Part 2, Train of the Damned (credit to Amy for title)

The train pulled into Venice, Italy--Station St. Lucia early in the morning. I still had not met my mysterious Italian host...had not heard a word from him yet, and frankly, I wasn't willing to spend a night in the cold again. So I was a tad apprehensive...

I finally receive a text that said he'll be 30 minutes late...and I must travel elsewhere to meet him. Okay, fine...it's only nearly freezing--but that's old news...

Now, why is it that European train stations are never ever enclosed...and always freaking freezing? Would it kill them to make it an enclosed area, or at least to put in some warm waiting rooms (which they do have in Switzerland and some other places)...and make sure their free of homeless people...you know, used by the travellers they are meant for. Anyway, small rant aside...I shuffle in and out of the two small warm areas at the station--both shops...both which require spending money. Something I was not willing to do.

And yet, I need some warmth, so I decide to get a hot chocolate at the little buffet area (where they make you stand! the inhumanity!...and another European thing that's common...and annoying). I chat up a couple English travellers who are sharing the table with me, they are leaving for Milan...so I ask them about Venice, gather up all the know-how for the next couple days. Then I dash off to meet my "friend."

Something you should know about Venice if you've never been there...or even if you had an had an awesome tour guide or something...the streets are like a labyrinth, quite unavigable...unless you have a good map (I had no such luck...the free mape was a tiny little thing without any street names and a rough sketch of what looked like a mass of white strips...). I often found myself at the end of a street, about to fall into the water, without a boat in sight. Hmm...must turn around.

So, in recognizing my hosts, usually I wander around the vicinity where we're supposed to meet...with that glancing at everyone sort of look that either makes people extremely nervous...or makes them think you wanna sleep with them.

Anyway, I eventually find the guy, because he has the same look on his face.

I am entirely ready to go and just sleep at his place. Ah, but a problem...his mother doesn't love having guests...so he has to speak with her...and he also has work to do...so I am confined to Venice (pauvre moi)...for the next eight hours! But first, the guy and I go grab a coffee (me a tea and a sandwhich, he a tea)...but I suppose saying "coffee" sort of gets the proper idea across. No one says we went for a tea (unless you're Persian)...and, usually that follows a meal. And only the English do that "cup of tea thing"...but then, it's usually "afternoon tea" or some other junk like that.

I think I'm too easily sidetracked.

Well, over tea I related my horror trip to my Italian host (a computer consultant, age 27, with a girlfriend)...hoping that it would get some pity...and a bed. He apologized on behalf of Italians for the controller, and paid for my tea and sandwhich...(not what I was going for...but okay, it was nice).

Why do I mention the girlfriend?

Well, this guy is from a traveler hosting network...and on his profile he has: "Note, I am in a HAPPY long-term relationship with my beloved girlfriend Marina." Or some crap like that. Which makes you think, what? That someone has tried to jump him before...that he really loves his girlfriend...that, as a host, he is totally, utterly harmless. No?

Again, what I was going for. But things don't seem to always work out. (Small wonder?)...In French I finally found the word for this...for me...la poisse.

Anyway, the guy takes me around the city for a couple hours before he has to get going home. He carries my backpack for me and is very knowledgeable about the city. I'm still tired as hell, but it's not as bad anymore. I take funny pictures of gondola men...there was this hilarious calendar of them all posing, so I start taking pictures of guys that look like the calendar men. My host, Thomas, starts makes fun of me...and he does that flirting touching thing...

I pull back and kinda stare at him...at this point I am really not into that...The whole controller guy on the train...

Italian men, not for me.

I start wondering if perhaps he recently broke up with his girlfriend. Hmm...

By the way, at the end of the train ride, the creepy Italian controller guy came out with a wedding ring on his finger. It was hilarious. And creepy. I'd also told those other two French guys about his antics...and so it was pretty nice because I felt like they had my back later that morning.

So, back to the story, almost on cue Thomas starts talking about his girlfriend (who is 20 years old). He says that she knows what he does when he travels...that he tries out everything in the country...(creepy emphasis on the word everything)...

