At the station I tried calling my friend, but there was no answer.
My bag was heavy, I was tired, I was alone, I
tried to look nonchalant. As I turned away from the phone a young man
started to talk to me. He was Arabic. He was a student. He was very
sympathetic. I could come and sleep on his floor.
I try to assure him that I am fine, but he stays with me as I call
again. He offers to carry my bag, I say it's OK. Then another man
attaches himself to us. He is older, also Arabic. Both
hang by me as the time ticks on and I return again and again to the
phone box and get no answer. Now it is 10:00p.m. I am panicking as I trail
around the station with these two men. I feel battened on and can't
defend myself in words, because although I can understand every thing
they say, they are speaking French, when I try to reply, only Spanish
I am close to crying. I tell the men that I just want to be left alone.
They tell each other to leave me alone. They start to argue in Arabic. I suddenly
suspect they are not rivals for me, but in some weird way in league.
The student offers his floor and again
I refuse. The other man waves his arms dismissively at the student and
says I can stay in the station, its perfectly safe, many travellers
sleep here all night. I rush around carrying my luggage and they are
constantly one on each side of me. I find a station employee, and while
asking about hotels, am told I must hurry to get out of the station
because it is closing in 20 minutes. I look angrily at the second man
who shrugs, it closes, really? I thought not.
The station official directs me to a travelers aid office where I can
make a hotel reservation. The students fades but the second man proudly ushers me into the
office as if he had personally placed it there. He tells the clerk we need a room.
"For how many?" says the clerk. "Un", I
shout, "Une - pour moi, pour moi seulement." The clerk gives me a
disdainful look.I clutch the
address of the hotel and we go to the taxi rank. Suddenly many French
people are in line behind me. A taxi arrives and my man rushes to pull
open the door before the French people can get it. I fling in my bag
and follow it inside.
My head swivels to the front of the cab in my horror and disbelief. Just
when I thought I was safe, my companion is talking swiftly and in
Arabic to the driver and is insinuating his body into the cab with me.
As he stoops to enter, I barrel out both feet first thrusting him aside
and dragging my bag after me. The French people look at me in disgust
and push past in to the cab.
I look at the next driver. He is old,
bulbous nosed, certainly French and I fling myself into his cab as my
Arab friend melts back into the station chaos.I stammer out a few words of greeting and explanation and again the
words tumble out of my face in Spanish. Then my sweet cab driver
answers me back in Spanish. I am safe, totally safe. He is Spanish, has
lived and worked here for years. The world regains its normal
proportions. I can speak again.
Other memories jogged by this photo. Further
All the Photos
Alternate Navigation Strategies
Pictures in Chronological Order
Map/Diagram of Story Elements