Never leave a brothel with any questions. Never leave Prague with any regrets. Two tenets I scribed as scripture on the walls of my flat at 23 Kladenska before returning stateside after a season of lust and lunacy during the summer of 2005.
As Moses was handed the Ten Commandments, I birthed these tenets one morning returning home from one the finest of Czech clubs; a dungeon of lavender and oak soaked in absinthe. Strobe lights on stone, colors of the rainbow drizzling through the fingerprints of chiseled granite.
I was a middle-aged man, an aging student earning his TESL (Teach English as a Second Language) Certification simply because it sounded interesting. Prague was the sleepless city tempting and seducing me at every corner; history by day and hedonism by night, guidebooks and maps under light and voyages of voyeurism under veil of darkness.
My peers and I endured classes on grammar and pedagogy by day. We partook of the pubs and clubs by night. My studies were, as my English flat mates might have said, “spot on.” All areas of study, all hours of day.
Visit Prague and one remembers:
Pivo and ‘Prost!”
Chess and the Charles Bridge.
Kafka and Kundera.
I remember a three a.m. detour on the way home hoping to catch four hours of sleep before a test on gerunds.
“Let’s go to a brothel,” Adam said, cockney and proud.
“A whorehouse?” I asked, questioning the notion to Andy, a Birmingham native.
“A brothel,” Adam calmed.
Before I could confirm, affirm, negate or deny, Adam had relayed his interest to our taxi driver who was careening full speed down side streets at a nauseating pace.
Upon arrival, Adam pushed the buzzer on the steel door of the sterile building. Its absence of sound made us recoil, back-peddling to the cab that we insisted wait for a final gesture goodbye. After a few moments the sound of a door opening caught our attention, but we could see nothing beyond the painted holes of a rusting gate. Finally, the gate too opened and a behemoth of a man ushered the three of us into a foyer where we were frisked and asked for identification.
“Girls?” the man asked, looking down into the tops of our heads.
“Yes, girls,” Adam said.
After a brief once over, the man motioned us to be seated in the corner of a vast room decorated in a tropical theme. Bamboo shoots shot up from giant bowls of blue and aqua glass beads and palm trees adorned a wallpaper that ran from the rusted gate entrance to two cylindrical poles of bubbling water adjacent to the white vinyl couch upon where we sat.
“What the fuck are we doing here?” I asked Adam.
Andy was near unresponsive, nodding off, chin buried into his chest.
“Play it cool,” Adam insisted.
Within a few moments, a dozen women appeared scantily dressed. A few chose to climb near the water tubes and roll their legs around them seductively, but most gathered around in a semi-circle led by a beautiful blonde bilingual Czech.
“Can we get you anything to drink?” she said.
For some unknown reason we ordered Coronas. And for some unknown reason, they were in stock.
As quickly as the women had arrived, so did our beers followed by a tray of drinks for the ladies. I remember saying “Salud” and cringing.
After my toast, the blonde spoke again. “Do you have any questions for the ladies?”
She obviously spoke for all of them, and would now translate.
I thought about what I could say to strike up a conversation with someone I’d soon be propositioning. My mind was caught up in the way I’d likely feel during the awkward transition. The last purposeful odd sexual segue I committed was in high school.
Then I went for it.
“What is your favorite color?” I asked.
The blonde gave me a queer look and hesitated, then slowly repeated the question to her fellow ladies of the night. I shuddered as I felt all eyes on me, professional women wondering what the HELL a color chart mattered with what was about to go down, literally.
But then a miracle.
The woman pointed to each of the women besides her naming off colors.
“Red, green, blue, blue, green, pink, red, pink, black, pink, blue.”
Black is not a color, I thought, And what about orange? Nobody likes orange?
“Do you have any other questions for the ladies?” she asked again.
Adam eyed me. I felt small, in no manner a good way to feel in a brothel.
Adam cleared his throat and nodded he had a question.
“Yes?” she asked.
“Do you like The Beatles?” he asked.
I crumbled, closed my eyes and gulped from my import. When I all but consumed the last drop I heard the woman once again relay answers.
“Yes, yes, yes, no, yes, yes, no, yes, yes, yes, no.”
After the two questions, Adam cut short the interview process and chose the bilingual leader for cunnilingus. I selected the girl who had been sitting beside me out of the notion that we had become kindred spirits in the past ten minutes, much like high school. Andy remained, passed out and over on the cool seats that were once inhabited by a harem of women who wished they would had said “pink” and “yes.”
I can only speak of the half hour I purchased. I was showered and massaged, and before I could begin to coax myself into what might appear to be a passage from Harlequin Romance, there was a knock at the door and a guttural urging to quit anything and everything unless there was further payment immediately.
So I withdrew. Not money. Not yet.
Back in the room where the charade had began, I found Adam waiting for me, grinning from ear to ear. Pleased.
“Thank you, man,” he said.
“Thank you?” I said. “What do you mean, ‘thank you.’”
“I asked if you’d take me to a brothel,” he said.
“Take you?” I said.
“Yeah. Thanks for this.”
As the nightmare began to unfold itself, the madam of the brothel revealed herself from behind the bar. She then told me an amount of money that I neither had on me, nor expected to have in the bank.
I inquired about the price of two women for two half hours, twice the amount of money I planned on spending but would since I was now covering for a broke Londoner. But the amount was still a fraction of what she said I owed.
“Drinks,” the madam said, sternly.
“Three Coronas?” I asked. “No way.”
“Three pivos and girls’ drinks,” she corrected.
Of course. The girls’ drinks. Fuck ‘em one way or the other.
Before letting the establishment know I was short most of the money, I walked over to Andy to ask him to lend the difference. Unfortunately, once Andy awoke he discovered he had been robbed. This was another thing we didn’t want to advertise. After all, we were the three lads who had come for a good time, and we were definitely getting screwed.
I was able to convince an irate madam that I had money, however it needed to be withdrawn from a bank. She allowed me to leave, with the behemoth as an escort, who happened to brandish his glock before shuttling me across the street to the ATM.
I pulled out my debit card and slid it in the slot, scared, nearly petrified. It took it. It offered me choices. I punched in numbers I owed. Nothing more. There was a whir and a chug and, after a few seconds, the continual spitting of paper currency. The ATM was as bad as the brothel.
Relieved, I slid the money into my wallet under the watchful eyes of the giant, who smiled and said, “So, America, huh? Have you been to the Grand Canyon?”
I told him I had, and that I had several times being that I lived only a few hours away in Sedona, Arizona. He smiled at that too, that I witnessed one of the Wonders of the World so frequently.
I assured him, there are Wonders of the World, yes, sights to behold. But there are wonders of the world to experience, and be held.