I smiled and looked down at my chest, arms and legs where my ink was display. “It’s a fun person thing.”
“I don’t have any tattoos.”
“I can tell. You’re naked.”
“How many do you have?”
“Ten,” I said off the bat. “No, wait. Eleven.” I had gotten one from my favorite artist on Main Street right before I left Vancouver for London. I turned over the inside of my right arm, the ink still vibrant. It was yet another constellation, this one of the archer, or the symbol for Sagittarius. Now, I was actually an Aquarius but I loved the stars that made up the bow, the idea of shooting for something. Instead of plain stars like so many of my tats were, I incorporated skulls into them. My arm looked like skeletons flying through space. I was super proud of it.
“So many stars,” he commented, his eyes lingering all over my body.
“I study astronomy.”
He turned wide-eyed. “You’re joking? You study? In school?”
And here we go—I couldn’t possibly have eleven tattoos, multiple earrings and a nose ring and tongue ring and go to university, earning a science degree. I heard it all the damn time, I just thought Europe was more progressive in that area, too. I guess you could find morons in every country.
“Does it surprise you that I’m smart?” I asked pointedly while I considered pushing him off the bunk.
He nodded. “Of course. Usually, uh, girls who are…who…” I narrowed my eyes as he fumbled to continue, “have tattoos and, um, like the sex. Usually they aren’t so smart.”
I breathed in and put on a stiff smile. “I can tell that the girls who sleep with you have to be stupid. I’m starting to feel a bit stupid myself. I’ll blame London, though.” I motioned for him to move. “Now are you going to get off the bunk bed or do I have to make you?”
His eyes grew round yet again. If he thought my tats made me hard-core, I wasn’t going to convince him otherwise. He got down off the ladder and quickly slipped on his clothes while I did the awkward climb of shame. I had a healthy body image but getting my curvy ass down a narrow ladder couldn’t be a pretty sight.
He headed for the door while I fastened on my bra, then paused and shot me an anxious glance over his shoulder. “Did you want to go back out? I think people are still drinking.”
I shook my head. “No thanks, you go.”
He looked relieved. “Okay. Well thank you for…have a nice night Vilma.”
He shut the door after him and I yelled, “It’s Vera!” after him. I sighed and shrugged. I guess it was only fair. I couldn’t remember his name properly either.
I quickly slipped on my matching underwear and stared at the dress that Portuguese boy had taken off me earlier. It was my last night in London and incredibly tempting to head back out to the pubs and have some more fun but that’s all I’d been doing for the last week. Sure, I took in a lot of the sights—the natural history museum, the London eye, Tate Modern, Tower of London. I rode the cute cabs and the underground and double decker buses and ate food that ranged from awesome (deep fried Mars bars!) to nasty (don’t order fish and chips from a Chinese restaurant).
But even though I came to the UK by myself, I hadn’t had a moment alone. That was something I hadn’t realized about the backpacking culture, especially when you’re in your early twenties and can speak English—it’s so easy to meet people. I’d never been so social in my entire life and never had so much fun.
And seeing for the next month I’d be in Spain, being nothing but social, I had to take advantage of some “me” time.