I just feel sick to my stomach...but he still, had seemed like such a nice guy (looking back now, writing this...of course I see the warning signs...but I was a little...out of it at the time. And I think, understandably so.) Plus, what he said didn't mesh with the whole little message he had on his profile about his girlfriend. So, I took it with a grain of salt. Or perhaps a tablet of salt.

Anyway, he soon leaves to go back home. I continue my sojourn through the city...basically walking around a bit and then warming up in a restaurant or cafe...or shop...I go get a pizza in a rather touristy establishment (the whole freakin place is French...and I swear my French was more useful in Italy than my English)! The place is packed...and I walk in...The guy says, sorry no room. I say..."just one?"...he repeats: "just one???"...I repeat: "just one"...

Now that the whole restaurant has been updated on my solo status...

But, I actually don't mind eating alone or any of that...it makes things a lot more convenient. Later on in my trip I ran into a Brazillian girl who was interested in travelling a bit together during the day...and frankly, she annoyed me. I like my pace (which is quite fast...but at the same time, very detailed and thorough in my own way. I don't like worrying about my effect on her pace, whether or not another person is happy, etc...perhaps I care too much.)

I finally got my pizza (usually I read a book while eating, but I had finished all my books...)...and so I sat there and stared forlornly around the restaurant and at my plate...I was sooo tired, I could barely focus on anything, and once you sit down, out of the cold...it seems to all catch up with you. The server guy comes by and he's like..."Don't you ever smile?"...of course he was joking...Then he went on to have a conversation with a bunch of other people at the restaurant about me not smiling...and how I should smile...

I explain that I've been on a train for 12 hours without any sleep, and almost lost my limbs...(in a normal state of mind I would not have gone into such detail...they don't care!). Anyway, the guy rebuffed all that with the fact that I'm young...I don't need sleep. Tell that to my body the next day as all hell was raised in my immune system.

After my eating experience and more sightseeing...I have to get back to the edge of the city to meet up with Thomas. Without a map I, of course, get lost at some dead end canal...However, I see an old lady get out of a house...she seems to be in a rush. I try pointing to my map, but she's almost breathlessly hopping, ready to be on her way...and she starts spieling off all the main touristy sites that I might be interested in finding my way to. Finally, she takes a look at my map and, coincidence? I think not...we're going to the same place.

Now this lady speaks only Italian, but lucky for me...French and Italian are extroardinarily close, and if Italians didn't do the singing, hand movementy thing...then probably even closer (but heck! all that's distracting!). So we start off on a brisk pace...she throws a candy at me and tells me to eat it...and we're weaving in and out of alleys...all the while keeping up a conversation with her speaking Italian...and me replying in pseudo-Italian (really French...but, adding the Italian sorta sounds and the few words I had picked up)...The lady had lived in Venice all her life, was 87 years old...and asked all about me. It was quite an interesting experience...a nice 25 minute walk...and by the end we were walking with her grabbing onto my arm. I walked her to buy her ticket, to find her bus...and we took a picture together. She was a sweet lady.

Then I returned to my business at hand. I still had about 30 minutes before I had to meet Thomas because I had travelled with the lady and had not gotten lost...so I went to get a hot drink at a cafe...and sat there, comatose...while creepy Italian guys tried catching my eyes. So I decided to pull out a map of Europe and examine it until it was time to leave. Finally, I ventured out into the cold and eventually met Thomas in his car who drove us back to his place where he normally lived alone, but had his mom living with him for the week. Thankfully.

We got in and I immediately took a shower and then fixed up my stuff by the other bed in his room. Yeah, normally he has a separate room for guests, but his mother was using it...however, he had a separate twin bed in his room...and things like that have never ever before been a problem for me...So, why now? I thought. He has a girlfriend.

Uh, yeah.

Anyway, we went down to have dinner...three kinds of pasta, an excellent salad, fruit...I was feeling a lot better...still feeling like I was getting sick, and a little of that derlirious feeling when you've been up forever...but better.

