Steph, Kathryn, and I ended up in the same room at Mad Hostel in Madrid. There was another girl named Mary in our room. The four of us decided to take a day trip to Toledo, and we booked an early afternoon train to the old town.
We had to wait about an hour, so we walked to the nearby Reina Sofia Museum. Picasso’s Guernica is located here, and I was eager to see it in person. It proved to be a provocative painting. The human forms convey intense pain, all the more poignant due to their deformed, inhuman shapes. However, it is the bull with its gaping mouth and eyes placed incongruously on its expansive face, that seemed to somehow elicit the most intense feelings of torture and misery. War: What is it good for?
At the train station in Toledo, the girls voted to walk into town instead of taking a bus. I was outnumbered. We walked down the road and along the river. The small town, sitting atop a hill, is beautiful to behold. We had been walking for about ten minutes when we passed by some bushes. I was last in line, and I had my nose buried in my guidebook, trying to look up some information about the town. Suddenly there was a wasp buzzing near my book. I absentmindedly brushed it away, but it wouldn’t leave. I swiped at it with the book. The next instant there was a searing pain in my right hand. I flung my arms out, and the book went flying. I jumped off the sidewalk onto the road yowling in pain. I grabbed my right hand with my left. It was as if a hot knife were digging into my hand. I peered at where the wasp had stung me. A small red dot marked the spot. The wasp, at least, was gone. The girls turned around to see what was wrong. In between gasps, I managed to let them know what had happened. Kathryn gave me a disinfectant cloth to clean the wound, but within a few minutes, my hand swelled up. Sharp pains jolted through my hand as the poison spread. We arrived in town, and I picked up some ice cubes from a restaurant to place against the sting. It soothed the pain somewhat.
We meandered around town for a bit. Toledo is a quaint town with narrow cobblestone streets and numerous buildings from Moorish times. We walked up some of its deserted back allies in an attempt to climb high enough for a good view of the city below. Finally, we just entered the cathedral and climbed up the tower. It provided a spectacular view.
We left Toledo earlier than we had planned to and so ended up taking a bus. On the bus we sat in random seats and not the ones assigned to us. I sat with Mary. As the bus began to move, however, Steph and Kathryn showed up at our seats. They had been kicked out of their seats by the people whose assigned seats they had been sitting in. This was unfortunate because few people were actually sitting in assigned seats. Steph and Kathryn stood in the moving bus not sure what to do. Finally I got up and asked the man sitting in one of the girls’ seats whether he was supposed to be sitting there. He wasn’t, but he didn’t appear to care. Next I eyed the children. Did the parents buy separate tickets for them? They insisted that they did. How could there not be any seats left? This wasn’t going anywhere. I marched to the front of the bus to get the driver’s attention. He saw me coming and seemed to have become aware of the commotion. He stopped the bus and walked back to help us sort the matter out. A man gave up his seat, and Kathryn took it. I gave my seat to Steph. The driver looked around desperately to find me a seat. I graciously offered to drive, which he thought was amusing. He finally suggested that Steph, Mary, and I share the same two seats. It didn’t seem like such a good idea to me, but at this point we didn’t have much of a choice. Then a woman sitting with her child offered to move him aside and let me share the seat with him. I settled in, and we got back on the road. The boy immediately fell asleep on my shoulder.