Can I mourn you now?
Now that the story of an ‘amicable breakup’ has unravelled, and resentment has seeped through the cracks, and I have tried and failed to replace the place you held, and I have raged until all that was left was a strange new calm, and I have felt nothing for you, or for anything, and I have been surprised by the sweetness of unexpected flashbacks, and I have learned to look at photos with nothing but fond recollection?
Can I begin now to speak of what you meant to me throughout it all?
Praha, you were everything, and I never even knew it. I was lost in a limbo state, unsure of whether to treat our time together as a fling or a foundation for something far greater. I railed against putting down roots, little knowing that tenacious tendrils of home were already drawing me in. I taught myself to take for granted the green-roofed Gothic grace that rose at the end of Na Smetance. I did not spend enough evenings on the slope of Riegrovy, sipping your spirits – so freely given – and praising your ghostlike charms.
Praha, you destroyed me, and put me together again. Panic attacks on hardwood floors and teary-eyed walks in the snow. The constant question of “will we make it?” worn bright like an amulet. The scent of the steps to our third-floor flat, in all its art-deco decay. Days spent drunk on adventure and doubt, and the strength to believe that we’d figure it out. You made me who I am.
Praha, we are not finished yet. Our scene has not played out. I have not done my time as the painted lady with the red umbrella, cliched and silhouetted against the Gothic gatehouse. When I next find myself in your cobbled, graffitied backstreets – as if I’d never left – I will light a candle for you, like a loved one on Dušičky.
Perhaps I will place it in Olsanska, where I wept in the rain and danced in falling leaves. Or perhaps on Wenceslas, nestled amongst the memorials to your bloodstained velvet rebirth. Maybe I will cast it adrift on the Vltava, set against Na Plavka’s gutteral evening chatter. Or place my koruna in the tin box, and borrow light with a slender white taper in St Vitus’ sacred gloom.
I’ll leave it burning in mourning and in hope – to rest in peace and rise in glory – a tribute to the gloomy cellars yet unfilled with songs inspired by you. To the mist-wreathed sunsets yet unseen from the forested slopes of Petrin. To forsaken Divoka summer days, and snowballs yet unthrown.
To the gorgeous, guarded heart of you, of which I caught only a glimpse.