Then we started talking. He was talking about his girlfriend and me about Jack...it was really a very interesting conversation, he had a lot of interesting insights...and I was starting to really like him (as a person). I really enjoyed his analogies and explanations of certains things, although I really didn't agree with his whole outlook on relationships as a whole, which was quite cynical. He said I was too idealistic. Perhaps I am. But I much more prefer that...and my idealism is tempered with a reluctant cynicism/realism/pragmatism. Or, perhaps I give myself too much credit, but I do believe it's true.

He had a couple interesting thoughts, for example...that when I started my relationship with Patrick, I was looking for the equivalent of breakfast...and what I got in front of me was a 20-course meal...a huge dinner...That I wasn't ready for such things as my first serious relationship...but, that since it seemed all good...I kept eating...and now find myself at a loss, inexperienced...and slightly ruined. Honestly, I could see this.

We got ready for bed and continued our conversation. He was very thoughtful and very nice. And, in my mind, now totally harmless.

Now, let me explain the situation...I had been speaking about Jack...I hadnt slept for more than 40 hours, or something like that...I was quite distraught, derlirious...and well, dumb. Thomas played up the sympathy...(I do believe some of it was genuine...however...well...), anyway, I was feeling quite upset now...and he said he felt badly, that he wanted to give me a hug.

I mean, he asked, and I was feeling badly. A hug? Okay...maybe I'll feel better. Plus, it will erase all those freakin' "Jack-hugs."

Well, it was a hug...for like two seconds...then this guy starts trying crap...

Anyway, I tell him I'm not feeling well, to stop, and I get into bed. He gropes after me...(it is not a pretty sight, let me tell you...).

I tell him to quit it. That, I cannot suddenly mess around with him after that story...besides the mere fact that I don't do that.

But this guy kept telling me that he wanted to give me some breakfast...(to continue that analogy above)...and I kept telling him to go see his girlfriend in Russia if he wants to give anyone breakfast...I mean, come on! After my story about the creepy Italian controller...why couldn't I just get some freaking peace and sleep.

Needless to say it was like 3 a.m. by now...and he had to wake up at 9 a.m. tomorrow for work (which meant so did I). I was not happy that his stupid groping was keeping me up. I wanted to sleep!

Finally he agreed. Turned off the lights. I lay down...got all congested and just started thinking about everything...about the crap he had tried...and got really much more upset. Let's do a quick run-down of where I am now:

1) Haven't slept for 40 hours or more
2) Sexually harrassed by controller on Italian train
3) Nearly frostbitten
4) Sexually harrassed/molested by Italian host (F*CK, such initiations should ONLY come from the guest, if anyone. otherwise, how can anyone feel safe? doesn't anyone study the guest/host relationship anymore? Reference paper written freshman year for more information.)
5) Had three hour conversation about relationships and Jack.

Can we say a little emotionally and physically exhausted?

I felt horrible...all my trust in this guy, all my belief in his analogies, what he said...had just been obliterated...I felt like I'd betrayed someone. Well, at least myself. And so I just got up and sat there...and cried.

I thought about just leaving to find another place to stay...but by then I was already feeling really really sick. He saw me sitting up, and got up...at which point I quickly lay down...scrounched up in the fetal position for warmth...and quietly cried myself to sleep.

What a night.

The next morning I felt something touching me...stroking my hair and face...I jumped up in bed...(cue pounding headache, uncontrollable cough and flowing mucous...). Thomas was lying there and stroking me, and trying to do more. And it wasn't even 9 a.m. yet!

Now, if anyone knows me, I have trouble sleeping. Big troubles. Let alone when I'm sick...let alone if I'm woken up.

I was pissed.

I pushed his hand away, and lay back down. Told him to stop. He tried again...I moved lower in bed, covered my head more with the covers...and pushed his hand away...continuously...

I felt like shit.

I tell him that I am really sick, that since his mom is there and I can't stay there during the day to sleep...and I really need to sleep...that I must go to a hostel somewhere else...Well, long story short...he let's me stay during the day (of course, it had slightly been a bluff...because I was way to weak to make it a hostel... and he wanted to keep me near him...). Sigh.

