone behind me was difficult, even if I turned my head. I ignored the touch as accidental. But it happened again. This time, grabbing my big backpack and securing it between my knees, I turned completely around and pretended to look past whoever was seated behind me, surveying the relatively quiet riders on the half-full tram.
I could see, out of the corner of my eye, a scruffy young man sitting behind me. Dirty blonde curls emerged scrunched up from under a worn-out ballcap. I met his eyes as I began to turn back to the front; I thought I’d seen his eyebrows raise. Maybe he was cute, I wasn’t sure. However, it was 3 in the morning at least. I’d spent the evening in Valentino, drinking and suckin’ on a couple of dicks in the cabins. Tired, ready to bunk down in the park, in my regular spot, alone.
A few minutes passed. Just as we were crossing the river, the young man said something close to the back of my head. Something about having drunk too many beers that night. Even with my head away from him, I could smell his beer breath. His voice was hoarse and creaky, but deep. A rough arousal took me quickly. If he’d said, “I’m so drunk I could have sex with anybody,” it would not have had as sure an effect.
His voice had woken me up.
I swiveled again to face him. He rested one arm on my seat back.
“Ja taky,” I said, probably slurring a bit. Me too.
He raised his brow again and said, “You iss England?”
“Ne, Američan,” I said.
“Ah hah,” he said, nodding and smiling, drunken eyes half-lidded and rolling.
I didn’t know what to say then, although I wanted to say something. What could I say? Come back to the park and fuck me in my sleeping bag?
He leaned forward, put his other arm on the back of my seat, and then rested his head there. I have trouble remembering exactly what he looked like. At that time of the night, and after many beers, I must have thought he was handsome. I remember flushed cheeks, which could have meant alcohol or drugs or both; an angled, square jaw; long lashes; and big green eyes, which I saw only when he managed to keep them open. Oh, and sexy crooked teeth, all there, just ill-fitting.
“Kam deš?” he said, hoarsely and low again. I started to answer, inappropriately, home, but before I could get the word out, he asked me if I would buy him a beer. He was out of money.
I hesitated only a fraction. “OK, ale kde?” I answered. OK, but where?
He shrugged and kept his head down. There was a non-stop herna bar sitting at the entrance to the park where I sleep. I’d never been there before, but I’d seen men coming and going at all hours, cops and taxi drivers particularly. From the outside, it looked like a cabin in the mountains, but I’d seen coolers full of bottled beer inside as I’d walked by, along with a few tables and, of course, at least a dozen gambling machines.
“Výstaviště,” I said, finally. “Herna.”
“Dobre“, he said, easing himself back into his seat and folding his arms. Mission accomplished, maybe he thought.
No one else occupied the bar when we came in; in fact, we had to wake up the young, stocky barman from his nap in the back, head down on a table and his arms hanging at his sides like a kindergarten kid taking a nap. He seemed happy to see us, though, and he and my new friend struck up a conversation that died as soon as the barman found out I was American. He put his hands on his hips, looked at me strangely, and retreated to the back to gamble with the money we’d just given him for our two bottles of Budvar 12° and bag of česky chips.
The young man, whose name I remember as being Karel, sat next to me with his legs spread wide, one hand on his knee, his other arm braced by the table, holding the bottle of beer loosely and never putting it down, even when he lit a cigarette, my cigarette.
Whenever our stop-start čzechlish conversation would lull, he’d lean forward, take a drag, and begin to say something, opening his mouth for a few seconds, but was never able to bring his thought forward. I knew what he wanted to say, or at least the direction he wanted to point, but thought it best not to have it spelled out. If there had been talk of money beforehand, I would have probably backed out. From his body language, I knew what was likely to happen anyway.
So did he. When I said, “Let’s go,” and hoisted my bag on my shoulders, he followed me out without a word. He must have been pretty desperate to have followed me into the park.
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