Egon’s lips curl with a bitter-sweet smile. “A stroll on the Petrin Hill! How sweet of you, Lolita! It seems as if it were ages ago since it happened to me the last time! I feel like a guest of Marcel Proust in “The Remembrance of Things Past.”
The lights of the street-lamps are waltzing on the glittering ice-floor of the river when we cross Vltava and mount towards Petrin stranded in fog. Egon shed off the skins of a successful business man and a notorious lady-killer and flees with me backwards into his teenage past. Soft, gentle and eager, his face looks surprisingly young. Fascinated by his metamorphosis, I cup his hand with mine and we start to laugh the laugh of two teenagers in love.
We land on a dead-end street. The villas, in their snowed-up gardens, dress like a film-set in the spot-light of the marble-white moon. Egon turns the head-lamps off, pushes a button and makes the seats recline.
“Wicked girl! You make me do foolish things!” He chuckles removing our coats.
“Isn’t petting in a car marvellously naughty, my sweet Lolita?” He whispers, toying with my ear-lobe. My head pillowed on his chest, I let things happen.
In drifts and billows the snow winds a blanket round the car. It settles, deep and dry, upon the windows, reflecting palely back into Egon’s face. An old face, fatigued and bleak, yearning for my youth. I shift uneasily in Egon’s arms and come upon a red carnation fallen from his buttonhole crushed under our bodies.
“Let’s move on, Egon!” I propose dryly, scoffing at his haggard face.
“Don’t look at me like that, Irene! Don’t look at me at all! No need making an inventory of my wrinkles! I smoke, I drink, I burn the candle on both ends and ruin my looks in many other ways, better not to be remembered. But inside of me I still am an eighteen year-old boy! Can’t you feel it, Lolita?” He implores me to have mercy on him, his voice unsteady with grief and rage and I feel at odds with myself and out of place, like a film-star demoted from romance to melodrama.
“Let’s strike a deal, Lolita. I’ll take you as you are, content myself with being one of your “happy few” and you’ll turn a blind eye on my wrinkles.” Egon carries on his wheedling, drumming and pressing on my nerves. Taut as a wire about to break, I can’t find any other means to silence him then to cover his mouth with mine. He takes it for a sign of passion and multiplies his pains. His body, streaming with sweat, beats against mine, toiling like a student for a crucial exam. More and more detached and sore, I push him off.
“You’re hurting me, Egon!”
As though hit by an electroshock, his body heaves, falls and deadens. Looking away, he hands me Eau-de-Cologne and a box of Kleenex from his glove department. Our clothes are tidied. We smell clean and fresh. All is back to normal by the look of things.
“I’ll bring you home, Irene,” Egon says flatly.
“No! I want to go to “The Flaming Heart.”
“Irene! It’s nearly ten! I promised your grandmother we won’t be late.”
“Isn’t it a bit too late to worry about her feelings, Herr von Zwettler? Poor darling! She wouldn’t like to know what you did to me! She doesn’t need to know though, does she? Anyway, she won’t be back from the Opera before midnight, maybe even later. They usually have supper with my grandfather afterwards.”
Tiresomely melancholic, Egon lights a joint and passes it to me.
“Nothing is better for the “after-blues”. Especially if the “before” got a little out of hands. Let me ask you an impertinent question, sweetheart. Why won’t you keep us all and let us compete for your favours?”
I take a long puff concentrating on the problem.
“Do you think there is enough of me for all of you, Egon?”
“I do! Definitely! You’re some girl, Lolita! A propos, we’ve arrived. Before I pass you on your piano boy let me see if you are decent. No need hurting his feelings, is it? Except for you mouth, a little bruised, accept my deepest apology, sweetheart, you look as though you are coming out of a kindergarten. Why don’t you cover it with a touch of lipstick?”
He hands me my purse and adjusts the mirror.