When I was a little girl, my dad would take me hiking through the local state park. The trail was spotted with old limestone caves, which tantalized the childhood mind. At the edge of the darkness, I’d dream of finding arrowheads, or cavemen still frozen in time. “Next time we’ll bring string,” he’d say, when I asked to venture in further. “So if you get lost, you can always follow it back”.
Years later, I stood at the edge of a whole new unknown. My ears searched for a memory, for the faint echo of water drops. Instead, they found the protests of cobble under modernity’s weight. And at my side, a red suitcase had taken the place of my father’s figure. Moving to a new city is hard. Really, it’s a bit like exploring a cave. Great curiosity is matched by fear—fear of its depths, fear of losing my way. But I took my dad’s advice this time--I brought along a spool of string. And from our apartment on Újezd Street, I never let it go.
I can follow it back to a sleepy kitchen, to a silence first broken by coffee-stained mugs. From my seat at the table, I’ll watch the shadows move cyclic outside the window.
I can follow it back to a metal gate, to a lock engaging behind me. It may drag at my heels as I run to catch the 12, but the 15 tram would make me late.
Or perhaps I’ll follow it slowly, just winding through the alleyways. The building colors were laid out aimless, but the pattern is now know by heart.
I can follow it back to a wrinkled grocer, smoking outside her corner store. It leads me here for apples and rice, but then to Tesco for crunchy peanut butter.
The string gets caught as it rounds the block, so I’ll stop there at our kavárna. It’s where we order our coffee in Czech, where we make believe we belong.
I can follow it back to a farmer’s market, where it weaves precariously through the produce.
Then I’ll follow it back towards our street again, clutching a canvas bag with both hands. The material strains under carrots and squash. The poppy seed koláč must be eaten on the way.
I can follow it back past the foreign graffiti, each design marking the distance from home. A mental promise will be made to translate those scribbles tomorrow.
And I’ll follow it down, along the busy tracks, as a familiar name rings through the tram car. “Příští zastávka, Újezd”--next stop, Újezd.
The string on the spool is running low now, much like my time here in Prague. The fear of the darkness, the fear of the unknown, has long since faded. Yet today I’m faced with a new one--a fear that I’ll never return. I must remind myself that I have prepared, that I’ve laid my string down carefully. No matter how far I wander, I can always follow it back.
Taylor T is the Fall 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in Prague, Czech Republic. She is currently a junior studying Marine Biology, Wildlife Conservation, Art and Global Studies at the University of Delaware.
Taylor Tewksbury is the Fall 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in Prague, Czech Republic, and is currently studying at University of Delaware.