As I walked home Saturday night after what was an amazingly fulfilling performance on stage, I found myself wanting. For what, I wasn’t sure.
Earlier, I had been wearing some cute black-heeled booties at a Tinder party I organized as a post-show event. As their host, I’d flitted about in my heels among guests wanting to meet others, wanting to feel something for someone.
For the walk home, I had changed into what were shit-kickers in Arizona where I bought them, to what have become my cobblestone beaters in Prague. The hard, rough soles of my weathered boots slapped against the uneven sidewalks dampened by an earlier winter rain. They echoed as I walked, fueled by this wanting, like a scary scene from Jack the Ripper, but not. As I zig-zagged my way through the arterial maze of narrow streets of which I still need to learn their welcoming names, I looked up at the golden-tinged skyline of ancient buildings topped with carved, expressive art that easily remind you: things happened here.
As I cleared the maze, I came upon what I call the Yellow Building. It’s more than that, of course. Depending on where you’re from, it looks like your old county court house, your plantation-style mansion nestled in a garden grove or your historic building re-purposed into a 4-Star hotel. I pass it often on my way home. It lives along the Vltava River, slightly out of reach, and it is becoming my friend. That familiar face you begin to notice on your tram commute to work.
I’ve been watching the Yellow Building through my seasons here. There is always something going on. Summer wine parties sophisticating outside on the expansive grounds. Holiday fête’s silhouetted by the glow of yellow, festive lights. Waitstaff in profile waiting at the ready near the windows. Dignified parties beckoning, of which I have yet to be invited…leaving me feeling like the wanting, nosy neighbor; hands gripping the wrought-iron fence, peering over the gate, and wondering, “Hey, what’s going on in there?”
I’ve passed the Yellow Building so many times while wondering what it is and who goes there. So, like the day where you finally say, “Hello” to the friendly face on the tram, I approached the building’s mounted sidewalk marquee. Turns out there is a restaurant inside. A-ha. Not an exclusive diplomatic residence, necessarily, but a restaurant. One of which I could simply make a reservation for myself.
Tonight, on the eve of St. Valentine’s Day, the building was alive, spilling over with revelers. My friend was full. As I waited for the well-behaved traffic to pass so that I could cross the street, I noticed a woman wearing a long, pink fluttery dress. Her petals peeked below what seemed like pea coat. I’ve noticed this look a lot on this corner. Fancy dresses peeking below thick, short coats. I watched as she stepped from the curb and her companion instinctively, protectively grabbed her shoulder to pull her back.
I want that.
I have a lot. I have what someone like me or unlike me may look at and want. I know this and that’s okay.
I didn’t want to stare at them. No. That’s not true. I did want to. I wanted to see what their smiles looked like together. I wanted to see how his eyes looked out for hers. I wanted to see how they fit. Why they fit. I wanted their whole togetherness history shared with me in that moment via a reservation at their table. I wanted that little explanatory note card placed next to an exotic sculpture in a museum. I hungered for it. I tried to stare at them, to study them. But. I missed the moment because I had to look both ways as I crossed through traffic. By myself.
There were other couples coming from the place, shorter dresses, longer coats, more smiles and more togetherness. Some of them stared at me. What did they see? What information did they want from me and my history?
I continued to walk from there, the night air resting a chilly arm across my shoulders as it escorted me across the bridge. We stopped to breathe and to take in the beauty of the magical castle in the horizon. My attention turned instinctively to the welcoming, dark, rushing river below. I think about jumping in that river sometimes. I think about gently setting my vintage red and white polka dot hand bag and my black duffel down on the wet sidewalk; comforted by how my history, flyers for the show and copies of my book, are resting quietly inside the bags. I think about taking my big parka off, but keeping my boots on; I think about climbing over the railing and jumping into the rushing water waiting below. I think about how freezing cold the water would feel as it would lovingly suck me in and envelope me like my thoughts and carry me off toward nothingness, swirling me deep into a cyclone, casually or perhaps violently, to be documented into this city’s garishly romantic history.
The night air grabs my hand gently. Leads me away from the bridge. Off Jiráskův Most. Toward home. He laces his fingers with mine. Pulls me close, his eyes looking out for mine, as he whispers in my ear and says, “Wouldn’t Burrito Loco be better?”
I smile, holding my bags close, thinking that that is much easier and simpler to want.