Unlike most places in the world that can seem alien at first glance, Prague hides her true nature until she trusts you enough to share of herself. The longer you are here the more she undresses her darkest secrets and shows you her violent scars. Kafka called her a number of variations on “the little mother with sharp claws” that grab you and don’t let go; Kafka never felt like he belonged here, but he also could never seem to leave. The longer I live here and the longer my spirit and Prague’s spirit are engaged in our love affair I am coming to realise that the phenonmenon Kafka described is indeed fact and The Mother Claws pick and choose who will remain and who will be forced out of her city limits.
Contrary to what you may know about me, I discovered that I am madly in love with Prague, and she is equally in love with me. She drives me to the brink of insanity, but I cannot imagine being so inspired and so taken care of anywhere else. I have Curtis Jones, an iconic Prague expat, to thank for this realisation: It wasn’t until I was at his wake in Chateau, looking around at all the other expats who’ve also been ensnared by The Mother Claws that it occurred to me this place is exactly where I belong. I resist the feeling that this is indeed my home now, I scream at Prague, freak out, tell her I hate her, so she gives me a well-deserved hard time in turn. But all in all everything she has done thus far is to get me here and keep me put, and she tries so hard to make me happy. I just haven’t given her much credit or much of a chance. Until now.
My friend Lurissa describes Prague the best: “The walls have flesh.” And it’s true. There is something inherently alive about this city, though ironically a lot of that vibrancy comes from the thousands of Spirits who haunt this city. Some good, some lost, some with a distinct aura of evil, but all here, walking among us and making sure we can never properly have a summer. But where are they to go? It’s The Mother Claws. I am convinced that if you die here you can never leave. Like Babylon in Carnivale. No matter how hard you try, you become subsumed into the tapestry of spirit and flesh that make this city the fascinating place we find today. There is so much to see and feel here. Dreams are more intense, visions are clearer and possibilities are vast.
However, The Mother Claws are picky and choosy. If she doesn’t like the way you feel and taste, she will quite rudely expell you from her embrace. No apologies, no gentle caresses from dear little Mother Prague. She won’t even show you her back as you are exiled: You simply cease to exist. I’ve seen it. This year dozens of people were deported. None of the new expats can get jobs. Other people who have overstayed their welcome are coldly forced from the city, with no real friends and a suitcase full of bad decisions and wasted time. Those of us who belong to The Mother Claws watch them go with an odd detachment, nodding our heads and thinking, “It was time,” and, “They should have left ages ago.” Or worse: an ominous, “They don’t belong here.”
Part of me worries that one day I too will be so curtly rejected from this sharp embrace, without so much as a “Thanks for all your good work,” or “I’ll miss you.” At the same time I have a sneaking suspicion, and the talon-shaped bruises to prove it, that Prague and I are in this thing for the long haul and so I’d better just get used to it. No point in fighting a done deal. Finally I can stop fighting the feeling that this is where I am meant to be, relax and enjoy this thrilling funhouse ride.