Prague is a demanding city. It gives so much, but it also takes a lot. Energy, life, money. These things exist in abundance here, but they also flow away so quickly. Prague is a vampire’s city. Shrouded in gray for more than three-quarters of the year, it is the perfect place for those who really do not enjoy the sun. And indeed, I have become one of those people.
My connection with vampires began as a child. I always had a hard time sleeping at night, but could sleep through the day without a problem. There was also something fascinating about the image of vampires in books and films, the romance of eternal life and something of a haunting sadness in the vampire figure. While my intrigue in vampires has never abated, I never actually saw one until I lived in Sevilla. Unsettling, to say the least. I don’t know how I knew he was a vampire, it was just something in the pit of my stomach and the way my heart absolutely chilled as he stopped me in the street. Everyone felt it, though none were so quick to dub the creature a vampire.
Prague is filled with vampires. I see and feel vampires as often here as I would see the deformed products of Turkey’s first-cousin marriages in Bakirkoy. And there is something about them that is beautiful and terrifying. The only way I can describe them is to say that when you are open to their presence, you will not only be able to tell they are a vampire from their physical appearance, but also from an unmistakable knowledge, awareness in your heart and soul, that the person that has just passed you is absolutely not a human being.
At the moment, I’m reading a vampire story and I read it curiously as I am trying to figure out who these vampires are that I keep seeing. What do they do? How did they become? What is it about them that makes them vampires? In giving this quite a lot of thought (they are so visible here), I’m not sure I believe that they all drink blood. There were only a few that I saw who I felt were a threat to anyone. I’ve begun to think that maybe it is energy they feed on. That the blood-drinking in stories is a metaphor for the stealing of life energy. I wonder sometimes if that is why I am always so exhausted by the city. That the smallest journey to the supermarket takes so much from me. And that is is because of vampires I really hate to go into the metro stations, even to cross the street. I get positively sick to my stomach every single time.
There is something else. The first vampire I saw stopped me on the street by the Catedral in Sevilla and looked into my eyes with the strangest look: Recognition. I remember my friend Simon saying afterward, “My God, did you see the way he looked at you?” They were all pretty freaked out by his intensity and what he could possibly have wanted with me. In my heart, I knew he stopped me because on some level I am one of them. He was surprised to see me there because vampires really have no place in sunny southern Spain. But there I was, and maybe it was as much an event for him as it was for me, my first vampire sighting.
Afterwards, I remembered that one of my archetypes is the vampire. I know I take a lot from what is around me. I compile not only my experiences but those of others and they find their way into my art, into my writing, into my beliefs. I demand too much sometimes, from friends, family, from strangers, from myself. I think about death a lot, even before Wendy passed away. The older I get, the less I like the sun. Nay, I loathe the sun. I have too many tattoos, I’m tired of people staring, I prefer the colder weather where sweaters and long sleeves protect my skin from prying eyes. It doesn’t even occur to me to miss the Sun, and it feels like Prague is a city to be revelled in with cloud cover and ashy light. I dream here every single night.
I have done more creative writing in the last six months of being here than I have in the last six years of my life. Every time I go out into the city, I bring something back with me and it gives me energy, the inspiration to create. Usually, I cannot juggle so many creative projects at once, but it’s like the city (or the people in it) gives me a power I lacked before.
I feel like maybe I have found my home here in Prague: a most unlikely of places, yet the most suitable for my vampire nature.