Part 48 A Sense of Dread
“Come on, Gia!” Anna urged Gia to walk faster. Gia was trying, but it felt like she was wading against an angry river current. The excitement of seeing Lokie again after fifteen years seemed like too much to bear. She couldn’t explain the growing sense of dread within her. What was wrong with her?
The girls made their way through the thousands of tourists in the Old Town Square, past the astronomical clock just catching the end of “The Walk of the Apostles”, as the skeleton-a figure of Death- rang the bell at six o’clock. From then they weaved through the narrow cobbled walkways to Charles Bridge, a gothic bridge built by Charles the IV, the Holy Roman Emperor.
“Anna, is it really true that eggs were used to build the bridge?” Gia was curious.
“Well, the legend says that eggs were used in the bridge construction, and some analysis later found egg protein in the mortar, so yes, it is true!” smiled Anna, glad to use her tourist guide expertise.
Gia couldn’t help, but feel proud to have been born in such a beautiful ancient city, a place full of history and mystique. Funny, how she came to fully appreciate it only after she moved abroad.
“Let’s touch the cross, Gia and make a wish!” said Anna and dragged Gia to the right side of the bridge.
“Oh, yes!” Gia squeezed her eyes shut and formulated a wish. Please make this thing with Lokie go away. Please let there finally be a closure. Thank you.
The girls took turns touching the golden cross, that marked where the priest John Nepomuk was thrown over, as a punishment for not revealing the Queen’s confessions to the king Wenceslas IV.
“Anna, remember you threw out your ex boyfriends torn letters here?”
“Of course, how could I forget, I was desperate to make a fresh start.”
“And you did!”
“And so will you, Gia!” Anna patted her friend’s arm.
Gia felt instantly better after touching the cross and the plaque on the nearby statue of St. John Nepomuk. The spot is polished to an almost blinding golden shine by the millions of people that touched it over centuries to ensure their good luck.
The girls then walked along the Vltava river. They were now late, it was almost six twenty when they reached the pub. They had to descent a flight of stairs to enter, and Gia’s nerves started to get better of her again. Was Lokie already there? Would Gia be able to just say hi? Would she be able to speak at all?
But there was not time to dwell on such thoughts, as Gia’s feet moved from the last step onto the stone floor of a largely empty outside seating area. Gia’s heart was pounding so hard, she thought, it was literally going to jump out, or burst as she turned the corner and…None of the classmates were there yet. Oh, thank God!
The waiter showed them to their reserved tables, and the girls ordered their drinks, and although Gia’s out of whack nerves calmed somewhat, she was going out of her mind watching the stairs, as people were slowly trickling in.
“Hey Leni, over here!” shouted Anna.
“Hey, girls! Oh, mi God, it’s so good to see you! Leni greeted her friends in a typical Leni fashion.
“Oh, look there is Ozz!” Leni turned bright red.
“Wow, look at you all!” Ozz exclaimed and hugged them each in a warm greeting. Then they were all just looking at each other for a while and couldn’t stop laughing.
Soon, the rest of the classmates poured in, and the pub got really busy. But there was still no sign of Lokie. Why did he want to meet earlier, and now he was not here? Why? Relax! He probably felt a bit like you, Gia, and he is getting a courage to come in. Maybe he would come in with Peter. Yes, that was it, they probably met earlier like Gia and Anna and lost track of time…
Gia began to relax and even started to have a good time with her classmates. Some looked exactly the same, some aged visibly, a few brought in their kids. She stopped hypnotizing the stairs and just went with the flow.
“Look guys, there is Peter!” said Kai. “Peter, here!” shouted Ozz waving his arms in the air, as if Peter wouldn’t notice them anyway.
Peter threw his bag down under the table and sat down next to Ozz. Gia was straining to see where Lokie was. What the heck?
“Oh, guys, bad news-,” Leni said, “the teacher is not coming, his car broke down.”
Thank God, it was not Lokie! Thought Gia and checked her phone. No messages.
“Hey, Peter, where is Luke?” asked Leni.
“I don’t know, I spoke to him a few days ago, and he said he would be here.” said Peter and shrugged.
“Anna, can you please call him?” Gia whispered to her friend.
“Of course!” Anna pulled out her phone, and Gia watched her friend’s face, as she dialed Lokie’s number.
“Nothing, it went straight to voicemail, sorry Gia.”
“I don’t get it, why isn’t he here?” said Gia aloud, but more to herself. The thought was tormenting her, and no answers seemed to be coming.
“He probably chickened out, what a fool!” said Anna and took a sip of her drink.
“Yeah, but he would have let someone know, like last time. Don’t you think? Something is not right.”
