My little travel alarm begins to play it's irritating high pitched melody. Shit, I fell asleep. Of course I knew I was going to fall asleep, otherwise I wouldn't have set the alarm. But it's 4:00 and I have a night train to catch at the insane hour of 5:00. Too late to stay up for and too early to be waking up.
So I compromised, drinking too many cans of cheap lager and finally passing out around 1:00. Not such a good move. A slight hangover is knocking on the door and I have had nowhere near enough sleep.
I check the shower. It's cold. I don't bother. I haphazardly search the room for forgotten items of clothing, shoulder my bag (which seems unbearably heavy after only two hours sleep) and step out into the deserted corridors of "Los Arribas".
It's been like this the past few days. I have been staying in University accomodation but is Easter; all the students are at home and the whole place is deserted. In the evenings the few resident pensioners come out of hiding and populate the T.V room. Apart from that i've seen no one but a pretty Welsh
girl who I'm half sure I've dreamt up out of lonliness.
This place is spooky actually. These type of structures are hardly welcoming at the best of times and my half asleep, still dreaming imagination is dreaming up connections with abandoned insane asylums or that hotel in the Shining. My nerves are on edge; so I almost jump out of my skin when the night-porter pulls open the seemingly deserted reception window. I hand in my key and step out into the sticky night air.
My bag is heavier than I had hoped and I'm currently walking too slowly. This commercial wasteland on the outskirts of town just seems to go on and on. At this rate I might not make my train. I pick my way through empty car-parks and over knee high crash barriers.
Why am I wearing so many clothes, I don't need both a jacket and a heavy jumper. Even at 5 in the morning the temperature is on the wrong side of uncomfortably hot. I am sweating buckets but my bag is strapped on too tightly. I can't afford the five minutes it will take to undo everything.
I press on
past the vast hospital complex where I had been lost at the peak of an unheralded and unusual downpour yesterday. I can't think of anywhere I hate more than Salamanca hospital at the moment.
I am in an unreasonably paranoid mood, probably born out of sleep deprivation, but not helped by the ceaseless annd unervingly monotony of Salamancas outskirts. Around here there isn't much variation on the 4 storey, concrete apartment-block theme.
Eventually reaching the older and far prettier part of town, I hasten through the public gardens, down a slope, past three wooden crosses used as props in the Easter celebrations and onto the cobbled road that the parade had mournfully shuffled down 14 hours earlier. Except for a few abandoned banners fluttering despondently in the breeze there is little sign of the sharply dressed brass bands or the multitudes of costumed marches with their eerily, hollow-eyed hoods that previuosly filled the street.
I pass the entrance to a late night bar. Still packed at 4:30am. At the moment I really don't want to be dragging this weight several kilometres across an unfamiliar Spanish City. I'm tired and lonely and would do almost anything to be
one of those returning bar-hoppers; stumbling home to a welcoming bed. In fact I would be sipping a cafe con leche in the welcoming embrace of one of the numerous cafe-bars that populate Salamanca city cantre.
I'm reaching the edge of the centre now and entering uncharted territory. Of course I was in the train station yesterday, I had to buy the ticket. But I only really found it accidentally by following the train tracks and I can't remember where the train tracks were.
I take a road which I think at least leads in the general direction of the train station, if not actually directly to it. It doesn't, and a few minutes later I am hopelessly lost.
By now I am slightly manic, eyeing everyone in the street with unreasonable suspicion. I walk past a gentleman looking slightly the worse for wear, most probably after an evenings drinking. He babbles something in Spanish, but in my current frame of mind I am in no mood for pleasantries. I irrationally conclude that he's out to mug me or something so I push on hastily.
I check a bus map, and my fears are proven. Somehow
I've stumbled into completley the wrong part of town. Everything looks the same at this hour. I have 7 minutes to get the train, but at least I know which way to go now.
I start running, or at least I try to. I'm already tiring under the weight of my bag so running isn't easy.
Everything looks the same at this hour, I am probably going the wrong way, in fact I could be in Valencia for all I know.
I check another Bus map. The scale is too large but from what i can make out the station should be round the next corner. The train is leaving in 5 minutes.
I round the corner. Nothing. The roads still look the same. Remain calm. Try the next road, No. Yes there it is, just down the road.
I spot the train waiting on the platform, but as I approach I notice the train station seems ominously dark. It can't be closed there is a train on the platform. There is no way it is closed. I try the door handle. It's closed.
So, there must be a side entrance. It's 5:00 now,
the train is due to leave. I move to the right and quickly realise that I have made the wrong desision. If I was sensible I'd turn around and go the other way, but I've convinced myself the train is leaving this instant, so I don't.
The side of the station is strewn with rubbish and recycling bins. A two metre high metal fence bars my route onto the platform. I'm imaging whistles any instant and the fence can be cleared. I hoist my bag and heave it over the fence. I attack the fence with speed. Bad move, it's sharp and the metal tips go into my skin. Somehow I manage to flip myself over the top without catching my leg and I fall comically onto the platform.
The train guard doesn't look amused but I'm beyond caring. He kindly points out the blood trickling from the freshly pierced stigmata like holes in my hands. I assess the damage. There is a lot of blood, but I only have three small cuts. I'm sure I'll live.
The guard checks my ticket and i step onto the predictably crowded train.
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