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O Magazine
2015-2017

Things I do while you work,

by Diana Aller.

Today:
I’m off to Prague.

ILLUSTRATION BY
FLAVITA BANANA

I start this series of episodes, of texts, of real experiences that I’m exchanging for the alienating work I’ve been doing for years and that you’re probably suffering as well.

I’m currently developing theories that right now are right at boling point about time, work, organization, energy, work… I’ve merely sketches formally valid conclusions, but I glimpse with celestial light a very clear premise: working is a scam. The development of this theory is, as I was saying, in a very early stage, but I’ve decided to take advantage of the time I’m not working (and you are) to do things. Or what is the same: to live.

And I’ve decided to start big, with a trio to the Czech Republic. There’s no particular reason. Should there be any it would be, and why not?

On Sunday I went out. I don’t know out what strange twist of fate, the night before a trip or the first day of work or whatever, I end up going out big time. 

So last Monday, without having almost slept, I walked under the wavy ceilings of the T4 first time of the morning and boarded a Czech Airlines flight in which I slept two hours and forty-five minutes out of the two hours and forty-five minutes that the trip lasted. I was sat between two women who travelled alone as well. A blond one and a brunette. I felt as happy as I could be. I thought that maybe there was a protocol for women travelling on their own, as happens with under-18s, who are usually sat with women and not men. Although I’m a fervent defender of the presumption of innocence, experience tells me that a boy or a girl (a an adult, and an animal and even a paella) travel more safely with a woman at their side than with a man. I think it’s terrible for the reality of our society to be articulated in this way, because it means that it reflects the conduct of bloody patriarchy. It keeps one thinking.

I appeared at Prague’s airport, with no local currency, not speaking a word of Czech and not knowing how to get to the hotel I had booked through Booking and from which I’m now writing to you. I got money out -Czech koruna that I get mixed up every time, but thanks to a web site that I compulsively check, I calculate all prices in euros- and bought a vegan sandwich; I took a bus to Vrchlického Sady and from there I pulled my trolley to the hotel.

My first impression of Prague couldn’t be more favourable. I order for you to understand the meaning of this unobjectionable sentence, I will repeat it: first impression of Prague couldn’t be more favourable.

Its sombre streets are soaked in pain and joy; the stamp of Judaism, of literature and art are heavily felt in a clean and transparent ambience. And it’s Europe. Very Europa. A Europe of cafés and tobacco in the afternoon. But it also has that shabby appeal of Eastern ex-dictatorship, with open spaces of difficult justification and beautiful subdued decline.

Tourism, vulgar and invasive, becomes invisible as soon as you get to this city. You’re ot bothered by their selfie sticks, by Starbucks, or by guides holding up flags. Because its history is a lot heavier, its architecture and the cobbled pavements that shelter the foreigner and lull him with maternal calm.

I got to the hotel and there I was received by an old man (the concept ‘old’ changes as I grow older as well; in this case I mean a man of around fifty), quite good-looking, and with a grateful way of speaking English. I say ‘grateful’ because among non-British natives we understand each other much better. He kindly explains to me that my room is in another building located within a ten minutes walking distance, and that breakfast is served in another equidistant place. He doesn’t utter the word ‘equidistant’; among other things because I wouldn’t have understood him had he said it in any language. But he draws the three points on a mad and the itinerary between them. 

Besides, he takes my suitcase to my room and on the way he tells me details about the Jewish neighbourhood where I’m staying, and shows me the synagogues we pass by. There are silent moments, but they’re not uncomfortable silences, like the ones in Spanish lifts. It’s a pleasant silence in which I observe a new world, cold and elegant, and in which a man carries my suitcase. How could it not be pleasant? At one point I ask him how to say ‘thanks’ in Czech, because to me it’s like good elastic hair bands, one of these things I use quite a lot. He tells me that the informal way of saying it (the equivalent to ‘thanks’) is something like ‘dicuí’. Then I learned that ‘no’ is ‘ne and ‘yes’ is -and this I love- ‘ano’.

He leaves me in my room and goes away. I’m on a normal flat in a building with sculptures on the façade, as many buildings have around here. On a side wing of the fifth floor, there’s a door with a key that opens up to a huge hall. And here there are five rooms. Mine is number 2. The first thing I think about upon seeing the bed, huge as a boxing ring, is that it’s a pity to be alone and not take advantage of it. I reprimand myself for having such recurrent thoughts every day, at all hours, and almost all minutes. I’ve been told sometimes -and I still don’t know how to take it- that I’m like a man. Because of my very pronounced sexuality, that I consider very natural and healthy, and of which I talk about without prudish considerations, something that it seems is quite extravagant. What I reprimand myself for is for not valuing the present experience, as it I was looking for faults in a perfect formulation. At the end of the day I came here to be with myself, to enjoy my own company and a different environment.

