The Men on The Hot Prague Roof
written by: Nick Gerrard
Yesterday, what if you hadn’t walked to the metro,
past the graffiti and piss-stained corners,
past the beggar with his head down and his bowl out.
What if you hadn’t stood packed like a fish whiffing old socks and garlic in the 5 am rush.
What if your missis hadn’t packed you some rolls and smoked mackerel spread with whitey green pepper slices.
What if you hadn’t stopped at the newspaper stand and had a shot of Slivovice with your sports paper.
What if you hadn’t got to the site at six and met the other guys; all with a range of moods and some degree of a hangover.
What if you hadn’t taken the temporary rickety lift up to the top of the building and took a deep breath before looking out over Vinohrady at the expanse and red roves of Prague.
What if you hadn’t mixed that first batch of concrete and started laying those bricks like De Vince. What if you hadn’t taken off your shirt at ten after sweating out last night’s beer.
What if that temperature gauge hadn’t reached 30 before 12.
What if you and the guys had said enough!
What if you come down off that Saharan roof and gone for a cool one.
What if you hadn’t stayed there…loading and unloading, lifting and dragging, the water trickling down your baked back.
What if you hadn’t thought of Linda and the three kids at home in the rabbit hutch with no garden to blow a paddling pool up in.
What if you didn’t have flimsy walls and no breeze and an unsheltered tiny balcony to go back to.
What if these beautiful apartments growing up nearer heaven were occupied by the old residents of Prague.
What if you could be building an apartment on a roof for you.
What if the people with money had left Prague alone.
What if you lived in the historic areas instead of the Baristas and the artisan bakers.
What if the concept shops could be replaced by light-bulb shops.
What if you could afford a full lunch in the pub on the corner instead of rolls and plastic bottles of fanta.
What if you had Soup of the day followed by Gulas and Dumplings.
What if you didn’t have to return to the top of the roof after a break in the shade next to the tram stop downstairs.
What if you could go home to a nice family house on the edges and relax with a beer with your feet on the summer table.
What if you said to the boss it’s too hot to work!
What if that turbo-powered fan blasting the family lounging in the flat opposite were turned on you.
if at three you could rub oil in that leathered back.
What if you didn’t have to go down to the underground again and get squashed again and drips roll into your eyes.
What if just making it through the day wasn’t enough.
What if you could make it without ever even trying.
What if you weren’t leaving all your dreams behind.
What if you could just get a little ahead.
What if you hadn’t left school at an early age cuss you fucked about.
What if you had studied a bit more so you could be the guy in the office with the air conditioning. What if your building had different writing on the walls.
What if the neighbourhood playground had grass instead of sticky tar.
What if you and Linda had planned better.
What if the beer at the kiosk was in a glass not a bottle.
What if maybe on another day you’d stop crying.
What if you hadn’t gambled and drank.
What if you hadn’t gone behind her back; tonight you would be looking forward to something.
What if you still had dreams, you swig the bottle and think of old ones unfulfilled.
What if you had to do it all again…instead, you stand and drag your fag on the boiling roof.
What if the sun stopped beating, you could stand in the shade for a while.
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