So, I stay in that day...which is when I wrote blog entry "Train of the Damned, Part 1"...(he had made me a profile to sign on the net with)...

Before he leaves for work we have dinner...wherein he apologizes if I regretted letting him give me a "hug"...but said he has no regrets. To which I reply, "Oh, but of course...why would you have regrets? Perhaps your girlfriend would though..." (Poor soul...). Anyway, he says he really wants to be friends with me...blahblah..that he doesn't wanna be just another guy, that he wants to keep up correspondence, come visit me in Paris...blahblah...

In my mind...I think, you will never hear from me again...you are not even 1/100000th the man Jack was...which is quite sad. That I feel horrible for his girlfriend...that he is a slimeball, the epitomy of a creep...etc...

So, I tell him this. I tell him I must be able to trust my friends. That the only way I could trust him, and subsequently trust him (so that I can comfortably relax in his presence)...is if he didn't touch me at all for the rest of my stay there...if he acknowledged the fact that nothing physical can and ever will ever come out of our "friendship."

Of course, he would not. He danced around the topic...and that was that. But, at least we'd talked about it...and he knew where the line was drawn. He left for work...I went to bed...

When he got back from work we went for dinner and spoke about many things, including "foreskin" for some reason. Apparently he is not circumcised...and quite proud of it. Anyway, I am not at all a pro in that area, though I have read articles about it on a more scientific basis. I was trying to steer the conversation away from anything mildly physical or sexual...trying to talk about his girlfriend...but, yeah...that didn't seem to work well.

Afterward we went back home and I told him I wanted to go to bed early...that I didn't feel well. Long story short...same crap stroking business (I didn't fall for the hug again, I'm not that stupid.)...finally I told him to stop, to not touch me again, or I would leave at that moment. I told him to go jack himself off to his girlfriend's picture or whatever...but to stop bothering me!

This actually intrigued him. Sigh.

He wanted to show me his foreskin...and he whips out his thing...and starts masturbating...(yes, seriously)...he asks me how he compares to Jack...(I don't even look, and frankly I had such an urge to tell him that he's insignificantly tiny in comparison just to make him lose his steam and feel insecure...but, I felt badly (WHY!?)...and also, keeping him busy allowed me to rest without worries, at least...). Anyway, he finishes himself off and tells me he was thinking of me...I feel sick and tell him I just want to sleep, that he can do whatever the hell he wants. Just not to bother me, to not touch me, as I had said...or I would leave. He had to know it was a bluff...because I was slightly feverish by then...and in a really bad state. But, he did stop...and I finally got some sleep...

only to be awakened numerous times throughout the night by him trying to touch me. obviously, one cannot sleep in such conditions. so, I didn't sleep. I lay there half awake...let's not forget that I had finally managed to fall asleep with a cough...and then he had woken me up. Meaning, I spent the next five hours straight, coughing my lungs out. They're still bruised from that experience...hurt like hell the next day. It was really hard to breath...(I didn't care that I was keeping him up...he deserved it.)...I was freakin angry as hell. I needed sleep! I was sick!!!

You see, I've been similarly sick before in the past...and it has often turned into a type of bronchitis thing...asthmatic problem...that drags on for months...and I end up having a horrible time breathing...I needed rest and meds (he gave me the latter, but inhibited the former). Anyway, the next day I had planned to go sightseeing around the city...to try, at least...

This guy was kind and nice by day...but horrible, a monster by night...I found. So, during the day, he would even go to work a couple hours late...and then pick me up from the city...But at night. Gah.

So, anyway, back to me lying half awake...half asleep...in bed. The night before I had told him to wake me up 10 minutes before 9 a.m....that way I could sleep those fulfilling 10 minutes right before waking up...but, you know, I'm prepared to wake up. So, he woke me up again, stroking me...and then says that I had told him to wake me up...and so, he pulls back part of my covers...and gets in bed with me, trying to spoon me. While saying that he's just trying to wake me up like I requested.

I jump out of bed. "I'm up," I say. Then I rush into the bathroom to get ready. I feel sick to my stomach. Get ready quickly...and then we go into the city.

