“I told you we should not eat frogs legs for dinner if we wanted to taste those strong beers,” Zuzi said late in the morning, a ringing headache obscuring the clarity of her mind.
“I am a tourist, so I need to explore what the place has to offer,” Roman answered, stretching his arms on her stylish fouton couch in the living room. They were friends and never attracted to one another. A rare arrangement within human relations, but it exists. A man and a woman, both young, liking each other and not desiring the body of the other.
“You do not feel the hangover?”
“Of course I feel it,” he said. “It is part of the game. Do not refuse it, embrace it.”
“ I will prepare some coffee and juice, if you like, you can have the bathroom now.”
She moved to the kitchen part of the rented flat in the Avenue Louise area.
The moments of the previous night coming back to her, now memories, that will follow their own course – change, disappear, reappear, as they are pure energy and as such know no boundaries.Read more: Rumor has it Brussels eats Frogs Legs.
They were sitting in one of those touristy restaurants around La Grand-Place, and ordered: Frogs legs. What an idea! Frogs are scarce, water birds need them to feed their youngsters, and here, two spoiled Westerners order them out of curiosity, boredom, another heck. They should have at least served them with French fries, that would fill the system with some grease to sustain the beer. But, no, just meager few slices of white bread. Each of them had a glass of blanche beer with the “dinner”. The waiter served them with contemptuous politeness reserved for tourists who do not speak French or Dutch and obviously come from one of those countries belonging to Central Europe. Zuzi was not a tourist, though, she has lived in the town for 3 years now, working for an international company, French speakers called them “les boites”, boxes. Very appropriate.
After the froggy frugal dinner they went to the Delirium café which is, in fact, a beer maze on several floors with hooks and corners. Located in a narrow impasse that also sports an alcove with Janneke Pis, it is a dark and medieval reeking place, a famous location for getting drunk on many sorts of beer.
Zuzi remembered the first two beers – one amber, one dark, then the darkness fell over her consciousness. Never, never, never again, she promised to herself, and to Roman, who appeared all fresh and moist from her shower with a towel around his waist.
“Drink some water first. And the juice,” she handed him freshly squeezed orange.
“All right, Mum.”
“You remember the end of the evening? And how did we get home?”
“Vaguely. And, a taxi from the Central Station. I do remember you dancing on the bar counter, your legs displayed for the whole bar to see. A delightful sight for many.”
Zuzi drank her juice in two gulps, feeling hot and cold at the same time.
“My turn for the shower, then you will tell me more.”
“Shall I prepare some breakfast? Eggs or toasts?”
“Yes, please, see what is there in the fridge. If anything is needed, there is a shop on the corner open until, well, one more hour. Then everything is closed until Monday morning, apart from night shops.”
“Okay, I will manage. You go and make yourself new.”
The shower room was misty and smelled of her shampoo that Roman used a few minutes ago. She switched on the ventilator and turned on the faucet forcing herself not to think of the night before. No beer, no frogs legs, no counter dance. The bathrobe was on the hanger, pleasantly smooth and soft. When she opened the door, the whole tiny studio was filled with egg and bacon aroma, Roman turning around from the stove and placing the frying pan on the hotplate, Zuzi standing there, her feelings mixing quicker than she could grasp them.
“How would I end up dancing on the bar?” Zuzi asked, dampening a piece of toast into the egg-bacon juice.
Roman laughed. “I was explaining to an Irish man that we had frogs legs earlier. And suddenly you jumped up shouting you had enough of the topic and went to the bar. The next thing I saw was you and the Irishman´s girlfriend on the bar kicking legs like cancan dancers. You surely have prettier legs than the poor frogs we ate, and prettier than the other girl´s legs, too, he added.”
“Fine, then, I do not know anyone who saw me and I will never go to the bar again.”
“Better not go there for some time, because the cancan was not the end of the show.”
Zuzi felt the heat spreading over her cheeks and eggs squeezed in her stomach that suddenly tightened.
“You are teasing me, right?”
“I will make more coffee. And we can drop the subject, nothing terrible happened, in fact. Let’s go out to get some fresh air. I need to take a train around 3 pm to get to the airport by four.”
Roman put another mokka on. “But I do have a few phone numbers written on the receipt slips from the guys there. They would be interested to see you again. And to see more of you.”
“What? What did I do?”
“When the Irish girl lost her balance and fell off, you continued dancing. There was this song on… I am a dancer, and I dance for my money…” You know, the slow by Tina Turner. And you did a really good show, very persuasive.”
“Oh, God, I need to search for a relocation at my job. This town does not suit me. The food is meager, the beer too strong, the weather unreliable. I guess it is all taking a toll.”
They finished the hangover-brunch and went out to the park. It was not raining, and it does not rain all the time in Brussels. Nothing special happened. Zuzi dropped Roman at the Central Station, he only had a little piece of baggage, and went back home. Sunday afternoons tend to draw towards melanchony, double so if you are a half-stranger to the town, double so when your friend just left. At 3.30 pm her phone rang: Roman.
“Roman? All fine?”
“No, no bloody fine, I am in Vilvoorde instead of the airport. I hopped on a wrong train!”
“How is that possible?”
“How do I know there are so many trains leaving within minutes from the same platform? I did not check, just stepped on – and ended up in this hole! Anyway, do not worry, the taxi is on the way, I will manage. For extra 50 Euros or something. I am only calling you while waiting to tell you this is a sh´tty town, this Brussels. Better move somewhere else. “
“Okay. Text me when you are safely home.”
She hang off, the blues strangely gone with this interruption. Zuzi prepared herself a pot of tea and started to check what to watch tonight.
A few months later, Zuzi obtained a position within her company that brought her to London. Roman keeps living in Bratislava and also keeps visiting his cosmopolitan friends around the cities of Europe. He has not realized that frogs legs are actually a French cuisine tradition, dying out anyway, and that Brussels is more than a Delirium café. Also, the weather here can be very pleasant, indeed. And yes, many trains to many towns and villages require a traveller´s vigilance.