by Julie Gengo
“So I'm supposed to just get on the train without any money at all, and it's supposed to be okay?” Kristi shouted as she stepped into the tiny green, slightly rusted Renault. Peter leaned over and said “yep.” She gladly gave him the finger as they departed. “That fucking dick” she muttered a little too loudly knowing that the driver couldn't speak any English. But the driver probably knew those words, she thought as she rolled her eyes.
At this point, she didn't care. I can handle this, she tried to convince herself.
The driver smelled of vodka and she was pissed. “So what's your name?” She said as she looked at him. He was a man possibly in his late 30's and she, a spunky 26 year-old who had to remind herself that being an American from a big city had its benefits, or so she was told.
“Yeah, just tell him you're an American and they will leave you alone,” Peter said as they stood on the side of the dusty road with their thumbs out. “Leave me alone? What the fuck do you mean by that?” “Well, when you get on the train, just tell the guy who collects the tickets that you're an American and everything should work out fine. They can't kick you off the train once you've gotten on since it is an express straight to Madrid,” Peter said with his pathetic British accent and a smile.
What did she ever see in him, she thought? She should have made a commitment long ago to never have anything to do with him after he showed up with another girl named Summer. Summer played the saxophone in a band. When she smiled, sunshine came out of her eyes. Kristi should have known that Peter would eventually do something like that – fall for a girl with sunshine in her eyes.
The slightly tipsy Spanish man with a somber face turned to her and smiled. “Como te llamo,” she uttered pensively. “Pedro” he said. Her Spanish wasn't working that well but somehow he understood her. Oh fuck, she thought. Isn't Pedro Spanish for Peter? She suspected she was moving from one idiot to another, but this time the Spanish version. This was confirmed when Pedro, the Spanish version of Peter, tried to kiss her. She used to like it when Peter kissed her but then the seasons changed.
She pushed Pedro away. She even thought she heard him say something about marriage. Maybe he thought he struck gold with a young American girl that would soon be his wife? How did she get into this situation? And then she thought of Peter and why she never wanted to speak to him again.
Pablo began asking her a few questions but she didn't have the brain capacity to translate and she really didn't want to know what was on his mind. Her mind was preoccupied with safety as they swerved in and out of the narrow two-lane road that cut along the Spanish coast.
Kristi couldn't relax. Sitting on the edge of her seat, she clenched her belongings (which included an overstuffed bag of clothes, a purse, a tennis racquet, sunglasses and a hat - she always wore a hat).
She also ran through various scenarios on what might happen on the rest of her journey. Would he try to kiss her again? Would he take her to an abandon place and try to do more things with his stinky breath and body? She also thought, if she didn't have the confidence to speak the little Spanish that she spent years studying, how was she supposed to even get on the right train -- the train that would get her to Madrid in time to catch her plane back to London?
Did Pedro even know that she needed to go to the train station?
But Kristi had no choice. She was in a car, with a man, who smelled like vodka, whose name was Pedro, the Spanish version of Peter, who was her only option.
After a short while, she eased into the journey allowing herself to relax, in an upright position, but unclenching her belongings so that they now rested on her lap.
The man kept talking with his mouth and then began talking with his hand. She watched the talking hand, that wasn't on the wheel. Made sure the other hand stayed on the wheel. But when the free talking hand started wondering over to her side of the seat, she quickly whipped out her tennis racquet and executed a nice back-hand slice. "No mas, no mas" she said frantically. "Lass mich allein. "Oh shit, wrong language" she spurted out, but Pedro somehow complied. Kristi then called in her American feistiness, uttered a few expletives, then looked the other way. Her heart was racing, but she somehow knew nothing horrible would happen. This was coastal Spain after all and not Bed-Stuy.
A few 100 meters later, she, now positioned as far away from him as possible, realized he was pulling into the parking lot of a shabby green building that was covered in dust. It was a cafe or a bar or something like that. It looked like a place you would see along the street of ghost town, but one that even ghost hunters avoided.
Why did he stop, she thought? She didn't know how to ask.
Kristi got out of the car, fumbled her belongings and followed him in. He walked towards the bar and ordered a shot. He held up his glass and looked her in the eyes to see if she wanted a drink, but she beckoned no. She couldn't believe he was drinking again, but then again, with the way things were going, she wasn't surprised.
Was this her chance to escape, she thought? She took a few moments, then walked to the window and thought about her next move. The next thing she knew, she was moving, following him back into the car. "You better take me to the train station," she said as she slammed the door shut.
Once on their way, Pedro started talking about marriage again but this time she ignored him. She felt as if she had been through a bad marriage and was now ready for divorce.
It was a speedy ride and within 15 minutes, Pedro pulled up to the station and she got out. That was it, and she yelled out a big ole' "adios" and waved goodbye.
Getting on the train was another venture waiting to take on a life of its own, but somehow she knew it would work out just fine too. After all, she is an American.