Author’s note: This might have happened sometime a handful of years ago.
Shades of violet began to spill upward into the sky.
Rowed fields with the occasional farmhouse emerging out of nowhere became visible.
On this ALSA passenger bus it was too early in the morning to hold a conversation with strangers, but not early enough to feel bursts of frustration and personal disappointment. At this Lordly hour the only people I could imagine on the interstate between Murcia and Alicante were factory employees, contraband smugglers, and suckers late for an airplane.
As the sun started to make its morning cameo, a flash from two weeks ago came into memory.
The flight-booking website Skyscanner had an amazing deal from Alicante to London via Ryanair.
This deal was so good it was evil, so evil that I hastily purchased a roundtrip flight.
It was such a steal that I didn’t bother to see what time the flight left or to check ALSA’s bus schedule between Murcia, the city where I was living, and Alicante.
I told myself that everything would iron itself out in due time.
Fast forward to right now. The bus was on time but also it was becoming clear that I’d miss the plane. A combination of not packing the night before and a lack of hourly buses between the two cities had me in this undesired state of affairs.
I forcefully shut my eyes and tried to think of anything to distract my conscious from admitting that this outing was looking more like a day trip to Alicante than a weekend in London.
Bald eagles, vanilla ice-cream, Selena Gomez.
Nothing seemed to work, however opening my eyelids the flickers of sun reflecting off the vivid blue of approaching sea meant that we were close. In the distance, a solid streak of teal began to take shape, as if sneaking up on the rows of farmland and within minutes the blue took over the landscape. The tension inside my mind began to alleviate as we finally entered Alicante and eventually halted at loading bay of the cities’ bus station.
Hope wasn’t lost. There was still a tiny window of time to get to the airport.
Step one: Get to Alicante. Done.
Step two: Catch the shuttle that stops in front of the station and take it to the airport. In progress…
Clutching the black canvas straps of my backpack with determination I exited the ALSA bus and ferociously power-walked towards the street. I could feel a temporary gust of air as the glass doors of the station glided open and I hooked a hard right then one more at the intersection.
The outside was so bright that I had to rub the drowsiness out of my eyelids in order to focus on the bulky four-wheeled object directing itself towards me. This was the bus stop for the airport, and I was the only person standing on the corner.
I looked up victoriously, assuming that the mere presence of a human being standing vertically in the designated zone was enough to make the driver put on the brakes, open the swinging door, and invite the haggard looking traveler onboard.
The shuttle didn’t stop. It didn’t even slow down. It simply accelerated by me.
I turned my head to watch it disappear past a park with ficus trees and out of my life.
I don’t know why I didn’t raise my hand as it arrived to signal it to stop, nor why I didn’t make chase. I just let it go. It could have been that the Skyscanner deal was simply too good to put much effort into catching that shuttle, or maybe I knew that this would one day inspire me to write a blog post about it.
Either way, it was gone and the plan was ruined.
Standing on an empty street corner in Alicante with a backpack zipped full underwear and a couple shirts, I was hoping a bird would land by me to not feel completely alone.
If life at that moment was an arcade game, I felt like a guy with no tokens.
I didn’t worry about catching the next bus to Murcia, as I now had all the time in the world. I now needed food and coffee. Not knowing where the nearest sandwich or pastry shop was located, I simply took a defeated turn onto a random street.
The hunger became stronger, and for some reason not a single cafe was in site. A couple more blocks down the street and the only familiar view was San Juan beach and some distant seagulls as they flapped above. Through desperate eyes, I finally discovered signs of life.
Undernourished and under caffeinated I stumbled towards the entry and the whites of my eyes expanded as I gazed at what could have been a mirage.
Row upon row of small, vibrantly orange mandarines grouped in plastic crates right outside the market’s door. If I had the energy to count I would’ve guessed that there were hundreds just sitting there, waiting to be eaten. They looked so good that maybe they weren’t real; they could’ve been just for display and actually made of plastic.
I didn’t grab one, I grabbed four. I handed over a couple euros to the man behind the counter and walked out with my first meal of the day and a small bottle of water.
Citrus burst into my palate as I devoured the first one like a baby who hadn’t learned to chew. The skin peeled off in one piece. The next one had the perfect combination of sweetness and acidity.
The third mandarine was so easy to peel and tear off small pieces of it into my mouth that I almost got upset. At that moment I knew that I’d never again find a mandarine as delicious as the ones that were in my hands.
Scanning the blueness overhead, there was probably a plane somewhere in the infinite sky that had a vacant seat on it, but at this moment it didn’t matter anymore.
Brilliant sparkles of whiteness mirrored off the sea,
as I patiently undressed the last mandarine.
This one had a different flavor from the others…
…It tasted like redemption.