Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Every day I walked across the bridge

to the castle on the other side, the orange roofs, the towers, the church steeples. Sometimes I touched the blackened statues, angels, saints, the guy who was thrown off in chains--

he's the oldest statue on the bridge, his body gold from people touching it for luck. I don't believe in that kind off thing, but still, I admit, I touched him, stopping to look out at the river, imagining for a moment the man hurling toward the water, and all of the people over the years doing the same thing I'm doing,

strolling, rubbing statues, wanting to believe.

(The St Charles Bridge, Prague, one year ago today)
Around me tourists ignored the beggars, examined jewelry for sale while musicians played The Moldau or Mamma Mia, and I was thinking how weird it was to be moving in a crowd but feeling apart from them at the same time. Maybe it was all the different languages,

none of them mine, alone with my own loud thoughts. On a mission to explore the place on my own, wander through hidden gardens, eat street food, poke around churches.

No pictures, said the signs, but I sneaked one anyway. Some ancient church and inside, another church, and inside that one, a beam of wood that my guidebook said came from the house of Mary. Yes, that Mary. The mother of God. It looked like an ordinary piece of wood but for some reason I was teary-eyed.

And choked up again watching the people in wheelchairs bless themselves at the altar under the Baby Jesus of Prague, basically a china doll dressed in a poofy ornate gown and why would anyone think this would work, but still I take my turn and kneel. No one gives to the beggars on the bridge. They have a particular stance here, crouched, face down, their arms out, so no one has to meet their eyes.

Some of them have puppies. In a garden I find what I think is a good place to write, tucked behind bushes on a stone bench, but apparently, it's a popular wedding photo spot and two by two, the brides and grooms troop by, pose, set up their shots, the red roof backdrop, blue sky.

One of the photographers takes my phone, snaps a picture. We arrange this transaction without speaking. It's amazing, when you think about it, how we much we can understand each other when we want to.

Back across the bridge, the sun setting, the boats in the river, the statues, some of them 600 years old, a teenage boy drops a coin in front of a beggar, so quickly even the beggar seems surprised. A young couple dances past, the song lovelier than any I have ever heard.



Thursday, June 7, 2018

Both Summers Someone Drove Me To Work

the summer I was twenty, on the verge of turning twenty-one, and living, as some said, "in sin" with a boy-- an archaic and silly rumor because we were always only friends, but whatever, people are going to think what they're going to think--

and what I was thinking was great relief at being one thousand two hundred fifty miles away from home, playing the part of a grown up with my best friend, living in a cool apartment (okay, the apartment was filthy and infested with flying cockroaches and I had to sleep on a futon where I tried not to think about them landing on my face in the middle of the night)

and working two jobs,

an internship downtown at Memphis Magazine, fact-checking articles, talking on the phone with PR departments, fetching coffee for editors and writing a few of my own articles (one was about flying cockroaches. Shockingly, they did not publish it.)

and a waitressing job at Perkins Restaurant where I always had way too many tables and for some reason the trend was to tip the waitresses with religious pamphlets instead of money, and one of the most ridiculous pamphlets said: WHAT DO JANICE JOPLIN AND JIMI HENDRIX HAVE IN COMMON?

THEY'RE BOTH ROCK STARS AND THEY'RE BOTH DEAD!! JESUS IS THE ONLY TRUE ROCK.

But I digress. The point is that someone drove me to work.

The boy I was living with is the unsung hero of that summer, basically acting as my chauffeur because I had no car and he was a nice guy, dropping me off at my internship downtown promptly at nine and picking me up at noon and then driving me to Perkins at four and picking me up after midnight, and in between he drove around delivering pizza,

so maybe he enjoyed driving? I don't know, but I do know that I hated that ride to Perkins, how we'd listen to the same cassette tape every afternoon, Best of the Moody Blues, and we'd only make it to song number three "Ride My Seesaw" before I'd have to lurch out of the car, tightening my side ponytail, bracing myself for my collection of quarter tips and inane religious tracts that promised I'd burn in hell.

That summer was a kind of hell, now that I think about it.

But I am digressing again, because what I really wanted to write about is this summer and how it is exactly thirty years later and someone else is driving me to work each afternoon, but this time the person is my daughter, who is twenty, on the verge of turning twenty-one, and my job is in a lovely children's bookstore,

something out of You've Got Mail, but hopefully not like the one that Tom Hanks will put out of business because I really love working there, touching books and talking about books and chatting with customers and my co-workers, one of whom, at least for a few weeks, is my daughter,

home for part of the summer before heading off to Rome. We don't listen to the Moody Blues when we ride together into work and I don't have my hair in a side ponytail (not sure what that was about. A possible clue to the religious pamphlets?) My daughter wouldn't be caught dead with her hair in a side ponytail.

She is way cooler than I was at her age. Possibly not having to sleep on a futon and whack at flying cockroaches in the middle of the night will have that effect on a person,

or who knows all of the things that add up to who we are, what makes some of us condemn frazzled waitresses to eternal damnation and others drive them to work,

what makes time fly so fast that one moment you're twenty-going-on-twenty-one and the next

you're not.