Smoking in Prague

I found myself one afternoon high on meth-amphetamine and talking to a very serious, slightly tearful, but suicidal meth addict at his spacious apartment in the centre of Prague.  His name was Bohuslav, named, he told me, after a famous Czech composer.  Bohuslav had a straight posture and a frightening gaze.  He was very handsome and with a tall and sinewy frame.  His face was golden and suffering.

‘My cock doesn’t shrink,’ he told me.  His English was perfect with only a hint of a Czech accent.  ‘This shit doesn’t affect me anymore.  I can sleep, too.’  He went forward over the table to snort another line and as he did he said, ‘Do you know, not long ago in Prague we used to work for bread.’

We took his 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, Bohuslav became silent and brooding.  ‘Do you know the translation of Prague?’ he asked.

We came to a stop so the terrier could cock his leg in the corner.  I leant against a wall and lit a cigarette.  ‘I don’t believe I do.’

‘It means the “gateway between Heaven and Hell.”’

Despite having met me for the first time only hours before, Bohuslav had found in me a man who would listen.  I had bought him a whiskey at a strip joint near Wenceslas Square because, as I had told him at the time, there was “something interesting” about his face.  This one moment of engagement had in some way registered him to a world outside his own.  I was now something for him to blindly grab onto.

When we finished walking the dog we made our way back to the apartment to snort more meth.  Yellow lines on the table.  Bohuslav 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 want 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 weigh down upon me.  I began to resent him.  ‘I live here but I cannot afford the rent and will be out on the street.  I can’t work.  And you know what?  I don’t care.  I don’t care anymore.’

He began to leaf through photographs he kept in a shoe box.  There were hundreds of them.  Photos of his friends and family, his ex-girlfriend.  It was another life.  His eyes were distant as he retrieved them from the box.  He described each scene with a morose detachment, spittle forming at the corners of his mouth.  The situation was beginning to unnerve me.  As he spoke it seemed his brain was no longer connected to the things he was saying.  ‘You know there are little devils on the ground that lead to my house,’ he said.

After some time I anxiously made my excuses.  At the door I stopped, reached into my bag and pulled free a copy of Baudrillard’s The Perfect Crime.  ‘Take this,’ I said.

Bohuslav held it, bemused.  Neither of us knew why I’d given it to him. With hindsight I guess I felt the need to impart something before leaving – a gift, a word, an idea.  I knew I would 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 in a grey habit and with a cross clutched to her chest in both hands.  There are countless convents in Prague.  I don’t know why but as we passed each other I tried to meet her gaze but she looked through me like I didn’t exist.

On a corner near Wenceslas Square a Czech man 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 nine-thirty in the evening and I’d been awake all weekend, high for thirty-six hours straight, no sleep, just wired, daylight threatening to end it at any moment.  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 ten minutes later at Anděl Station.  Luckily the place I was renting was only a minute from the exit.  As I came up from the underground and made my way towards Radlická Street I noticed on the pavement a print of a devil holding a fork.  On the ground a few feet ahead was another identical devil.  Then another.  And another, all of them heading towards the courtyard of my house and stoping 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 Bohuslav is today, or if he’s even alive.  But since then I’ve bought another copy of The Perfect Crime.

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93 thoughts on “Smoking in Prague

  1. Jumped over here to see what you do. I almost stopped reading, as the initial impression of a drug soaked ramble is not to my taste, however your writing style captivated me and held me to the end. I’m glad it did, or I would have missed the ending redemption. It is really, an excellent piece and I’ll be looking around to see what else you have.

    Thank you for viewing my blog, and taking the time to hit that button. Cheers.

  2. I was completely captivated by this. You have such a gift for story telling. I cannot wait to read more.

  3. Loved ” It struck me how odd it was in this beautiful and historic city that two worlds could collide and never know it.” You put into words here something I have noticed even in my little part of the world. I was right there with you during your whole story. Great details and imagery. Thanks for checking out my blog too.

  4. Love your style. I feel like a captive immersed in the thought clouds within the words that fall like raindrops forming a puddle where they collect and come together to form this tale.

  5. Awesome writing brother asjellis. Lyrical. Visceral. What a difference between a trip and a journey eh?

    Thanks for stopping by mine.

    Peace…

    Vivek

  6. That proves that you don’t have to like the subject, principals, or setting to like the tale. Which has to mean that this was one excellent piece of story telling.
    I accept it as a lesson, in fact—not in how to snort but how to write. Good one.

  7. Bravo, that was one well spun tale; the ending blew my mind! You have quite a talent- are you thinking about writing a novella? Either way, you just won yourself a subscriber! Drop a few writing tips my way sometime, love to get some help.

  8. you’ve probably already been told but i just had to say it again, you writing flows like water – it’s so fluid and seamless and i enjoyed every line…

  9. You’ve a great ear for dialogue…and I reiterate everything everybody else has said. Thanks for the like and feel free to stop back at albatross base anytime.

  10. Very well written. I could actually picture the scenery and the little devils. Nicely done.

  11. Prague was cold. Despite refusing before hand the first thing I bought was a hat. It’s probably lost. I also bought a Miles Davis album. I didn’t look for any Meth, we still had a good time and ate rabbit. Loved your story. A4

  12. Thanks for liking my post about “Howl.” I took wordpress’s advice and looked at your blog. Very nice character portrayal here. I like your simplistic-but-powerful prose. This sat heavy with me: ‘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.’ Such basic words to convey a complex truth. Love it.

  13. I enjoyed your work and thank you for reading…. I wish I had the talent of story telling. You do very well.

  14. As one author to another, I enjoyed the spinning of this yarn. Thanks for sharing it. I hope you’ll take a look at Emo Jack on my blog.

