Smoking in Prague (I)
I found myself one afternoon on meth amphetamine, talking to a very serious, slightly tearful, but suicidal meth addict at his spacious apartment in the centre of Prague.
Fillip was very straight – his posture, his eyes. His face was golden and suffering. Only the lack of weight and his thousand-yard stare hinted at any affliction. He was very handsome, tall, friendly.
‘My cock doesn’t shrink,’ he said in his light Czech accent. His English was perfect. ‘This shit doesn’t affect me anymore. I sleep, too.’ He went forward over the table to snort another line, and as he did he said, ‘Did you know, not long ago in Prague, we used to work for bread.’
We took his sharp little terrier for a walk around the streets. He loved that dog. It was his only friend. We drifted through crowds of tourists in a surreal cotton-wrapped world. It struck me how odd it was in this beautiful and historic city that two worlds could collide and never know it.
Prague is known as the Golden City of Spires. It’s a fusion of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, of Renaissance and Baroque. The buildings and streets are simply beautiful. A fairytale.
As we walked along a cobbled road, narrowed by imposing architecture, Fillip became silent and brooding. ’You know the translation of Prague?’ he said, at last.
We came to a stop so the terrier could cock his leg in the corner. I leant against the wall and lit a cigarette. ’I don’t believe I do, no.’
Fillip smiled. ’It means the “gateway between Heaven and Hell.”‘
For whatever reason, despite having met me for the first time only hours before, Fillip found in me a man who would listen. I was something for him to blindly grab for and when we got back to the apartment and had sat down to snort more shit, he launched into a tired and sad monologue about his ex-girlfriend, his family, his life. The magic faded.
‘My family are doctors,’ he went on. ’They wanted me to be a doctor. My ex-girlfriend, I loved her, but she wouldn’t take responsibility for things, she wouldn’t clean or cook.’ As he talked, I felt a great burden. I began to resent him: ‘I live here but I cannot cover the rent and will be out on the street. I can’t work. And you know? I don’t care. I don’t care anymore.’
His eyes were so cold and wanting that when he glanced at me I was forced to look away. What could I say? I was high on the same yellow shit that for the past 12 years had held him hostage and eaten away his future. The situation was beginning to unnerve me.
As he kept on, it seemed to me like his brain wasn’t connected to anything he was saying. ‘You know, there are little devils on the ground that lead to my house,’ he said.
After a while, I anxiously made my excuses. At the door I stopped, reached into my bag and pulled free Baudrillard’s The Perfect Crime.
‘Take this,’ I said.
Fillip held it, bemused. Neither of us knew why I’d given it to him, or the significance to it. But I felt I needed to impart something before leaving – a gift, a word, an idea. I knew I’d never see him again.
I walked out into the evening, relieved to be free. I was so high that the red and orange lights of the city were hurting my eyes. The world was a strange rock. My head felt like a stadium, my brain floodlit.
I passed a nun wearing a grey habit, and with a face as serious as it was calm. She was holding a cross in both her hands. There are countless churches and convents in Prague. I don’t know why, but I tried to meet her gaze as she neared. She looked past me, like I didn’t exist.
On a corner near Wensclas Square a Czech guy accosted me. ‘I take you to titty bar! Nice bar. Good bar. Nice pussy.’ He slapped the back of his hand into the open palm of the other. ‘You bang bang, yes?’
‘I ain’t a tourist, mate,’ I said, trying to walk him off.
‘What??? You don’t like pussy?’
‘I like pussy,’ I said. ‘I just ain’t a tourist.’
It was 9:30pm and I’d been awake all weekend, high for 36 hours straight, no sleep, just wired, daylight threatening to end it all. My eyes were sore. My jaw ached. My teeth buzzed. I felt dirty and dark inside. I slipped through the Metro like a ghost and arrived 10 minutes later at Anděl Station. Luckily, my place was a minute away from the Na Knížecí exit. As I came up from underground and made my way towards Radlická Street, I noticed on the pavement a print of a devil holding a fork. Then another a few feet ahead. Then another. And another. All of them leading towards the courtyard of my house and stopping just short of the iron gate.
Little devils on the ground.
I got into bed and slept a broken, difficult sleep, with my teeth grinding like ice in a glass. When at last I emerged from slumber a day or two later, I flushed the last of my meth and coke down the toilet.
I don’t know where Fillip is. Or if he’s even alive. But today, I have another copy of The Perfect Crime.