Thursday, January 03, 2008

the fish cafe

so, i started my new job today at dino elementary. from 12-5 every afternoon i'll be dishing out red "tea" (which seems suspiciously like hot cherry kool-aid), playing hangman, coloring princesses, critiquing dances... basically, hanging out with kids. which is a lot more fun than teaching them at the bell school.

my new schedule leaves me with an awkard hour-and-a-half gap between my morning adult classes and dino. it's not worth it to go all the way home, so i had to waste some time.

i went to the cafe near I.P. Pavlova, whose name i can't remember, that i used to go to after T-mobile on Tuesdays with a certain English acquaintance. i decided that instead of trying to remember the name, i'm going to call it the "fish cafe" because in the two back corners of the cafe there are aquariums. the chairs in the corners in front of the aquariums are the most comfortable. that's where we used to sit, and thats where I sit still, even though the light is dim which makes reading tricky.

i suppose i chose this place because it's familiar. it's one of the only places i know in prague that i really like, that i'd suggest if i had to make a decision about somewhere to grab a drink. i guess i also chose it because it was somewhere i went with this person that i miss, that i think of fondly. maybe i thought there was a chance the loud footsteps coming down the wooden stairs would be his. wishful thinking, but still.

maybe i thought the dim lights and the bricks and the bubbling of the aquariums, the fish (polar bear, flat stanley and billy no mates in the one on the right), the pictures displayed for sale, the waiter with dreadlocks and hippie tie-dye who i think was a little alarmed that i ordered hot chocolate this time and not a beer, maybe i thought all of that would be comforting. i thougth i could float for an hour or so in the fresh nostalgia of december. maybe thats why i went.

but, surprisingly, it brought back other memories that had nothing to do with cafes, aquariums or even prague. i was reading "all the pretty horses," and for some reason, i can't be sure what triggered it, i thought about my trip to san francisco last year.

i remembered being in a tavern in sausalito last december. i remember sitting around a hexagonal table with ryan and his grad school friends, drinking beer and playing acey deucy. we got so into it that we had to keep running up to the bar, asking the barkeep for rolls of quarters to use for bets. when someone won the pot, they'd buy everyone a round. i think once i won almost $35, which i used to buy the table shots of jager.

which made me think about walking down the main street in sausalito, in the chilly december wind coming off the bay, looking across at san francisco all lit up. i have pictures, but i couldn't capture it. it looks like tiny dots far off in the distance. up on the hillside, the houses of sausalito were decorated in twinkle lights for christmas. couldn't get that on film either.

today i finished "the book of laughter and forgetting," by milan kundera. in it was this line: "whoever wishes to remember must not stay in one place, waiting for the memories to come of their own accord! memories are scattered all over the immense world, and it takes voyaging to find them and make them leave their refuge!"

i don't really think about that trip to san francisco too often, but when i remembered the jager and sweeping a pile of quarters off the table to buy them, i smiled. and it made me think - i had to chase that memory all the way to prague.

when my nostalgia for december is not so fresh, how far will i have to chase those memories?

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