Memories of Prague at Age 17
by Nicole Trilivas
“I think maybe all the places we tell ourselves we love are actually myths.”
–Peter Orner in an interview with Granta
Sweet seventeen, in Europe for the first time. Prague out of a dirty bus window. I learned to be confident that summer. Being the cool kid for once. Drinking Polish vodka. Meeting my first gay friend. I grew into myself, listening to cassette tapes of Ani DiFranco on a yellow Sony sports walkman. My memories are fragmented. Short sentences. Inaccurate. Unreliable. I remember a poppyseed cake. Hostel bunk beds. I remember John Lennon’s wall. I remember fields of wildflowers with mangled apples trees, crooked as a fairytale Wench’s cane. I remember swirls of architecture. I remember rain-stained cobblestones reflecting the city like some Impressionist painting.
I was ugly then. Not yet grown into my frizzy hair, not sure sure how to wear makeup and or how to find clothing that flattered my body type. The pictures of me prove this: I am washed out, fat, pale. But there’s something endearing about it. I’m okay with the fact that I wasn’t some nymphette teen, dream machine, barely legal. I’m okay because girls–even the before they’re polished and pretty–still get too much negative attention. I got plenty of my fair share, then and later on.
Now when I see Prague in pretty Pintrest photos, glossy and well-light, I still feel a pang, marrow deep. It wasn’t so much the place, but who I was when I was there. Cheap vodka, bad skin, chipped-toothed, ready.