We went to that bar in the old town I can never remember the name of, you know the one, by the archway, off the main square. At some point Marek left. Then a little later I did too. We were both drunk, him a little more than me.
I headed down to the bus stop under the bridge to get the night bus, but when I got there I found Marek standing by the Danube, no shoes on his feet.
I said, what happened? He looked dazed, or in shock, like something had happened but he wasn’t sure himself.
He said, I think I threw my shoes in the river.
I started to laugh, but then thought better of it. He still looked dazed. I said, what for?
He said, I don’t know.
I joked, for fun?
He looked at me seriously and said, maybe, I’m not sure. I think they were hurting my feet, like they meant it or something. Or didn’t like them. Or my socks.
I said, serious?
He said, new shoes. Zuzka got them for me. An anniversary present. I was breaking them in. She’s going to kill me. I can’t go home.
I told him to calm down, don’t worry, we’ll tell her someone stole them or something. He pulled a pained expression and told me she’d never believe that, how can someone steal someone else’s shoes?
I said, maybe you can say you fell asleep.
He said, no, she’ll know I was pissed then. She’d be angry about that instead.
I thought a bit and then said: how about if someone took a liking to them? Or mugged you? Wouldn’t that work?
He ran his fingers through his air and scratched at his neck and said: why would they take my shoes? Wallet, yes, but shoes? Even if she does think they are amazing.
I shrugged, I don’t know. Maybe you could say he had a shoe fetish. Or was homeless and wanted some new ones.
Marek sniffed, but if he was homeless, he’d take my jacket, no? What with the cold.
Sure, I said, but couldn’t you say he already had a coat, and you took pity on him or something. Maybe his shoes were massively holey or falling apart, and he had a knife? You could say he was a little bit pissed himself.
At that point the night bus arrived. We headed over to the bridge to get on. I said, you could say someone spilled something on them and ruined them. He said, but why would I throw them away? I said, how about saying we pinned you down and took them for a joke? Then she can get pissed at me. I don’t mind, I can live with that. He said, but then she’ll want to know how I let you get away with it. I said, how about just telling her they were shit – you hated them and got rid of them?
He looked out the window and up at the hillside to our right, the villas and low apartment blocks at the top. Eventually, he said: I think I maybe did it on purpose. I said, what? He went on, you know, to be shouted at. Maybe I want her to shout at me. Maybe I want her to be proved right, that I shouldn’t drink, so I can do it again and get her to shout at me again.
The bus stopped and we got off and walked up to our flat. I went to my room and he to his. As I opened my door, I said, what are you going to say? He shrugged, that I threw them in the river, they hurt. I didn’t need to be in their room to hear what Zuzka said.