I leave my suitcase open, charge my mobile phone, check my social networks, finish my vegan sandwich with brown sauce that is like a kind of very salty mayonnaise… I wrap myself up warm because it’s very cold and take to the streets with a map I took at my hotel’s faraway reception.

I walk like a loony around the Staré Mesto, the Old Town, the most touristic area. I walk by the astronomic clock, which is also a calendar and has the twelve apostles drawn on it. When I’ve been walking for an almost hour almost following a spiral shape, I take a coffee and extract my first great conclusions:

-In countries colder than Spain, there are always people who are immune to low temperatures, and even if water fountains are frozen, I see passers-by wearing T-shirts as though it was summer. I think they’re made from another substance more to do with neoprene than with human skin. 

I don’t see women tourists on their own. I see many oriental boys, yes, many. Oriental girls, though, go two in two. Italians travel in big groups and Spaniards in heteronormative couples with ugly footwear and very warm clothes.

-In turrets and churches, houses and institutions… In Prague there are historical clocks anywhere one looks. This consciousness of the passing of time becomes heavy and obscure and justifies the literary drama impregnating its atmosphere. It’s impossible to abstract oneself from our absurd countdown, our absurd vital finitude. Walking around historical Prague is transiting towards death, and that has a romantically dodgy taste.

-In fact, Kafka, the main representative of literary anxiety, is Prague’s greatest character. He’s what Mickey Mouse to Disney: a symbol with a strong ideology (in one case positive, in the other negative, but both as empty).

-I find much more interesting (and more existentialist) than Franz Kafka, the also Prague-native Milan Kundera. It’s cooler to say that Kafka is cool, but that’s because Kundera is still alive, and we need to wait until his death to start worshipping him. Us humans are this stupid. In any case, i think he deals better with the absurd, with guilt and with political criticism, but I guess it has to do with him being closer in time.

-Buildings in pastel hues are a marvel in Prague or in Estepona. That is, always.

-Like Costa Café or McDonald´s, here what has spread like wildfire ate Thai massage centres. People sit down even close to the window to get massaged, with their clothes on, on their backs, arms and necks. I think I might go tomorrow and have a try.

-WC seats are very high (or I’m too short). In the toilet of my hotel room I can only reach the floor with my toes and it’s a ridiculous and not too comfortable situation. Maybe I’m under-evolved within our species and I hadn’t noticed until now.

I buy a bottle of water at one of those Minimarkets that sell souvenirs and chocolates. I have decided on a 10-euro budget per day, and with all I’ve done that’s them spent. I need a rest, and the worst of all, I’m a faker, a low-life, a disgrace… Because I also have to work. It’s a relaxed thing, because I have to write an article for I paper I collaborate with and complete some data for a TV programme I’m finishing for MTV. So I go to my cosy, huge and lonely room and sit at the desk.

All this happened yesterday, the day I got here, which finished with a detail review of Tinder. I was surprised by what I saw: a genuine genetic dumping site. On the streets, people look quite harmonious and healthy: both tourists and locals. But in that matching app, that I have configured to look for both men and women, I only get people with monstrous features. Since most texts are in Czech I don’t understand a thing and can only judge by their aspect… Aspect of living with a small pension from the state, because what a bunch! What a waste of organs and skin! What an amount of human manure!

Since I’m disgustingly positive, above all, I go to bed happy, thinking that being Spanish equals being a Miss, thinking I’m very lucky to be here without having to put up with a boyfriend warmly dressed and with ugly shoes or someone from Tinder I can’t understand. I’m very lucky to be here, to be able to rest in such a huge and cosy bed and not have to do dishes, or clean the toilet, or iron. But most of all -and I’m sorry to be such a bitch- I’m happy for not having an alienating job like you do.

I reserve today for my personal anecdotes (it’s almost midnight). I think I’ve already extended myself too much and wouldn’t want to bore you more for today with the lonely adventures of a woman who has decided to do things rather than work. But I would like to tell you that while listening to forgotten songs under the Czech rain and the grey sky, I have entered states that were close to ecstasy. I’ve thought again of things well-done and forgotten mistakes. I’ve projected utopias. I’ve remembered some death people. I’ve come up with ideas that seemed a geniality, and I’ve breathed in a new oxygen that has made me see that I am where I want to be and do what I want to do. And you know why? Because I have a mortal illness, times is ticking and I need to take advantage of it. I have no choice but to relativize problems and prioritize affections. Angst is useless, because it goes away; there’s no point in annoyance or envy. The only thing that comforts me is spending my time according to my ideals, with whoever I choose and enjoying myself and giving joy to others.

My illness is living, and since I became aware of it, I have a coherent, happy and, above all, free existence.

And I have awful news to give you, but they’re also magnificent. Yes: you’re also suffering from this illness called life. You also have a limited time in this world and it’s up to you what you want to devote it to.