I arrived at Cambridge and so did the rain. I held a small, purple umbrella, but the wind blew rain everywhere else, drenching my jeans and sneakers. I was there for a study abroad trip, and I hailed a cab to Saint Catharine’s College, the English section of the University of Cambridge, where I would be staying. Each college had a porter who kept track of the room keys, the lodging, and who went in and out of the gate. I hurried towards the lodge, carrying and dragging my heavy bags over uneven, cracked cobblestone. Inside, I inquired about check-in time, which was 10AM. I was early, so I dropped off my bags, and waited in the lodge.
When it got closer to 10 AM I noticed something strange: there were no other students arriving to check in. I opened up my green notebook which contained all of my travel information.
Check in at the porter’s lodge Sunday from 10:00 AM
I read this over several times. Sunday. Sunday. Today was Saturday. The rain continued to fall from the sky in a consistent gray mist. I needed at place to stay for the night. I approached the porter again and asked him if he knew of any nearby hotels. I knew of a couple offhand; I had been researching where my boyfriend could stay. Most of the places were already completely booked.
The porter gave me a phone book. I didn’t have a phone.
I remembered there was a somewhat pricey hotel that still had a single room open when I had been looking, so I decided to go there first. University Arms looked much fancier than I had imagined: men and women in gowns and tuxedos entered and exited the place. Luckily, there was one room left, which I quickly booked and took the key. Then I headed out to explore.
I began to notice two older men on the street because they had been staring me the whole way with glazed-over red eyes. I tried not to look at them. They started shouting at me-slurs I could not understand. I ducked inside the University Arms as quickly as I could, locking myself in my room.
I was scared to go out again. I was hungry, so I ate the two complementary biscuits, drank four cups of tea and three cups of coffee. However, this did not suffice. I needed food, and ended up at Pizza Hut.
Pizza Hut had no formal entrance-the door opened to the back of the restaurant, where many kids waited for service, crowding the entrance. Another line formed near the bar area. I moved to that line because it was closer to the servers. I stood for half an hour, trying to get a waitress’s attention. They all avoided me, so I left, still trying to beat the sunset. I stepped into Pizza Express, an oddly fancy-looking pizza joint across the street. Three older men, seeing that I was alone, approached me.
One with glasses and slightly longer brown tousled hair said, “You shouldn’t eat alone-we’re getting a table right now. You should join us. You wouldn’t have to wait for a table.”
I smiled awkwardly, and said, “No, thanks.”
The man persisted: “No, really, you should join us-you wouldn’t have to wait.”
Luckily, the three were escorted to their table; I looked away as they were lead upstairs. I prayed my table would not be upstairs next to theirs. Luckily I ate my dinner alone in a small corner downstairs and then hustled back to my room, locking the door.