Different Choices, part 1
She sat on the train, staring out into the fields and desperately wishing she’d made some “different choices”. It had been two nights since she’d seen a bed, she didn’t speak the language, was alone, and was in dire need of a bath. It was unclear (because she didn’t speak the language) why the train stopped, when it would start again, and whether or not where they ended up would have a youth hostel with an opening for the night. This was in the days before the internet and cell phones. All she had was a student travel guide, and it was several years old.
That morning she’d watched the sun rise from the very romantic position of the floor of a phone booth. Outside the train station outside of Paris. The morning before that she’d spent sitting on a platform at Paddington Station in London waiting for the first train back to Guildford. (Please note that she had not spent any amount of time those mornings waking up. Because she’d never gone to sleep.)
The morning before that she had awakened from her bed in her dorm room in the shitty, stinky university digs in Guildford, Surrey. She was excited because she was going to spend the day with her best mates traveling to London, going out of dinner, and listening to jazz at the very famous and fancy Ronny Scotts. There was some hope that she might that day finally attract the attentions of the short Scottish trumpet player, Alastair. He was quiet except when he drank. Which was actually quite a lot. She’d never worked up the nerve to talk to him because she pretty much automatically assumed that everyone around her was smarter and more interesting than she was because they didn’t have an American accent. American accent = uncultured dolt. Southern American accent = uncultured hillbilly dolt. It was a liability anywhere outside the actual South to have a southern accent.
Dinner was unremarkable, but the evening at Ronny Scotts was all that a hillbilly dolt pretending to be adult could dream of. Cocktails! Jazz! Really amazing jazz! And Alastair actually opening his little trumpet playing mouth and talking actual words! to her! Later, Alastair opening his little trumpet playing mouth to kiss her! Which by that point was just as well, since his own accent had devolved into some kind of incomprehensible brogue.
By the time they came up for air, they realized two things: A) that their friends had long abandoned them, and B) they’d missed their train. Alastair assured them that they could sit on the platform and wait through the night until the trains started running the following morning. He was right and that’s exactly what they did: sit on the platform of the basically closed train station, making out and gradually becoming more and more hungover. By the time the train finally arrived, they were both bored with kissing, cold, hungry, and intensely awkward with each other. You wouldn’t have wanted to be on that return train ride with them. That was the last time they spent in each other’s company.
Once she got back to the dorm, she showered, packed up her bags, and waiting for Erik-from-Norway-with-Sinus-Problems to drive her down to her next adventure, beginning of spring break, Euro-rail-student-pass extravaganza. They arrived at the ferry dock in Dover and Erik shoved her and her cheap-ass backpack onto the ferry. He wasn’t amused by her story. He thought she, and her story, were pretty shabby, but he was a solid friend.