Strangers with Liquid Candy

Can I get a shot?

Can I get a shot?

I am sitting in my local pub. No surprise there, they have a table dedicated to me. We are at a table near an open window which looks out from below ground level onto a walking path. The weather is still almost summer-like, so the Czechs don’t mind a draft of warm air invading their drinking environment. In four days, this will not be the case.

The first kid peers in from the window with curiosity. He stares wide-eyed at us as we sip our beers. I try to say the things you say to a kid who is openly staring at you: Hey buddy. Hello. How are you? I run out of things pretty quick and the kid bursts into tears. Fortunately the mother comes to take him away moments after the kid’s screeching wails interrupted her phone call.

The second kid arrives about twenty minutes later. We are on our third beer and we regard the kid with the “Norm!” welcome that three beers and window security grates allow. This kid also stares at us in awe. His eyes are wide. He sticks his head through the rhombus-shaped security grate to get a closer look. We exhaust the hello portion until we simply become two grown adults drinking for a toddler with his head stuck in a security grate. When the kid explodes into tears we let out a laugh of remembrance. Someone dislodges the kid’s head and takes it away, I’d be lying if I said I cared who.

The third kid comes up to from another table at the pub. She stands next to the table and looks up at me with the same wonder with which I might ogle Bigfoot, Nessie, or a Donald Trump supporter. I have exhausted my linguistic repertoire with the wee ones, so I simply say “Hey Lady.” When it refuses to snap its judgmental gaze, I begin looking around the room for the progenitors of the minor being.

The only people who can be the parents are sitting in the corner having a quiet chat. They don’t hazard a look in my direction, almost purposefully. They focus on each other intently. Their mantra: Our kid is not bothering others. Again, as the child descends into shrill vocal madness, the father finally (and casually) makes his way towards out table, pausing now and then to reiterate a point to his wife. There’s a long period in which there is a child wailing at a table of strangers drinking. That sort of shit features in the cold opening of a Law and Order show.

It’s Burke who comes up with the theory: they want a drink. There have been three toddlers crying at us after staring at us in wonder. We are not physically remarkable, we do not stand out. We only have drinks. The kids must want a drink. We develop the theory that all the babies that we have met today are recently reincarnated from former drinkers. In their first years on Earth, before the ability to speak or convey messages to adults, they remember their former lives, and all they really want is a drink, a whiskey, a Becherovka, a good ten degree beer. Perhaps they also understand that it’ll be a solid decade and a half before their first drink, nearly two decades before their first legal drink. And they cry.

This would make me cry. I remember, too. Babies of friends reaching wide-eyed for beers on tables, a toddler taste testing phantoms during a friend’s party. It all begins to make sense.

Immediately we begin noticing that there are an abnormally large amount of babies and kids on the walking path. They all give us a good once over before exploding into tears. The parents seem either embarrassed or angry with us, as if it’s our fault. We don’t defend ourselves, just sip a drink and laugh it off.

Just give it some rum.

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