  15. Great story! I sometimes get spam replies to my blog posts, and almost made that mistake with you, but am glad I didn’t. You write very well indeed!

  16. You wouldn’t believe if I told you how many times I red and re-red this story…
    The tension and anticipation in it is inspiring…
    I like most of your stories, but this… is special.
    I would recommend it to anyone who writes with a subtitle : How to write a short story.
    Pierre

  17. There’s a bit of a feel of Hemingway, or perhaps Camus, in the pacing and the matter-of-factness and lack of overt emotion in the narration and dialogue. The subject matter is more of our time, obviously, but I think if the Hemingway of, say, A Clean, Well-Lighted Place was alive today, he’d write something along these lines.

  18. Really interesting piece. Am tempted 2 say though…didn’t end well 4 me. I was so drawn in2 d story that I didn’t want it 2 end.
    9c blog u have here!

  19. This was good. The turn in the middle where the narrator realizes the burden of entering in too close to another empty person intrigued me. I could relate.

  20. That’s good. It really pulled me into its world and felt real. It feels very thought provoking, but it’s going to have to roll around in my head for a while before I can articulate anything… What felt most real was that the person telling the story found himself at a loss of what to do about Fillip’s situation… and never resolved that; could only walk away. Wow.

    Thanks for visiting my blog the yesterday! 🙂

  21. I don’t normally read fiction, but the writing style was too magnetic to stop reading after the first paragraph. You should definitely think about getting a book published.

  22. Wow – very powerful writing. Different from what I usually read, but like many of the others who commented, I couldn’t stop til I finished.

  23. I get a feel of Dostoevski, Sartre & Burroughs’ “Junky”, but with a triumph of the spirit at the end. This touched me at a visceral level, many thanks…

  24. Just to say thank you for your ‘like’ at art rat cafe – appreciate your support. I visited Prague, just after its freedom, with 21 Canadian high school students on an art history tour…very different experience than yours. However; I’ve also explored the nether worlds through acid and mescaline and understand the trip. You have described the city perfectly, in fact I was transported back in time by your evocative writing. Keep on keeping on – you have so much to offer through your art.

  25. It is absolutely amazing the way you portray one single night, before the split with you mate, being high on drugs and meth to be precise. It really touched me as I’ve had close friends on meth and I know what it does to you on the outside, the sunken yes, skin which seems to be hanging on for dear life on you bonny face, hands that seem more like arthritic claws remnants of who he was long before meth. It’s absolutely dark, and yet, in the midst of all this your main character, someone we may all know and have passed by on our way to work, never knowing what he felt, or how he felt, and what ever happened to him afterwards. For someone like me, who’s only done pot in my life, I always wondered what it was like to be on other, more powerful drugs. I even asked one of my closest friends what it was like when he was using (he had sobered up than), his answer was; party all night long, wasted to the point where you couldn’t sleep for 24 or more hours in a row, and finding yourself half-sobered somewhere you didn’t or couldn’t remember how you got to. Yet, my friend, with all the shit injected in me to make my mental disability “better”, I often felt like a drug addict. My cupboard had all my previous meds I never through away, just in case I needed to be numb for that evening. I never tried drugs, but I had prescriptions for any thing that was ever approved by the FDA. My life was a scene from both “Dazed and Confused” as well as “Requiem for a Dream”. Today I’m just a ghost of times past, no meds, no docs, just me walking that same ol’ street in search of myself. Great writing, really touched me, an most of all, it reminded me of where I have been and I’m now in life. Thank you for sharing. Luc.

  26. It’s certainly a bit Conrady like a previous commenter noticed – The Secret Sharer – but whatever it’s pretty good on Prague and you and the touristy times we live in and has a nice way of coming up with the unexpected – you’re a writer.
    ( Comments are difficult – hard to avoid being either patronising or overenthusiastic)

  27. Very well written, could be a little movie right away. One little thing to make it perfect (it’s the old History teacher I was in another life who cannot keep his mouth shut: it’s “Romanic” not “Romanesque”… a mixture of Romanic and Gothic…) No biggie. You should take a look somewhere to the Est of Prague…in Transylvania where my native city of Sibiu is pretty much the same (and very different too)…But if you do you’ll have to be careful with the drogues, they are pretty histerical about those the last time I was there…We don,t want any Midnight Express, do we? A BTW, Baudrillard is full of shit, sometimes, at least what I browse: “Because nothing, not even painting, wants anymore exactly to be looked at, but only to be visually absorbed and circulated without leaving traces ..” Common! (could be true for some minimalist, conceptual and other pseudo-painters but most of us we still stick with Délacroix’s definition: a good painting is a FEAST for the eyes”….

  28. This is terrific writing – TOTALLY loved it. You’re gifted. This is just vivid, down & dirty, gritty real. LOVED it.

  29. Your imagery and choice of wording is really stellar. It really puts you (as a reader) into the character’s head and gives you an idea of his state of mind (both the momentary high and the way he thinks and processes info in general.)

  30. Dropped by after your LIKE to see what you do. Chose this story as I’ve been recently arguing the case for Budapest over Prague. Stark, real, and very engaging. Powerful evocation. Will be back.

  31. Your prose is haunting and delicious at the same time. I hate myself for liking it. 😉

  32. Hey,

    Thank you for stopping on my blog and liking it. I really enjoyed this piece of yours, your a great writer and storyteller. Would love to hear any feedback you might have on mine, hope you keep reading 🙂

    Zee 🙂

  33. I like this very much. It’s authentic and vivid…I’m flattered, after reading you, that you liked one of my posts and I’ll keep tuned into you, Victoria

  34. Intense… a sadly strange beauty to your post. I’m all for alterations in consciousness, when time + place are right, (I grew up in 60’s + 70’s….) and have sampled many things, but not that.

    Thanks for visiting/liking. 🙂
    Diana

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