I was a jerk on the train. Both the night prior and all that morning had been spent waiting and waiting for a reply from the Bank Manager, nothing came. The washing machine tripped the power in the hostel and guess who’s clothes just so happened to be in the machine at the time!? The staff had left at 6pm, I’d run up and down the stairs all evening flicking the power back on so the occupants could benefit from 10 minutes of internet before it failed again, all in the hope my phone might buzz with a message. The washing machine still couldn’t be persuaded to do it’s thing in the morning so I was forced to stuff soaking wet clothes into my case, planning to re-wash upon arrival in Venice.
That morning an intense storm danced over Florence, smashing hail the size of golf balls into the streets, setting off car alarms and blocking gutters. Having waited out most of the drama and with risk of missing my train, I had no choice but to brave the elements. The road was now a river, the only option to cross was by a running jump any Olympian would be proud of but first I had to swing my suitcase over. Weighing at least 5 tons from all the wet washing and taking strength I didn’t know I possessed, I launched it across the water, watching it land with a thud on the other side.
Typically I boarded the wrong end of the over packed train, struggling with the 10 ton case, pushing, squeezing and tutting myself down the aisles. With no expense spared I’d paid extra for an actual seat, no sitting on the floor for me! With sheer determination, arms shaking under the pressure and on the brink of completely keeling over I managed to lug the 15 ton case into the overhead racks. ‘Umm I think you’re in my seat?’ I exasperated at the old man. ‘No’ came his sharp reply. Oh come on! ‘Errr well you are!’ I rebutted. ‘Check your ticket’ he looked bemused. Damn it! I hate it when I’m wrong! I looked at the seat numbers, I looked at the seat. In my place, next to the old man sat a rather large gentleman with crutches. I made him move. All the passengers stared at me as he huffed and puffed, struggling between the table and seat; they said it with their eyes ‘selfish English girl!’ but I’d paid for this seat, my clothes were all wet, I’d swam through a hail storm, the Bank Manager didn’t love me any more, my mum was dead, I just wanted to sit down, I’m not a bad person, honest!
Venice. Beautiful, lovely, romantic Venice… Alone. I boarded a boat, in the sunshine we glided down the Grand Canal, the light reflecting sparkles on the water. We passed snap happy tourists staring in wonder at every corner, couples walking hand in hand along the narrow streets giggling to each other, waiters setting down bowls of steaming hot pasta on chequered red and white covered tables and ornate bridges arching over passing gondolas. As stunning as the place was, all I wanted was to get to the hostel, wash and dry my clothes, get some food in my belly and check if there was any news from the Bank Manager. ‘There was still time, he could still come out, there had to be an explanation’ I told myself. Eventually, on an island looking across to Piazza San Marco I found my hostel, a converted warehouse with exposed brick work, a long curved wooden bar and deep sofas that looked impossible to climb out of; I liked it immediately. Midnight shaded ink blots began to weep across the sky outside, a tightness hung in the air, I’d arrived just in time.
They looked at the computer, they looked at me ‘yeah, so you booked for next Friday, not for today’. ‘Ughh, ok, well can you book me in for tonight instead then?’ I asked, annoyed at myself. ‘Sorry we’re fully booked for tonight’. I could feel the prickle of heat behind my eyes, I so desperately just wanted to sit down. They called and called, eventually finding me another hostel for the night and sliding a hand drawn map across the bar to me. I turned my head and stared at the now poisoned sky ‘I’d run if I were you’ advised the staff. The first drops fell as I yanked the 20 ton case through the hostel doors, back into the world. Within seconds the sky had broken apart, the clouds so low you could almost touch them. Gondolas on the canals rolled like ships at sea and great spikes of lightning attacked the city. It would had been quite enchanting had I not been hiding in a boat bus shelter, pulling on the only dry pair of leggings I had over the top of shorts and struggling into a hoodie.
I followed the instructions on the map. I dragged my 25 ton case across cobbled streets, heaved it up a thousand steps on a bridge and down the other side but the river wasn’t where it should have been. I asked an old lady outside a church for directions, she pointed me back over the bridge. Light headed from the lack of food, wet and miserable, I bashed the 30 ton case over every single step of that bridge as couples clutched close to each other under umbrellas lost in the romance of the storm. I ran for a boat, my ticket wouldn’t work – it turns out train tickets don’t pass the electronic scanners for boats! I stormed back out into the rain, determined to find a ticket terminal and demand to know why my ticket was now not working but only succeeded in finding the ticket booth closed. Angry at the world I spun around, loosing grip on both my suitcase and my balance. I crashed to the floor, my knee slamming painfully into the gutter, the paper map disintegrating into a puddle. Picking myself up, I did what any normal girl would do faced with such circumstances. I stamped my foot, threw my hands over my face and there, under the light from a lonely street lamp, in the heart of a storm, I burst into tears.
A German lady tentatively stepped into my doom, carefully reaching out with her hand in the way you might approach a wild animal, scared it might turn and bite at any second, she touched my shoulder ‘are you, are you ok?’ she enquired. My wits came back to me suddenly ‘oh god, what am I doing! I’m crying in the streets like a crazy person! I’m crying because some boy told me he loved me and then proved he didn’t. I’m crying because everything seems such hard work these days. I’m crying because I don’t know where I belong in the world any more. I’m crying because my mums dead and my boyfriend left and my best friend hates me and I don’t have a home and I’m lonley and and and I’m crying because I’m scared’ of course that would have been all too much to explain to a stranger in the dark under the rumble of thunder so instead I whimpered ‘I’m lost’. She patted my back and beckoned over her husband who proceeded to try and work out where I was going – something I had managed to ascertain myself by that point but was too busy trying to wipe away all the snot dripping from my nose with the back of my hand to communicate, so I stood there and let them fuss over the map for me instead.
Eventually I found the hostel. A sullen, twisted man led me into the office, he was all business and no courtesies as he took my money. At the top of winding stairs I found my room, consisting of five camp beds set up in a row, these would later be occupied by four men who shared with me neither their names nor their smiles. Internet could only be found in a small corridor on the ground floor, crammed full of dark souls trying to get their Facebook fix. I ventured back out to the streets, determined to find warmth, food and wifi. And beer, beer was needed! Waiting for the pasta to arrive and staring in disbelief that no message had come through from the Bank Manager, I was oblivious to the man getting down on his knee outside the window until I heard the excited squeal of some girl and the cheer from the other customers. ‘Ughhhhhhhhhh, piss off!!!!!’
The next morning I opened my eyes to see a bed bug scurry across my pillow. Leaping up I picked and flicked the bugs off my clothes, squishing a few as I went, watching the bright red liquid erupt from their shells, the liquid they’d sucked out of my body whilst I’d slept. I escaped that hell hole just as quickly as I could, returning to my little restaurant for breakfast and wifi, checking right back into the first hostel again. The rest of that day was spent in the laundry room, washing every item of clothing and inspecting my case from any signs of bugs. The Bank Manager emailed that night, he’d lost his phone on some staff evening out. He apologised for the delay in contact, he didn’t mention why he hadn’t come, he didn’t mention his broken promise.