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Bratříčku, Zavírej Vrátka

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In nineteen-sixty-nine she purchased a copy of Karel Kryl’s debut album, hiding it among a collection of other vinyl records. It takes her a week to find the will to play it—in secret, amidst soundproof walls and away from the outside world that is forming under a new Husákian normal. She thinks of Dubček, and lost promises, and how normal the prospect of dashed hopes seemed—but she wanted to believe, that time, in that hope which sprung in Prague for those few months of nineteen-sixty-eight.

(And to think, she was almost convinced that the sight of Soviet tanks rolling in would never come to pass.)

“He’s brave, you know. To release this.” Slovakia notes in a hushed voice, listening to words that play overhead: chtěl jsem ho žádat, aby mi mezi dveřmi pomohl hádat co mě čeká a nemine.

“Or perhaps foolish, knowing it’s not how it was a year ago.”

He laughs. “And yet here we are, foolish enough to listen to him.”

When they pass by the store together the next day, there is no vinyl record containing the songs and sounds of Karel Kryl. There is nothing missing, yet Czechia squeezes Slovakia’s hand for a passing moment, a beat, an unheard tempo.

In the quiet of stolen voices, they walk home in silence.