My phone rings.
"Hi, Kasia? Hi, it's Zuzana's cousin. Have you seen her?" and instantly I'm thrown into a panic. It's 10:30 P.M. on a Monday and though my roommate has been working late hours for her new job and though she can often tend to stay the night at her cousin's or with friends, this is unusual, even for her.
"She was here and then she met some guy from Holland and she was going to give him a ride but I haven't seen her or heard from her and her phone is shut off so I'm getting nervous. She's not home?"
"No, she's not home yet" I reply, and a pit starts forming in my stomach. I'll admit, not only was I worried about my roommate's safety, despite the fact that I know she can handle herself, but I was also worried for myself. What if I had to make contact with Czech police? I once had a run-in with the authorities in Bratislava (foreshadowing...) but I got out of that scot-free as far as I can remember. If the police came knocking here, there's a good chance they'd find out about my as-yet-undeclared residency and employment in a European capital city, and to be honest I'm still not 100% sure if all of it is entirely legal. But, for now, my thoughts were with Zuzka.
Like I said, it's not that I don't trust Zuzana on her own. The girl wakes up at 5:30 A.M. three mornings a week and runs up hills in her boot camp fitness program. She is also known to rock bad-ass stiletto heels and short skirts on the daily like a boss. In a nutshell, I often wish I had her seemingly unshakable strength. But whether it was my fragile state as the result of chasing toddlers and wiping their noses (and one butt) all day, or whether it was some sort of misguided instinct, my brain leapt to the worst-case scenario. I started making plans as to how I would take care of her cat, Otto, while managing my allergies to him. Perhaps it was time for stronger medicine....
Thankfully enough, however, about fifteen minutes later the phone rang again. It was the same number.
"Hi, Kasia? Okay, no worries. Everything is okay. She's fine, and she's headed over there now with this guy from Holland."
As it turned out, Zuzana was helping Mr. Guy-From-Holland, later to be known as "Paul," after his car got towed by the aforementioned Czech police late that same evening. My roommate, being the kind of open-heart generous individual that she is, offered Paul, a perfect stranger, a place to stay for the night and whatever general assistance he might need. "I couldn't let him just stay on the streets of Prague at night like that," she later told me.
Paul, who I met later that night, ended up being a congenial guy who had moved to Prague for work. He'd gotten here the day before after driving all the way from Holland. Then, he slept in his car for a few hours, he said, before going to his first day at his new job. Then his car got towed, in a country where the language is as queer as Sir Elton John (sorry, Elt). Needless to say, he was a bit out of it, but extraordinarily grateful for the hospitality.
And this, in a nutshell, is Prague.
For all I know Paul might be one of our long-lost relatives. There's a good chance he probably knows someone I met in Amsterdam, or is their sister's cousin's dog-sitter, or something, because Prague has a funny way of bringing people together. On a recent trip to Spain, funnily enough, my roommate went to go visit some friends, and they had a new roommate Zuzana had never met before. When Zuzana returned to Prague, she ran into an older female friend of hers that she has known for somewhere around a decade. It was only then that she discovered this new roommate was this older friend's granddaughter.
As you may have heard, I made some wonderful new friends while sitting under a pear tree in a public park on a beautiful late summer afternoon. Sure, many cities may attempt to rival Prague in history, or antiquity, or beauty, but very rarely do you get to encounter, let alone live in, one so enchanting as to draw people together as if by magic.
Image courtesy of the author, and Zuzana, Otik's owner.