A Year in Prague
Last night, I closed my eyes and my heart drifted to street lights reflected against watery cobblestones. Five layers deep, yet the cold still went to my bones. I might have notice, might have been bothered, if my mind wasn’t distracted by the beauty that was this intimate city spared from the bombings of World War Two. It was the beginning of what some have called “The Defining Decade”. Nearly done that decade now, I think back to the effortlessness that it was to be somewhere where I knew no one. How I seemingly glided from person to experience to sensation guided by the magic that inhabited Prague. I haven’t thought about those nights in quite some time. In an age where there were no consequences, no one to be accountable to, every breath was freedom.
Prague was the city that started my love affair with aloneness. I have always been fiercely independent, but I didn’t realize how intoxicating it was to stand firmly in one’s self while others whirred by. My need for aloneness grew as I logged more miles than I ever had. I ran my first half marathon in the cold and rainy streets of Prague on a sprained ankle. I ran up and down the river. Far into Old City. Far away from my apartment in Vinorhady. The more distance I put between myself and the things I knew, the more free I felt. In the same way that New York has always felt like the third character in every relationship in that city, Prague felt like it was watching over me, giving me just enough courage to traipse into the unknown and enough support to get back up every time I tumbled. It was the first time in my life where I felt like I could be anyone I wanted to be. No one knew me. No one needed to know who I had been or why I had been. All that mattered: who I was in that moment. That is Freedom.
Anonymity provides this great sense of effortlessness. I look back on the things I did and wonder where that courage came from. Where did it go? I lived and worked in that city for the better part of the year. I fell in love with a boy who’s guitar I left in the room I was renting. I stayed up late and got up early. I reveled in the quaint town squares in front of churches. I rode the trams down to the river and drink cappuccinos. I traveled across Europe by alone, seeing more of a place that I loved so deeply. It was a kinder time. I didn’t think about things like race or religion or nationality or gender. Perhaps it was my naivety, but those things seemed to matter much less as I crossed boarders and explored foreign places as a young 20something.
I worked at Prague Fringe Festival and made new friends without feeling that pervasive awkwardness that come from being the alone in a room full of people who know each other. This was simpler time before people’s faces were glued to their phones. IRL interaction with other people was the only way to meet and mingle. I miss the simplicity of having a phone whose only function was to call and text. No GPS. No pictures. No Internet. Just rudimentary communication used to coordinate meeting times and places. Maybe it was the sweetness of the locals or the encourage smiles of the expats who were looking to lure another one into their tight knit community. Maybe it was that human interaction, the connection of eyes and words and thoughts and hearts. One thing is certain: the magic of Prague made me brave.
I built nearly a decade of my life around searching for that feeling again. I took some of that courage back to the states with me and moved to New York alone. I thought I might find in New York the same magic that permeated every street corner in Prague. What the city gave me was the belief that anything was possible. In a time when I was very lost and confused and broken, a time not dissimilar to this one, I found my breath again.