The Bus from Barcelona


My leg looks like the pork trotter that seems to be a feature in the window of every tapas bar here. I have self diagnosed myself on www.webmd.com and think I have deep vein thrombosis. The bead anklet I bought in Barcelona is like a noose around my leg.

“The bus is leaving! It’s leaving!” my friend yells. My pork trotter leg, unsurprisingly, does not help my mad dash to catch the bus to Rome.

We squeeze ourselves and our hundred ton backpacks into the last two seats at the back of the bus, relieved that we’ve made it. Throughout our trip, we have sprinted after multiple modes of transport due to the strange phenomenon of holiday-time i.e. one hour in real-time is three hours in holiday-time.

The Spanish bloke sitting across the aisle from us is in a heated conversation with the bus conductor. Despite only attending two rudimentary Spanish classes I have no trouble making out what he is saying.

“Why have we just climbed into the rank pocket of an incontinent man?”

The sour, unmistakable odour of days old urine is coming from the bus toilet which is right behind us. There is no escaping the stench. It is the most nose hair singeing, eye-watering odour ever encountered by a human nostril. The bus conductor, in his enthusiasm for customer service, has
gone into the cesspit at the back of the bus to douse it with a huge bottle of cheap cologne. It now smells like the incontinent man has a hot date.

“How many hours till we get to Rome again?”

“25 hours”

I imagine myself like James Franco in that movie where he saws off his arm. Except, I am slowly snipping off my nose with the tiny nail clippers I keep in my handbag.

I try to settle down to sleep, but the bus ride is extremely bumpy and passengers seem to be carrying on the conversation about the incontinent man’s pants in very loud Spanish. A baby is crying incessantly, and I can’t blame it because I want to cry too. My seat has a life of its own, and springs back into an upright position every time I am about to fall asleep. I am aware of my grubbiness, with dirt from two countries caked on my face like some archaeological site. The nerdy couple in front of us keep muttering and shooting us the stink-eye. Do they think we clogged up the toilet?

As I am dozing off into a urea induced stupor, I notice the Spanish bloke standing beside my sleeping friend. Before I can react, he has surreptitiously brushed against her boob under the guise of adjusting her jacket-blanket. I snap awake and start to yell and gesticulate wildly, behaving as though I am shooing away a yapping dog. All he does is grin and wink.

We spend the remainder of our bus ride keeping watch over each other’s virtue in two hour shifts and avoiding eye contact with the couple from “The Revenge of the Nerds”. In Rome, 25 sodding hours later, I smell like a urinal cake and am convinced that my foot has doubled in size and will require amputation.

Nevertheless, we are here! We shuffle towards the Vatican City shimmering in the distance, leaving the gentlest whiff of pee in our wake.



J Chen

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