Voices: Trying to Score in Prague

The clunky business of scoring on vacation.

While stationed in Germany senior year of high school, a small group of my friends took a train to Prague for Spring Break. Of course, this locale was very obviously lacking in beaches, bikinis, and beer bongs, but make no mistake: We weren’t there for the culture. We were there to get fucked up unsupervised.

Stepping off the morning train we secured a hostel and immediately made our way to the liquor store. Amateurs with few benders in our history, we stocked up on vodka and orange juice and some black licorice-flavored rotgut. With a disgustingly rocking buzz on, we set out into the bright cobbled streets.

A teenaged boy flitters through the crowd whispering, “Mary-wanna, mary-wanna.”

Drug dealers, or more likely scam artists, in Prague have a good strategy: Cutting through large crowds whispering into any likely customers ear the goods they have on deck. A man in a hoodie darts past you, barely enough time to hear him hiss, “Boy? Girl?”

A teenaged boy flitters through the crowd whispering, “Mary-wanna, mary-wanna.”

“Hey, marijuana?” My friend Matheson hustles after the weed kid. He’s got it, and it’s twenty-five euro for what looks like 2 grams. We each cough up a 5-euro bill. The bag is in Matheson’s hand, and the kid is thirty blocks away by now.

The package is wrapped tight in sandwich plastic and bound in masking tape. Back in the hotel room, with our score ripped open and smelling like dirt-topped pizza, we realize it’s a mix of oregano and some other non-smokable spices. We got ripped.

Chalk it up to tourism. We drink absinthe on the Charles Bridge and hike up a hill to look at a church. Later we lose two of our friends in a four-story nightclub that reeks of artificial fog and pleather. On the way back we cut through an alley. A man leers at us. “Heroin?” We keep walking.

His name is Valentino, he’s from South Africa, and he wears a crushed red-velvet uniform. 

The next day, we’re standing in front of the hotel, lamenting our gullible scamming the day prior. The doorman joins our discussion.

“You want marijuana? I get you marijuana. That real Amsterdamn shit.” His name is Valentino, he’s from South Africa, and he wears a crushed red-velvet uniform. We hem; we haw. My best friend, Kevin, remarks that, sure, we’d like some, but you know, we got ripped off yesterday and we’re not so sure it’s worth going for again. But Valentino is very convincing. After some discussion, Kevin agrees. “How much? Do you have it on you?”

“Put you hand in you pocket.”

Kevin reaches into his black hoodie, and the bag is already there. But because of the mistake made in the streets, he asks Valentino if he can go somewhere to open it and verify the contents. The doorman agrees, but he wants us to leave collateral. Kevin and Matheson look at me. “Wait here.”

The selfish fucks skip into the hotel bathroom to investigate while I stand in the crisp Prague night with Valentino, our doorman, our dealer, my keeper. At this point in my life I had smoked weed maybe twice and wasn’t crazy about it. Alcohol was still fascinating to me, but being the holding piece for my friends to pick up wasn’t. Outside of being in an objectively unsafe and foreign position, it wasn’t that bad. Valentino tells me about his job and how they make most of their money handing out referral cards to secret strip clubs that exist in the bottom levels of the hotels. There is one in ours. As Valentino explains this to me, a fight between the neighboring doormen breaks out. Turf war, he says. I notice a Polizei car across the street and ask him if he sees it. “Yeah, I seen that motherfucker. He can do no shit.” Good to know, Val.

I realize how long Kevin and Matheson have been gone. Much longer than a quick poke of the nose into the bag. Just as I’m starting to truly sweat, they return and palm Valentino twenty euro and thank him. But I already knew it was good before they paid—that stupid just-got-high smile crawling across their faces, eyes all glazed to shit. “How was it?” they giggle.

“Fuck you guys.” And we walk off into the night, holding.