Prague, Czech Republic – Dolomiti flight 3272 descended through a turbulent headwind. I gazed out a window. Droplets of rain slanted across the glass like tears. Prague in rain. The city of alchemy and astrology in rain. Rain in my heart.
I had been trying hard to become a writer. But I became lost. I needed inspiration. Magic and mystery, I believed, lay cloaked in my heart. Prague seemed like the perfect city where I’d find a key to unlock the innocence I had lost.
By the time I was a teenager I had lost my innocent eye. The world had turned into a dark place. One lonely night, I sat alone in a park overlooking the Bay of Yokohama, my heart full of hate, hate for the girl who had left me for another boy. That night, sitting all alone, something strange had happened. I was not alone. I discovered a mysterious solitude in the company of a full moon. Its silvery beams washed me with a sweet longing, almost like homesickness, like knowing that one day I will reach the welcome warmth of a true home. The experience was brief, but at the precise moment, I felt life with all its sadness was a wonderful thing.
The airplane bounced. Grabbing the armrests, I looked out into the cream soup haze.
Years ago when I had decided to take an early retirement from NCIS, my boss asked, “You’re retiring to become a writer?”
“You could go seven more years. Why throw in the towel so early?”
“I don’t know. I just want to write. All I want is to be a writer.”
The turbo-prop engines hissed. The plane descended. The fuselage rolled and shook and broke through the low clouds. The winter ground snuck up fast, out of the mist. Bland green earth appeared, tinged with patchwork of brown fields, the land dissected by black roads. The Vltava River slithered, flat and icy gray, glistening like a snail trail.
A few years after I had retired, I run into a former colleague. He asked, “So, have you written your novel?”
“I’m not working on a book,” I replied. “I’m writing small things. Like travel pieces. Like short stories.”
“Is that good business?”
“I’ve made very little money from my writing, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“You remember Sam Black, don’t you?” the colleague said. “He too retired. I heard he’s got a great job, working as a security consultant, making six-figure income.”
“Good for Sam.”
In Prague, I checked into a hotel. It was evening. I walked to a nearby pub in the drizzling rain. There I tipped a couple of glasses of Czech Pilsner beer, wondering if I had
what it took to become a successful writer. When I stepped outside, the rain had stopped. A glimmering single planet – a pale cold-blue point – floated in the deep black, playing hide-and-seek with the clouds. Bundled up in my jacket, I decided to go for a stroll.
A narrow street opened up to the Old Town Square. Streetlamps gleamed, their orange glow splashing the wet cobblestones. In front the Astronomical Clock, a throng of tourists gathered, waiting for the hourly chime of its mechanical fantasy.
Dominating the other end of the plaza stood the Church Of Our Lady Before Tyn. Its twin Gothic towers, each crowned with multiple spires, staked high into the sky, like witch’s spindly fingers spiking the heaven. Its tiny windows burned with the light, the color of Halloween jack-o’-lantern.
I stood arrested with awe. The dark clouds had drifted. And there beside the campanile of the house of prayers, having just risen, a huge yellow orb of full moon blushed. The Astronomical Clock began its chime. But I stood amongst the crowd of tourists, looking the other way, arrested by the moon’s silvery beams.