I’d set out into the night donning my backpacking best: borrowed lipstick and a mildly wrinkled black sweater. My mission: to find love on New Year’s Eve in Prague. It’d been a lonely few weeks of solo travel, and frankly, I was restless. But now I was frozen.
Jaws slightly agape, my companions and I stared at the kangaroo climbing a ladder propped up against the John Lennon Wall, humming Auld Lang Syne.
“Paint with me!” he beckoned, sweeping a paw towards his partner who came hustling around the corner, arms stuffed with more paint supplies, bundled up against Prague’s first snow of the season, and, by default, the year.
We were immobilized by absurdity of the situation. After escaping the drunkenly gyrating masses that had infested the city’s night clubs, we’d wandered across the Charles Bridge, ears ringing from the fireworks and incessant bass. Though secretly I was longing to be in the arms of some hunky Australian or dashing Czech, I was content with my company. Camilla, the Brazilian, had never seen snow before. Taylor, the Chinese, had never tasted alcohol before. I, the American, had never seen the John Lennon wall before.
None of us had seen a man in a full kangaroo costume singing and painting at 3:00am.
The spell eventually broke and we joined them. We painted flowers, peace signs, and hearts. We wrote quotes about new beginnings. We learned the kangaroo was the mascot of their company, Quido The Kangaroo, which runs segway tours.
“So, why are you painting this late at night?” Taylor finally asked.
“Because we love to paint!”
“And why are you in costume?”
“Because we love kangaroos!”
When our hands got too cold, they invited us into their warehouse, where they were having a party. Three old couches were clustered around a space heater. I squeezed between two men who appeared to be homeless. It was clear our hosts had invited everyone. They told stories, asked us for ours, and freely distributed beer. I sipped mine pensively, dazed by alcohol and awed by our hosts. They were marvelous people, doing things simply because it brought them joy, no matter how ridiculous. And then they shared that joy with any soul who happened to wander by.
Camilla was dozing on Taylor’s shoulder. The kangaroo had shed his costume and held a homeless man’s hands as he spoke about his children. Earlier in the evening, I’d had a goal: to find love on New Year’s Eve. And though it didn’t come with a kiss at midnight, I undoubtedly found it.
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