Sightseeing is nice...I treat myself to a really loooong lunch to warm up and feel better about things. Eventually it's time to get back home...(I can't wait because I'm tired...and I want to rest...it's cold outside)...

So, we get back to his place...we're talking...and he asks me about my type of guy, etc...I'm kinda fed up with him at this point a bit...so I am as mean as possible, or rather, truthful. lol. I describe the type of guy that interests me...all along he tries to compare himself to the description. Finally, I just tell him: "look, you're not at all my type." Then I soften it a bit. I'm sure a lot of other girls may find you really handsome...but I do not.

That out of the way (you would have thought he'd get the hint already), we go make dinner (my favorite pasta, Al Arrabiatta --which means "Angry Pasta" he tells me...hhmmmm...)...and then we go out to meet some of his friends at a club/bar...

What I didn't like more about Thomas was that he made it out to be like I was a capricious, temperamental, moody "typical woman"...when it wasn't that at all...

Anyway, one of the great thing about Italy...they passed a no smoking rule like in California last year. My lungs could relax a bit. (Another great thing is the way they answer their phones..."Pronto!"...I seriously wanna use that back in the States.)

So, on the way back home from the bar...between 1-2 a.m. is when I learned the stick shift thing...it only took me an hour...and he was really intent on teaching me. I dunno, why. But, heck, if he doesn't mind me screwing up his car...and since he's already seeking freakin' sexual favors...I might as well get what *I* can out of this situation.

Yeah, so, I suppose stick shift will always have slightly odd connotations...for me.
The next morning I packed up to leave...if I was staying at a better place I might have stayed another day...but, honestly...I was very eager to leave...(small wonder?)...and it was the first day I felt somewhat strong enough and up to it. Btw, that last night...I didn't even go within five feet of him...and told him to not lay a single finger on me...that I wanted to sleep. Perhaps the all night cough marathon the night before was why...but this time he (thankfully!) listened. The next day I packed up my things...we went by his work place for me to use the computer...went to lunch with his co-worker...

I was gonna do some more visiting in Venice, but I was too freakin' tired, sick...and sick of the whole situation of constantly being unable to relax...However, I forgot to mention that I bought a knife to add to my collection (the old woman in the shop who was showing me the knives creepily kept cutting herself with the blades and bleeding everywhere...but that's another small story...). I showed Thomas the knife the night before...telling him how the woman was instructing me on how the knife is useful for girls who want to really hurt guys...and surprise them. I gave him a momentaryily longer meaningful look before I put the knife away...

Anyway, I wouldn't use a knife on him. He's tall, but rather thin...I would just break his neck or something.

So, after lunch with his coworker...he dropped me off at the train station...and then asked me for a kiss. I said no...

he meants one of those europeans "kisses on the cheek" where u don't actually kiss...fine. whatever, I left. Yeah yeah...keep in touch! (ha!)


Then of course, I had all that drama with buying my ticket, with one name, then paying with a credit card with another name...cash machine was the answer. Kaching!

Well, anyway, the rest of my trip was 100 times better. My recovery was a lot faster outside of Venice...and my host in Padova and I wondered if he was secretly poisoning me to make me stay there longer...I doubt it. Like I said, the guy almost had two personalities it seemed. It was quite scary...and now I can understand how young kids with molesting uncles or something like that feel...how they explain their stories...their lovely, caring uncles during the day...and their sex-crazed molesting uncles by night. It's very sad.

Thomas commented on me as his guest...very positively. I in turn commented, "Would not recomment to females travelling alone...otherwise knowledgeable about his city, etc."...

Do you see how I can't even be rightfully mean to this guy? I had to tone it down. What am I afraid of? I was not going to comment...but then I didn't want other girls to have my experience. Well, I also didn't "trust" him.

When I got back home to Paris he instant messaged me with an English question (damn, I'm a sucker for those...otherwise, I was unresponsive)...he had also sent me an email in which he dared to mention "stick-shift" with a wink.

I didn't reply.

I won't ever reply.

Why do I have to tell myself to stay strong here...?

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