I lugged my huge case down to the platform and onto the train unaided by the many people standing around watching. When I say my case is huge, I’m not exaggerating; while I was in Barcelona I had to get one of the hostel workers to open the storage room so that I could get it out, he watched me struggling to maneuver it out and said in a French accent ‘you have a very big case’, I grinned at him and told him it was the cheapest way of traveling with my children and that I hoped they hadn’t run out of air. He didn’t crack a smile. Just nodded ‘Oh…yes’ and walked off, fast. Anyway, back to the night(mare) train. Once I got my case onto the train I had to squeeze it through the narrow corridor to find my carriage ‘lo siento, sorry, perdone, scusi, sorry…farrrrk’ I finally found my seat, which was occupied by an old man. I managed to convey he was in my seat with a bit of gesturing to my ticket and saying ‘ochenta y dos?’ repetitively. When he realized I wasn’t going to sit in the corridor for nine hours he nodded ‘Ah, ochenta y dos, si si si’ and moved into his assigned seat. I sat down in my seat and smiled awkwardly at the rest of the family: father, mother, two grandmothers, two young children and of course, my seat-stealing grandpa.
Inside my train carriage looked something like this, with 8 people squeezed in there:
My case wouldn’t fit in the carriage so I had to leave it in the corridor, meaning every person who walked through the corridor to the cafeteria had to squeeze past the case, with either their bum or groin ending up in my face. After tiring of being kicked in the shin by a sleeping child for an hour, I decided to relocate to the cafeteria for a bit. The cafeteria is just a carriage with a few booths, something resembling a breakfast bar, and a man standing at a coffee machine. It was about 1am by this time, so coffee-making man was packing up for the evening. I sat down in the booth as far away as I could get from the group of South American men opening can after can of beer. They were very loud and animated, but I stopped looking over at them after the most intimidating looking one caught me looking, raised his beer and winked at me.
I hugged my backpack close to me, turned on my ipod and tried to sleep. This was pretty much impossible with all the noise, and it was almost 2 before I drifted off, only to be woken in fright with the winker standing in the space between the booths and screaming words I couldn’t understand at the top of his voice. I was startled until I realised he was acting out some football move while his friends laughed like hyenas. I packed up my things and headed back to my seat, only to find old people stretched over ochenta y dos, fast asleep. I miserably went back to the cafeteria, winker and all his friends grinning at me. There was now a rather cute geeky Javier Bardem look-alike with what I suspected to be Parkinson's disease sitting in the booth diagonal to me. He seemed quite alarmed when I burst into frustrated tears; he kept glancing over, probably deciding whether or not to come over. Anticipating an ‘I am fine, no hablo espanol, estoy cansada, I am fine, I haven’t slept for 3 days and haven’t eaten for 20 hours, I AM FINE….’ useless and awkward conversation, I slunk down in my seat and tried to look as hostile to being comforted as I could. I didn’t even dare look in the South Americans’ direction; I considered sitting under the table.
At 3am the train pulled into Zaragoza and there was a rustle of beer cans dropping to the floor as the South Americans got up to leave, filing out beside my booth. Winker stopped by my seat; I struggled not to visibly cringe ‘De donde eres?’ he leaned in closely, I nervously giggled ‘Australia’. He started to speak rapidly, telling me something very urgently while holding onto my hand quite tightly. ‘No entiendo espanol’ I said, trying to pull my hand away. No such luck. He continued speaking in Spanish, placing my hand on his heart and rubbing it around and then bringing it to his lips and placing a slobbery kiss on it ‘vale, vale, entiendes?’, more slobbery kisses. No, I have no bloody idea what you are saying now please do not devour my hand!! ‘Si..vale’. His friends were laughing ‘basta!..basta!..’ enough, enough, and pushing him off the train. I was sitting there thinking, oh great, the first man to declare his love for me, what a winner.
After they left the four other men in the cafeteria and I tried to get some sleep. I found it hard to close my eyes when every time I looked up Parkinson's Bardem was looking over at me. Eventually he left the cafeteria and I tried to ignore the snoring coming from the old man opposite me. I was woken up from my entirely unsatisfying 2 hours sleep when the coffee making man returned to his post at 6am. A trip to the shaky, piss-stinking, closet-sized toilet, showed me that I had two red lines on my forehead where I had rested it on the table. By the time I arrived in Madrid I was cursing my oh so smart theorising. No more night trains, at least, not sleep deprived and sober.