What Am I Doing Here?
PRAGUE, Czech Republic, is my destination as the Dolomiti flight 3272 descends through a turbulent headwind. I gaze out the airplane window. Droplets of rain slant across the glass like tears. It’s raining in Prague. The city of alchemy and astrology and magic from where I hope to seek inspiration is raining. Like the rain in my heart.
For years, I have been laboring to become a professional writer. But as the rejections of my works mount, I became lost. I became unsure of my skills. Still I felt I had, cloaked and buried deep in my heart, an innocent eye I need to view this world and write about this world truly and purely as Ernest Hemingway had written. Mysteriously, the city of Prague popped into my mind. So I packed my bags and left for Prague.
Prague – Searching for What I Lost
By the time I was 17, 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 was full of hate. I hated the girl who had left me for another boy.
That night, sitting all alone, something strange happened to me. I felt I was no longer alone. In the company of a full moon in the sky, I discovered a mysterious solitude of companionship. The moon’s silvery beams washed me with a sweet longing, almost like homesickness, like knowing that I walked not alone in my journey, and one day I will reach my destination, the welcome warmth of a true home.
That experience was brief. A fleeting realization. But, I remember, how at the precise moment filled with the sweet, knowing longing of homesickness, I felt that life with all its sadness and miseries was a wonderful thing.
Prague – The City of My Hope
The airplane bounces in the turbulent air. I grab the armrests. I gaze out into the cream soup haze.
I recall how years ago when I decided to take an early retirement from my career as an NCIS special agent, my boss pulled me aside and asked, “You’re retiring to become a writer?”
“You could go seven more years,” he said. “Why throw in the towel so early?”
“I just want to write,” I told him. “All I want is to be a writer.”
In the haze of mist, the turbo-prop engines hiss. The plane descends. The fuselage rolls and shake and finally breaks through the low clouds. The winter ground sneaks up fast. Bland green earth appears, tinged with patchworks of brown fields, the land dissected by wet, black roads. The Vltava River slithers, flat and icy grey, glistening like a snail trail.
A few years after I had retired, I run into a former colleague. He asked, “Have you written a novel?”
“I’m not working on a book,” I replied. “I’m writing small things. Like travel pieces. 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 asked. “He too retired. I heard he’s got a great job working as a security consultant on the commercial side. He’s making six-figure income.”
“Good for Sam.”
Prague – The Magical City After the Rain
In Prague, I check into a hotel. It’s evening. Bundled up in my jacket, I walk in the drizzling rain to a nearby pub. There I tip a couple of glasses of Czech Pilsner beer, wondering if I have what it takes to become a successful writer.
I step outside the pub. The rain has stopped. Up in the dark black sky, a glimmering single planet—a pale cold-blue point—floats, playing hide-and-seek with the fast sailing clouds. I decide to go for a stroll.
A narrow street opens up to the Old Town Square. Streetlamps gleam, their orange glow splashing over the wet cobblestones. In front the Astronomical Clock, a throng of tourists gather. They wait for the hourly chime of its mechanical fantasy.
Dominating the other end of the plaza stands the Church Of Our Lady Before Tyn . Its twin Gothic towers, each crowned with multiple spires, stake high into the sky, like a witch’s spindly fingers spiking the heaven. Its tiny windows burn with light, the color of Halloween jack-o’-lanterns.
The low dark clouds beside the campanile of the house of prayers drifts aside.
Suddenly, I stand arrested with awe.
Beside the bell tower of the church, having just risen, floating low in the skyline, a huge yellow orb of full moon blushes.
The Astronomical Clock begins its chime.
I stand amongst the crowd of tourists, but looking the other way, arrested by the moon’s strange and mysterious and welcoming beams.