Originally published on July 26, 2008
Swerving from his drunken path away from the Karlovy Vary bus stop, the dreadlocked brown-skinned boy — whom I had assumed was gypsy — staggered up to me and said, in English, “Do you have any alcohol?”
Before I could answer him, No, he asked another question, “Where is my girlfriend? She was supposed to meet me here. She said…”
“No…I don’t know,” I stammered, trying to answer both at the same time. I’d been watching him as I waited and waited for the bus and he’d unnerved me a little by confirming that he’d noticed. But he’d been looking at me as well from his seat on the curb.
This boy and I had been locking eyes off and on all week at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. He’d been wearing the standard black suit and orange dress shirt that all the rest of the young male ushers and helpers wore. But he’d ditched the tie and kept his shirt’s top two buttons undone, revealing smooth skin. His dreads, Predator-like and impressive if a bit silly on such a lean boy, arched off the top of his head like a crest. He was the only Roma I saw working the Fest. So I’d noticed him.
The first time had been while waiting with the rest of the backpackers to see Josh Harnett’s disappointing and overblown dot.com drama, August. (The director comically attempts to imbue a tech investor’s downfall with the portent and tragedy of Hamlet.)
I was smoking a cigarette outside when the Dreadlocked Boy came out, heading for a group of loitering festival workers. He’d glanced over at me, glanced over again, glanced over a third time, and then changed course and speed to slowly amble up to where I was sitting on a concrete planter.
I took a long, disinterested drag — heart revving up — cocked my head, squinted and looked up at him as he came on. “What a beautiful boy,” I thought: strong, straight nose; high cheekbones and forehead; narrow but squared-off jaw; smooth skin the color of a double-shot latte, no foam; dark but friendly eyes. He slid to a stop a meter in front of me, stuck his long, veiny hands into the pockets of his baggy black trousers, and then it looked like he got snagged on a second thought. He turned his head away for a few moments.
When he turned back, we were looking at each other from different heights. We looked long enough, I guess, that we both felt we had to do something. He smiled, lightly, and nodded, his brow creased. I said, “Ciao,” I think, but maybe I said “Hello.” A couple quick beats and he headed back into the hotel where the film was being screened.
“What the fuck?” I said out loud, but softly.
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