There’s something about travelling alone that brings people together. I remember sitting in a bar in Dublin airport with about an hour before I could even check in and I saw something that reminded me of a night I had in Australia, and it prompted me to think it must happen all the time. Essentially a young lady on her own sat down at the counter next to a young man on his own. They didn’t appear to know each other, certainly for the first half an hour or so they ignored each other. But they got to chatting in the manner of old friends and left together. Maybe it turned out they were on the same flight, maybe they were a couple who had an argument at check-in and she found him there brooding over a drink and they made up, who knows? But it made me think of how strangers become friends.
A few years ago now I went to Australia. This one particular night I was staying at a hostel in Melbourne in preparation of an early start to a trip along the Great Ocean Road to Adelaide. After I’d been given my key and dumped my stuff I did what every good Englishman does when on his own and at a loose end, I went in search of a drink. I sat at the bar of the pub next door, ordered a beer and started watching the Aussie Rules game that was playing on the TV. Before long a girl came in and sat next to me, ordered her own beer and also started watching the game. What made me do it I don’t know (I’m always surprised when I spontaneously start talking to a girl) but I turned to her and said something like “You’re on your own as well then?” and what followed were a few of the most comfortable hours I’ve ever had. What we talked about I couldn’t tell you, the alcohol on the night and time since have robbed me of details. What I do remember is her name was Becky, she worked for British Airways, she lived in Newcastle, she was staying in Melbourne with her parents in a hotel just up from the hostel and she had a boyfriend. But it was one of those evenings where two people just ‘click’. We talked without any awkward silences, we laughed and she showed me her ‘positive, permanent scar’. A tattoo on her left hip she’d had done after a dark time in her life she’d come through and survived. Towards the end of the evening she linked her arm through mine and rested her head on my shoulder. Another English guy started talking to us and asked how long we’d know each other, he almost refused to believe we’d only met that night. We swapped email addresses and she asked me if I would walk her back to her hotel. I agreed and she went to the toilet. I never saw her again.
What happened I guess I’ll never know. Probably we were both that drunk that we missed each other and she just decided to go back on her own. I know plenty of people who have a homing instinct that kicks in once the drink gets too much. I did send her one email after I got home to see if she had got back to the hotel but I never got a reply. It’s strange to think that you can meet someone you click so well with for one night and then have them disappear from your life again, you going in your direction and them going in their’s. I still think of her every now and then, when I’m reminded like I was that that afternoon in Dublin airport. Does she still think of me I wonder? The bloke in Melbourne who was supposed to walk her back to the hotel but then disappeared. I hope so. I hope she did make it back ok and that if we were to ever meet again it would be as friends. I hope the two strangers I saw meet that day made it back ok as well, whatever direction they were going.