I shuffled back and forth along the sidewalk near the bus station, my hands shaking and my thoughts whirring. I didn’t have enough money for a ticket. I thought I’d be fine, I really did. I budgeted this trip, my very first time abroad, but it wasn’t enough. I’d mistakenly assumed that when I booked the B&B months earlier that they would charge the stay to my account. After breakfast on my last morning, however, they informed me in broken English that I still owed for my room. Shit, I hissed to myself. My face burned and my heartbeat shot up to my ears. Paying the hosts would deplete my account. I still had over a week left, and I was all alone.
Despite it being around 3 am back in the States, I called my mother, frantic and guilty. My voice broke and tears streaked my sunburned cheeks. I felt like a failure. Her genuine concern for my well being was a solace for the embarrassment I felt, but salt to the wound of pride. Stuck in a quaint English town with no money made me desperate enough to ask for money.
I had just enough money to purchase a bus ticket after counting up stray coins and notes in my bag, but nothing beyond. I was due in Bath by nightfall, and the bus ride was estimated to be at least eight hours. When I arrived at the tourist center to purchase the ticket, I came up about five pounds short. I felt tears, unbidden, welling up in my tired eyes. The woman across from me was only a few years older than I, with chestnut hair, immaculate makeup, and a posh accent, I was humiliated to be seen at such a low moment in front of someone like her. I shamefully explained my situation, and she turned from me to rifle through her own purse to supplement the cost of the ticket. I could barely breathe out a word of thanks due to shame, but mostly from an overwhelming sense relief and thankfulness.
By the time I was on the somewhat dingy bus headed for Bath, the money from my mother was safely tucked into my account. I felt provided for, and suddenly exceedingly tired. Relief from high anxiety gives way to lethargy for most people, and I was not excluded from the phenomenon. I woke from fitful sleep to the feeling of dampness. I adjusted myself due to a dull pain in my abdomen, only to discover that I had bled through my clothes. Thankfully, I was clothed in black skinny jeans that wouldn’t betray my leakage. After the miserable day I had, of course I would begin my period on a dirty, nonstop bus.
The bus arrived in Bath at 2 AM, and as I hoisted my large backpack over my shoulder, I realised that I was the only person on the dimly lit street. I kept an alert eye, scanning the sidewalk as I paced back and forth, waiting for my taxi. I was dirty, bloody, exhausted, and starved.
After folding myself into the back of the cab, I gave the driver the address to my Airbnb host home. We both struggled to understand each other’s accents, but eventually we sorted out where to go. I couldn’t believe how steep the hills were; it felt like San Francisco, but on a much smaller scale. The driver stopped in front of a quaint old home with a wild garden partly obscuring its windows and door. It didn’t look like the picture, so I warily checked the lock. The hostess said she’d leave it unlocked for me, knowing I’d be coming late. I nodded to the driver, and he left me.
To be honest, I wasn’t even sure it was the correct house until I entered the guest room upstairs. Folded blankets, towels, and a note indicated I was in the right place. I tiptoed to the bathroom to shower, careful to not make too much noise. After toweling off, I stuffed toilet paper between my legs to create a makeshift pad. I laid myself on the bed, which was really just an IKEA mattress tucked into an alcove. Though uncomfortable, I quickly fell into dreamless sleep, feeling safe and provided for, and stretched beyond what I ever thought I could endure.