I let out a small laugh. Well, I did just have sex with a Portuguese guy in a dorm room in London. In terms of new, I was already on my way.
“Metro. I need to take the metro. You know, the train, goes underground?” I made a digging motion like I was stuck in an awful game of charades, a game I’d been playing since I stepped out of the Madrid airport.
The man stared at me blankly.
This just in: A lot of Spaniards don’t speak English.
I gave up and waved at him, smiling even though I was frustrated. It wasn’t his fault I was so ill-prepared.
He said something to me, sorry, I think, and with a shrug he turned and left. I brushed my hair off of my sticky forehead and sighed, trying to look like I didn’t need help while taking in my surroundings at the same time.
You see, I thought I’d written down the instructions on how to get to the Las Palabras office on my notepad on my phone but it turns out I wrote down all the songs I wanted to download before the plane ride instead. Now I was totally lost, somewhere in Madrid, with only an address and sweat stains. My god it was fucking hot here. At least I had good music.
I wasn’t normally this shy but I hated asking for directions in general and I’d never been in the situation of being around people and totally unable to communicate with them. There was a whole city bustling around me in the sunshine, heading in and out of the metro, and yet I felt completely invisible.
I sighed and adjusted the heavy backpack on my shoulders before fishing out my phone again. It was time for me to bite the bullet and Google Map the shit out of this place, insanely high data roaming charges be damned.
Turns out the Casa de las Palabras office was on the other side of the city and that meant more sweaty negotiating while I tried to ride various Metro lines, one of which was packed to the doors, with me pressed against the wall and an old man groping my ass. I turned to snarl at him but he merely looked away like he was innocent.
By the time I got to my stop and back out into the blinding sunshine, my first impressions of Madrid were tanking and one glance at the clock tied my stomach in knots. Thank god I could actually spot the blue and white sign of Palabras close by. I hurried across the square, hoping, swearing internally, that I wasn’t too late. Here was another problem with my planning (and my cheapness)—I was supposed to check in with the company and just hop on the bus. I didn’t want to spend money on a hotel room if I didn’t have to. Little did I know the plane leaving Gatwick would be a late, which, when combined with the fact that I didn’t have directions and I didn’t speak Spanish, put a major damper on my plans.
What made my heart lurch around worse than trying to run in the oppressive heat with a heavy backpack on, was the fact that there was no bus waiting outside.
But…it couldn’t have left without me. Could it?
I fished out my phone. It was 2:16PM.
I didn’t like the way the time looked, staring at me with those cold digital numbers.
I thought the orientation had started at two. There was no way they could go through everyone in sixteen minutes.
I flung open the glass doors to the office and stumbled into it, my hair flying around my face.
“Am I too late!?” I screeched, looking around wildly.
There was no one in the office. It had neat wood desks with glass tops, sterile filling cabinets with baby pictures pinned up with cheap magnets, and blue walls with posters about Spain, featuring white people with cheesy smiles talking to Spanish men with nineties Ross Gellar hair. One the end of one desk, one of those perpetual motion birds dipped its wooden beak up and down, as if someone had just set it off.