|The train clattered through the night, and I sat alone, still feeling the recent pain of Benedict's betrayal.|
In Newport, I got off and tried to figure out if I should change over; a conductoress told me she'd go ask someone and, when I next saw her, she was closing the doors of the train whilst it sped away from the platform.
|Finding I was to change over, I tracked down the next platform (#3). I was accompanied by a man who told me that he'd been in the hospital all day, his wife had just given birth to their first child - a boy. He seemed very tired, and somewhat confused, repeating his story.|
The train rolled up, a more utilitarian affair than the last, and I boarded with the shell-shocked man. His experience, evidently, had been over-looked in the writing of the Vagina Monologues.
I'm half-asleep and not paying attention to the platforms - it's a long ways till my destination. A group of three guys tries to help their drunken friend off the train, telling him repeatedly that "the doors are about to close", and this rouses me from my slumbers. I watch them walking down the platform and see the station sign: this is my stop! In a fluid movement I sweep up my ever-ready backpack and umbrella and dodge across the car through the door moments before it hisses shut.
The train rumbles off into the night, disappearing to Bob-knows-where, and I'm left standing on the deserted platform beneath a flickering flourescent light. In the distance, a dog barks.
Striding around the corner, brandishing my umbrella fiercely, I pass two red-cheeked Welshmen murmuring in the night. And there, directly across the road, yellow light, laughter, and patches of song pouring from its windows, is the Great Western Hotel, otherwise known as the Black Sheep Backpackers Hostel.
Inside, the barkeep shows me to my room, where a girl is already asleep in one bed, and two guys are preparing to join her. Dropping pack, I head back downstairs, ordering myself a pie - "Shepherd's pie" - and a stiff drink. Across the room from me, I hear "Jesus!" and look up to see a trio of merry men toasting me. I raise my own stiff drink in acknowledgement and, as I set the glass down, Ian joins me.
Ian's black leather jacket constrasts with his round face, flushed a merry red that reaches up onto his balded scalp. We chat for a while as golden liquid from a large mug steadily flows into him. In the next room there's the clink of pool balls on an age-worn table, where two girls visually consume the well-muscled players. Where am I from? … Oh, I've never been there. Truth be told, Ian tells me, his American geography isn't too good. Leaning in, he whispers conspiratorally that there's a Texan here, a Texan who's fallen in with hard times.
His voice bouncing off of the hardwood floors and brick fireplace, he beckons Bridgitt over. Bridgitt, dark-skinned, wearing army fatigues, and crinkly-of-hair, joins me in drawing a sketch of the US - pointing out our respective homes: Mexico and Canada, roughly. Ian is fascinated, his American geography isn't too good, he says, as he draws a dot a province away from mine. This is where you live? A few minutes and we come back to the topic. I'm no good at geography. The dot continues moving, another five or so times, towards the Pacific, till, at last, I'm living in Seattle.
Ian, telling me again that he's not so good with geography, begins explaining certain facets of his life in repetatively epic detail. Perhaps it's an attempt to cheer up the morose Bridgitt, perhaps he's rambling; another man joins us in trying to enliven the Texan. Finally admitting defeat, Bridgitt and I are left alone.
She's "flown 5,000 miles" to see a boy who never showed and offers excuses through a cellphone. Having never previously left Texas, her belief in his love was the necessary impetus to wake up "from sleeping" and now she's sitting across from me, the word stupid falling heavily on the table; it's odd, because I see it as a brave and wonderous deed. Faced with another ten days in Wales, she's caught between sorrow and wanting to get out, though the latter is stymied by those fears which always accompany first sojourns into the wild: she'd like to a climb a mountain, but is afraid of getting lost.
A drinking drunken drinker ducks past me on his way out, wishing "Jesus" a good night. I bless him and, as he goes through the door, he bashes his head - maybe it wasn't a good idea on my part. Bridgitt and I talk till three in the morning and I think she's feeling a little better as we part to the sound of off-key singing.