I often went in the wrong direction, not out of confusion, but because the city dictated it, a logic of opposition, turning left when I should have gone right, and right when I should have gone left, but always enjoying the new sights getting lost found me.
It was spring all over Prague, with flowers blooming on every tree, in every park and square-flowering trees filling the air with their delicate scents and glorious petals-white, gold, pink, yellow.
Náměstí Míru is a large neighborhood square, sloping down a hill, its Gothic cathedral peering down from the top, its spires and large gold clocks shining in the sun, one of Prague’s three opera houses facing the square at the other side.
Squares throughout the city are meeting spots for the community. Older people crowd the benches surrounding the square, mixing with younger people, playing with children, talking among themselves, their canes resting on the bench beside them. There’s always a few girls giggling, or a mix of boys and girls, with at least one budding couple paired off by their affection.
When the tram stopped at the top of the hill, I saw a boy and girl, both about 16, on a common scooter, cut across the tracks in front of the tram.
While the young man stood at the helm, one foot on the back of the scooter, the other held out to brake and steer, he gripped the steering bar at the front of the scooter, this gorgeous girl resting on the flat of the scooter beneath him.
The girl had stumps for legs, cut above the knee. What remained of her legs were fitted into a heavy leather pouch, shaped like a cylinder. But eclipsing any deformity was the girl’s glee at what was about to happen. She had complete trust in him as she clutched the stem of the steering mechanism, both of them glancing back and forth at each other, giddy at the thrill of it all.
When they crossed the tracks and came up on the sidewalk, they started down the hill, zigzagging between pedestrians, picking up speed, her face radiant, the effervescence of her beauty flowering now, like an incandescent spirit within becoming ever more manifest, until she was completely enclosed in a spray of light and the leather pouch became a kind of magic carpet that lifted her off the scooter, raised her in the air, at the same time that she became this glorious bouquet, her legs long beautiful stems, the shaved tips of them perfectly pointed toes, the rest of her a billowing cloud of exotic petals-red, mauve, violet, fuschia-all the shades of the heart-the bouquet then swept away by a breeze that carried the petals across the square, where everyone now stood in awe, facing her direction, their faces reflecting her joy, until the petals floated down to them, and they ran to catch them, one by one, this bouquet of bliss bequeathed by this wondrous beauty who now resumed her former position on the flat of the scooter, holding tightly to the steering mechanism, ducking from side to side, so eager to see what was coming next, as they rounded the bend at the bottom of the hill and went out of sight…