In 1999, I traveled around Europe with a friend from college, going from hostel to sofa to hostel, sharing a bath towel, both of us with $350 Eurorail passes in our pockets. These passes would cover seven cities in twenty days. Correction: eight cities. Who could forget the eighth city?
I have no recollection of how it happened, but we boarded the wrong overnight train leaving Barcelona. We thought we were bound for Nice but woke up in Geneva. To be fair, there were no signifiers of our error in the dark. No, say, alps. When the train arrived, I checked the time and assumed it had simply run late. It had not run late.
My friend and I proceeded to get in a massive fight in the Geneva train station. I suspect it had something to do with who should speak to the ticket agent and my confidence in my bad French over her bad French. At some point, I stormed out of the station. What was my intent? For this to be the story of how I moved to Geneva? Probably. At that age, there is a kind of marriage between the logical act and the dramatic act. They consciously uncouple as you get older.
I have no idea why we didn’t just stay in Geneva, a city worth seeing, for a night, but we didn’t. Maybe we were punishing each other. Maybe we were too anxious to stay. This was before we had any money or way to get money and certainly before smart phones.
I like how the diary entry of this experience opens, as if for an audience. That’s unusual. To this day, I only keep a journal when I’m traveling or away from home for long periods of time and the entries are a banal recapping of events. But here we have: “Geneva was fantastic. Thanks for asking. Hmmm overrated chocolate, Swiss banks … ” Not bad! I’m also surprised, considering how enraged I was, to see glimmers of self-deprecation, of me copping to being “a sick, cranky whore.”
The entry goes on for many pages, but what’s not there is me coming back into the train station, where my friend had found the correct track on her own. She was waiting on the platform, sitting on her overstuffed backpack. We were silent for a long time and then she said, “They only take Swiss francs, and I’m so hungry.” I would like to report that I had food on me, maybe some trail mix, and that I shared it with her. But I don’t remember what happened next.
Sloane Crosley is the author of three works of nonfiction and two novels, the second of which, Cult Classic, will be published on June 7.
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