A few other people tried calling him without any success. Gia couldn’t stand it anymore, and dialed Luke’s number herself. A strange tone sounded, and then it went to voicemail. Was Lokie too scared to come? If he felt anything like Gia, it wouldn’t surprise her, because if Anna was not with her, she probably wouldn’t have came either.
But no, that was not it, something must have happened. Something serious, perhaps something with his son, or if he went by a train, maybe there was an accident or something. Yes, it must have been something very, very serious, otherwise he would have let her know.
Gia’s brain was hurting from the overthinking, and her emotions were all over the place, although she tried her hardest to remain outwardly calm, inside she was screaming. By nine o’clock, Gia knew that Lokie was not coming.
“Hey Gia, so what are you up to?” shouted Ozz from across the table.
“Tell them who you are married to, Gia!” squealed Leni, just like in her daydream. Oh, here we go.
“Oh, yeah you might have heard of him, it’s Drew, the american painter.” said Gia.
“What? You are kidding, right?” Peter looked at her in surprise.
“No, I am not kidding.” smiled Gia.
The room fell quiet, and all her classmates’ eyes were now hanging on Gia. How she disliked being the centre of attention!
“How the heck did you meet him?” they wanted to know, suddenly all asking questions over one another.
“I met him at one of his shows in London, and we started talking.” said Gia, perplexed by her Déjà Vu experience. She lived this conversation many times before in her daydreams, but this was not right. Lokie was not here. It was all wrong. Total grief engulfed her. She knew it was totally irrational, but this was not supposed to happen. Lokie was meant to be there.
“Hey, Gia so what is he like?” Peter asked.
“He is just a normal guy.” Gia really didn’t want to talk about Drew right now.
“Hey what’s up, trouble in paradise?” Peter must have picked up on her mood.
“No, nothing like that,…cheers!” Gia raised her beer mug, and everybody followed suit. Gia’s distracting tactics worked, and after the cheers died down, the conversation topic changed to painting.
As the night progressed, many friends left, and the rest moved inside. And when Peter started ordering shots, Gia accepted them gladly, she no longer cared to stay sober.
Soon, though she found it hard to mask her feelings, and everybody started to notice. They tried their best to console her, they hugged her around her shoulders, and drunk to her health. They tried their best to cheer her up, but nothing was helping. She just barely held it together in front of them, but every time she was alone in the restroom, the floods of tears opened, and she found it hard to stop.
Hours passed, and a new day arrived catching the few classmates still in the pub. The sun rays slowly poked through the dirty pub window casting strange light on their faces.
“Oh, Gia you look so tenderly beautiful.” said Jane. And that was just about enough to push Gia over the edge. She put her head on the table and let it flow.
Everyone was so kind to her. It was so great to see all her old friends from school. But she was hurting beyond anything she ever experienced before, she couldn’t explain the pain. It was not just some drunken meltdown, but the reaction certainly didn’t match what happened. Which was nothing. Was she over reacting, or was there a true reason for her emotions? Either way, she couldn’t hide it anymore, which was so unlike her ice maiden persona.
Soon, it was time to go home, they said drunken goodbyes with promises of another reunion for the following year, and Gia and Peter caught a tram. Gia was staying in her brother’s flat in her and Peter’s old neighborhood.
“Hey, Gia what’s wrong with you?” Peter enquired with seemingly genuine concern.
“Something happened, Peter, and I don’t know how to cope with it, because I do not know what actually happened.”
“I see,” Peter gave her a confused look, “but what is it? Is it Drew?”
“No, it’s not Drew…”
“Then what is it? You know, you can talk to me, I am known to my friends as a sort of an agony uncle.”
“Really?” Gia looked at him and thought hard for a moment. Shall she say something about Lokie or not? In a way she wanted to, because Peter was his friend, and he might know something. But what if he would tell Lokie? They would then laugh how crazy she was…
“I can’t talk about it Peter…”
“Well, if you need me, I will be here, okay? Whatever it is, it can’t be that bad!” Peter tried reassuring her.
But Gia just turned away and looked out of the window. Oh, Peter, if you only knew! It is THAT bad!
“Come on, I’ll walk you home.” He took her by the arm, as they exited the tram.
Gia suddenly realized how exhausted she was. She leaned on Peter, as they walked to her brother’s house.
“Are you sure, you will be okay, Gia?” asked Peter again by the main entrance to the building.
“I don’t know, Peter.” Gia shook her head.
“Come here, sit.” he led her to the steps by the house. “Now, tell me, what is it?” he commanded.
Gia was not sure whether it was Peter’s concerned insistence, or her feeling defeated and hopeless, that made her finally say, “okay.”
Original writing and photo © Gia Joseph and Giasuniverse, 2015