Hell is most certainly other people. They really just suck a big one.
I was weirdly unhappy to be travelling by myself. Usually as soon as I get on my next train or plane, I’m totally fine. Saying goodbye is tough, and I sometimes end up crying in a bathroom. But I get over it.
I don’t know if it was because I missed my friends or was used to being around familiar people all the time, but I wasn’t looking forward to spending the next two days travelling to Lisbon by myself to catch my flight. It was no different than any other trip I’ve taken. I mentioned offhandedly to my friend Kyle that I wished I had my taser, just in case.
Well isn’t hindsight just fucking perfect.
I got my train to Sevilla and laughed at the unfortunately named WiFi networks my phone was picking up- you can figure out ‘penes erectos’ for yourself. I transferred trains easily and pulled into Huelva as the sun was going down. I got directions to the bus station, rumors of a late night bus to Faro, Portugal on my mind. Hostels or even affordable hotels that I knew of in Huelva were scarce, and a broken computer and non-functional phone made it difficult to navigate on the go.
Sunday means most of Spain is dysfunctional, including the bus schedule. The late bus was a no go. The next bus was at 8am the next morning, so I reluctantly tramped out the door and attempted to find a hotel I could stay at.
Huelva seemed like a cool place; people were still out in the big public squares, and things seemed pretty busy. Until they weren’t. Having wandered past a four-star hotel I knew I couldn’t afford I had found myself down a very quiet side street, lit only by a few street lights. I kept walking, a busy street’s noise fading behind me.
I barely registered the shadow behind me until my arm was grabbed. I whirled around- a guy, under the influence of something it seemed, stared at me.
‘Give me your bag,’ he said. I have no idea if he spoke in English or Spanish, but the intent was pretty clear.
‘No,’ I said, jerking away. He started at me, undisclosed malice in his eyes. I had seen that look in a dream I’d had a week before, a dream that involved me being attacked. This was after the dream I had about abseiling off the end of a rope, another nightmare of mine. My subconscious is a real dick.
He was holding a small wooden box in his hand, which splintered across my left cheek as he hit me. What the hell?
I jerked back and he hit me again. I was SO. FUCKING. MAD. Who the hell follows someone down a dark road and takes their shit? Who? Who thinks that is ok? What the fuck.
Well, the same person who thought that was ok to take peoples’ bags also thought it was ok to hit girls. Obviously the memo about me being a tough, former boxer and roller derby player with barely concealed anger issues didn’t get translated into espanol. This was so not happening.
I hit him back, greatly hindered by the fact that I had a rucksack on my back and a small backpack on my front. And I yelled, a lot. There was a lot of yelling. I knew the street behind me was busy but didn’t know if anyone could hear me over the cars. I knew I was bleeding. I also knew I sure as hell wasn’t going to give some jackass my passport or the last of my euros- I fought hard to get to this place, I’m going to hug my mom in 24 hours, and no one is fucking that up for me. NO. ONE.
He stopped his attack, probably because I was swinging my fists and hollering my head off. Once he backed off I turned and ran up the street, back to safety, back to people. The only thing running through my mind was, ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ I’m not sure if that was directed at the guy who attacked me or at the universe. I’m thinking the universe, because for fuck’s sake.
I walked back down the road and was surrounded by people. I tried to hide my face, not knowing how bad it was. I didn’t think I had a concussion. I was oddly proud of the fact that I could take a hit and not go down. Is that what he expected? Me to just crumple? I walked into the lobby of the four star hotel and waited for the receptionist.
‘Hola,’ I said. ‘Hablo ingles?’
Thankfully he did indeed speak perfect English. My brain couldn’t operate bilingually very well. I asked for directions to the hotel I was looking for, which ended up being right down the street. He looked concerned when I told him what happened, but really all I wanted to do was get somewhere safe and assess the damage. I thought about asking the receptionist to walk with me down the road, but I didn’t.
I found the hotel, the receptionist barely looking at the beat up lady in front of him. I got a room and collapsed on my bed, too tired and shocked and overwhelmed to do anything. I sent a text to my mom, figuring she’d want to know I was safe and that showing up at the airport looking like I did wouldn’t be a nice surprise.
I was angry, because even though I’ve taken self defense classes no one had ever taught me how to defend myself with a stupid backpack on, and I had never thought about my safety long enough to realize that might be an issue.
I cleaned myself up. My face hurt. I was more than ready to get out of Spain.