Sunday, June 13, 2021

Life & Style

Lingering and Longing

So there I am, sitting outside at a café in Prague, drinking coffee and listening to an old man play the sax. The notes emerge from his golden horn and slide over the cobblestones like low-lying fog.

It’s a long, long way from home and I’m very lucky to be here. I forget everything about my everyday life until I’m back home again. I don’t even miss anything. Is that terrible? I suppose it is. This should be a column about how great it is to be back. How it’s nice to go away but even better to return. It’s not. And for that, I’m thankful. Really thankful.

Things move slower in Prague than they do in my small town. You’d think a city would have a more rapid-fire pace than a sleepy shoreline area, but that’s not the case here. If you’re in a crosswalk, the cars will run you down just as they would at home. But in Old Town Square, people sit outside like I’m doing, drinking coffee and listening to the man play jazz. People linger. Lingering is not just something you do when you have a few minutes to spare between errands, between calls, between texts, between appointments, between meetings. Lingering is a lifestyle.

There are round, gray clouds that roll across the flat sky like puffy stones. This is my favorite kind of weather. It’s when the sky puts on its own show, when it’s moody but doesn’t rain.

Coffee here is sipped slowly. No one rushes you out of the cafés and onto the next thing. No one looks at you funny if you order a second cup hours after you ordered your first. If you want your bill in a hurry, you’re in the wrong country, man.

I finally settle my bill and take a leisurely walkabout on the square itself. There are people sitting on benches or strolling in a languid fashion. There are also people performing. A man is dressed and painted all in gold, teasing a small dog that barks at him every time he moves toward it. A group of 20-somethings sings in harmony. A man who has somehow transformed himself into a baby-like clown in a box speaks in an odd voice in a language I don’t understand. It’s beyond creepy but fascinating. I snap a quick pic for verification later that I really in fact saw him and didn’t just dream him up after too much Pilsner and schnitzel. There’s another man making gigantic bubbles with a wand. His arm moves slowly like a clock hand as the bubbles stretch in the air and then quiver before disintegrating.

My town has a green that’s probably the most beautiful in New England. I will give it that. People gather on the grass and lay on blankets or they throw balls for big, hairy dogs. But it feels different. People stop, but they also keep going. Their feet aren’t moving, but their hands are. Fingers fly over laptop keypads, swoop over phone screens. The only things I see swooping in Prague are the white birds that circle building spires in the night like albino bats.

So now I’m home again, home again. Jiggety jig. I’m just a little miserable now. But it’s a happy misery if that makes any sense. It’s the misery of longing, of missing things you never knew you wanted. It’s the exquisite misery of wanting to know, but being unable to know what comes next. Where you will go. Whom you will meet. It’s the lovely misery of wanting to linger where you once were.

On a square in Prague 4,018 miles away and 6 hours ahead things are happening. Slowly. I stop in my tracks in the middle of frantic errand running, close my eyes, and try to think of what they could be.

Juliana Gribbins is a writer who believes that absurdity is the spice of life. Her book Date Expectations is winner of the 2016 IPPY silver medal for humor. Write to her at Read more of her columns at

Juliana Gribbins is the Columnist for Zip06. Email Juliana at .

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