Sunday, 17 February 2013
As the bus rolled into Wenceslas Square Nico was at her wits' end. She had nothing left and no one cared.
We parked up outside the elegant Hotel Europa and watched the Russian soldiers' dismal foot patrol, followed by the occasional rusty armoured car. The impression wasn't so much hostile as omnivorously boring. The spotty toy soldiers didn't want to be there, and the people didn't want them there. For the heart of a city it sure was quiet. There were a couple of stalls selling pickled slices of grey fish. Apart from occasional pairs of old ladies with empty shopping bags, everyone seemed to be somehow alone. I realised when we'd all climbed out of the bus that we were, in the eyes of a totalitarian regime, what constituted a crowd.
As we were directly in front of the Europa, Nico assumed it must be our hotel, and began lugging her bag towards the entrance. When Demetrius pointed out that we weren't actually staying there, that we didn't, in fact, have any place to stay, she gave him a mighty kick in the balls, a steel-capped castrating avenger. When the heroin was out, Nico always seemed to get sudden bursts of energy.
Demetrius doubled up, gasping for breath, his hands cupping what was left of his retracted testicles. Passers by smirked, but didn't stop. The soldiers expressed a slight consternation as they goose-stepped past, but they didn't stop either. Nothing could alter the mechanical rhythm of the city's artificial heart.