NS March 26th, 2009
You’ll probably want to read part 1 before proceeding, if you haven’t already
I ran the length of the platform and burst into the station, desperately looking around for a place to hide. I ducked behind a newspaper kiosk and crouched low to the ground, my breathing fast and laboured. I said about ten Hail Marys because I’m totally one of those people who only pray when faced with extreme circumstances that require divine intervention. Despite my waning belief in God and non-existent attendance at Mass for a couple years, Mary obviously took mercy on me because suddenly the guard turned and went back to board the train as it prepared to take off for the next stop. I exhaled a huge sigh of relief and stood up, feeling strangely exhilirated and giddy. The rebel in me enjoyed running from The Man, even if I was totally in the wrong. Take that, German ticket man!
Once that was over, I looked around me and realised how empty the station was. It was getting quite late, about 11pm, and I didn’t really know anyone there. All of my flatmates from the summer job were off doing their own things in other European cities and I had no way to contact them. The only person I knew would be around was Maeve, the bubbly waitress at the Irish pub in the center of town where I’d hung out all summer. She would sometimes join us for a couple pints when she finished her shift but that’s as much as I knew of her. I wouldn’t call us friends but certainly acquaintances. She was my only hope.
I needed to get to the pub but it was a good 20 minute walk that involved cutting through a very dark park with an unsavoury reputation. I knew I’d be pretty foolish to do the walk alone, especially when I had a suitcase with me and didn’t speak more than a few phrases of German. I used the last remaining marks on my pre-paid phone card to call my parents and tell them what was going on and ask for some advice. Of course, they freaked out when they found out I was penniless and on my own, at night, in a foreign country. Good God, what was I thinking, telling them? Quite simply, I didn’t know what else to do.
To make matters worse, while we were on the phone a rather drunk or similarly off-his-head man kept approaching me with salacious looks and raised eyebrows, offering drinks and sweets. I kept saying “Nein, danke” and tried to shoo him away but this made my mother even more upset. She was afraid this guy was going to follow me when I left the station and was terrified of me walking alone. I promised her I wouldn’t and said I’d figure something out and that I’d see her at the airport the next night, right before my phone card expired and hung up. I do believe that my mother may have experienced heart failure and collapsed at that very moment if my father hadn’t been there propping her up. Bless ‘er. I understand now how she must’ve felt.
True to my promise, I made my way outside and approached the taxi rank, keeping an eye on Lecherous Guy as he hovered behind me. I decided that telling the sordid tale of what had happened to me would be too complicated so went for a half-truth: I didn’t have any money (true) because I’d been mugged (false, though I had indeed been mugged in Amsterdam a few weeks previously — twice) and could I please, oh so kindly, have a lift to find my friend because this guy was following me? The fat German taxi driver with the brown checked cap looked bored and just flicked ash on my shoe. He pointed me towards another driver in the rank and said perhaps he would help me.
That man turned out to be a Jamaican angel of mercy named Bob. His name wasn’t really Bob but he was listening to a Bob Marley tape inside his car and so that’s what I called him. He listened to my tearful tale of woe, saw the strange guy hovering in the background and said he’d take me to the Irish pub, no problem. The kindness of a stranger had saved me, for the second time that night.
I staggered into the pub looking a mess — bloodshot eyes, rumpled clothing, mascara stained cheeks, a big suitcase in tow. I was still suffering from the previous night’s hangover and hadn’t had anything to drink or eat in ages. I was so tired I could barely see straight but I had to perk up enough to convince an Irish barmaid to let me stay the night at her place. I found Maeve amidst the noise and chaos of the live band playing. She saw me and waved; I was a regular by that point. As she balanced perspiring drinks on a scuffed tray and weaved in and out of the barrels-for-tables, I managed to explain what had happened, briefly, and ask if I could crash at her place.
“Well a’ course ya can, lurve,” she said. “Just as soon as I’ve finished closin’ the pub down.”
I sat in a corner drinking Diet Coke, trying to stay awake while the band did its encore then packed up, the crowds dwindled then disappeared and the staff cleaned then organised for the next day. I offered to help but they could all tell I was in a bad way and so insisted I stayed put. I spent the time not only being miserable about my situation and the fact that I’d have to leave behind all my luggage at the base, but pining for The Noble Husband (then New Boyfriend). The clock’s hands marched on and on, until it was nearly 3am and my eyelids felt absolutely leaden. Every time I thought Maeve was finished she’d bring out another rack of pepper mills to fill or pint glasses to dry. She finally reassured me that she was all finished and was just going to have one quick drink from the bar to help her unwind after a busy shift. The music was turned back on and the staff sat down at the bar with shots of tequila and pints of Guinness lined up before them. I declined to participate and silently willed them to down their drinks as quickly as possible.
I was suddenly startled by the sound of breaking glass and looked up to see the Greek barman throwing a wine glass onto the floor as he danced wildly and whooped. His coworkers cheered and egged him on. Another glass was thrown and then another. He danced over to me and pulled me from my half-asleep funk. I couldn’t help but smile and laugh as he twirled me around to the music. Then he put a glass in my hand and told me to throw. I refused and tried to put it down. He handed it back to me again and insisted.
Maeve laughed and called out, “Come on, Yankee girl! Live a little! You’ve had a rough day as it is, you’ll feel better if you break something.” I sighed and asked her if we could go home after I broke the glass and she nodded while gulping her drink. I gripped the glass and let loose a “Yeeeeeee hawwwwww” for comedic American effect, and then I hurled it away from me. I watched it leave my hand and hit the side of the polished mahogany bar, the shards of glass exploding and arcing into the air like dozens of silverfish, darting and flickering in the neon light. I marched over the crunching glassware graveyard, downed one of the shots of tequila and then marched back over to my luggage, looking at Maeve expectantly. We were finally leaving. Hallelujah!
Maeve had two roommates: Orla and Siobhan. They lived above the other Irish pub in town, just a couple streets over. Orla had also been working this evening and so she joined us on the walk to their flat. I was practically salivating at the thought of laying down on a sofa and sleeping, though I knew I’d only get a few hours in. We reached the entrance to the flat which was down a dark cobblestone street. Maeve turned to Orla and asked for her key. Orla stared blankly and said that she had given her key to Siobhan and suggested she use her own. Maeve said, “But I didn’t bring my keys, I thought you’d have yours. Shit. Where is Siobhan?” Orla said slowly, “She’s in Paris this weekend with her boyfriend. It was a last minute trip.” We all locked eyes as we realised what this meant. It was 4am and we were ALL locked out with nowhere to go.
As we stood there trying to figure out what to do, a group of about seven German men came by. They were in their mid-20s and were very drunk and aggressive, shouting and pushing each other as they barged their way through. One of them elbowed Orla, who muttered something in German. The Elbower stopped and started speaking, quickly and angrily, and moved increasingly closer to Orla. His friends stopped and watched, smirking and forming a circle around the three of us. Orla and the Elbower were having a rather heated exchange now, none of which I understood. Maeve looked pretty pissed off and jumped in to defend her flatmate. Suddenly the circle of men got tighter and we were backed against the wall. I had no idea what was going on and got very scared very quickly.
I asked Maeve out of the corner of my mouth what he was saying but before she could answer, the Elbower spat in Orla’s face and made a lunge toward her. Maeve grabbed Orla, pulling her closer to us and hissed, “Girls, get ready to fight with whatever you’ve got.” I looked around frantically for something to use as a weapon but instantly knew that whatever I might find would be absolutely useless in the face of seven men hopped up on booze and anger. I shut my eyes and braced my body for what I thought would be the inevitable blows. But they never came.
To be continued