Fare-fucking-well, Latimer Primrose

Fare-fucking-well, Latimer Primrose

It’s 2am in Paris. We haven’t slept or eaten properly in over 30 hours and the De Bercy bus station greets us with the scent of dank mould and urine. An attempt at using the toilet reveals a homeless man passed out on the cold floor and the end of the bus ride from London to Paris marks the last planned transit prior to arriving in Europe. It also proves our utter stupidity in having no clue of where in Paris Latimer Primrose’s family live.

We’ve been sitting at the bus station for well over an hour by the time Latimer Primrose gets a hold of her mum, only to learn that her family resides in Bordeaux, a five-and-a-half-hour car drive away. Great.

We decide to make our way to the metro; this on its own proves to be a challenge for Latimer Primrose. Her excessively heavy suitcase (quite literally up to her belly button) is catching on every possible rock, stick and cobbled path. It’s still dark, making it easy to hide the silent laugh I can’t stifle. I offer her a hand that she turns down with bitterness and haste, and finishes with, “I hate this – I want to go home!” I reassure her that once we’ve eaten and gotten some rest, she’ll feel differently.

I’ve known Latimer Primrose for over a year, and I’m quickly coming to the conclusion that I may have overestimated her ability to be adaptive and prepared for travel. Two things I’d convinced myself she most definitely was when committing to our one month trip around Europe.

It’s 6am now, and the metro station is starting to fill up at a comedic rate. After fucking around at the ticket machine for five minutes (my brain beyond possibly comprehending anything), a ticket assistant approaches us and in my state, I don’t bother to question the 50 euros he charges me for two one-use metro tickets and pockets immediately. Idiot.

Arriving at Gare Montparnasse, we make our way through the station, purchase tickets to Bordeaux and find our platform with relative ease.

It’s been two days in Bordeaux filled with petty commentary and complaints from Latimer Primrose, my favourite being her dramatic coughing fit followed by, “Ew, I hate cigarette smoke.”

We’re walking through a park in the city where there’s a hoard of children playing on a playground. Latimer Primrose comments on their high visibility vests.

“Aw look at the kids in their high Vs!”

To me this sounds like, “Look at the kids in their heavies.”

“In their what?” I ask for clarification.

“Their high Vs!”

“I have no idea what you’re saying.”

“They’re in their HIGH VS!” she spits back, as if my not understanding is a personal attack.“What the fuck are heavies?”

“The vests they’re wearing, high visibility vests!”

“Ohhhhhh!” I say, and laugh off the miscommunication.

The conversation clearly ended with bitterness on Latimer Primrose’s end. Later, she thinks it best to inform her family that we had a fight earlier in the day.

I’m not sure how long I’ve been here now. I emerge from our room and find Latimer Rose in the lounge finishing a call with her aunt in Germany, this being the relative we intend on staying with next. I sit down on the edge of the couch. I’m trying to make sense of the French children’s show playing on the TV, when Latimer Primrose turns to me.

“Hey, do you want to come to Germany?”

“…What do you mean? Isn’t that where we’re going next?” I ask in confusion. Why wouldn’t I want to come to Germany?

“Yeah it is, but…”

“Can we not stay with your aunt anymore?”

Latimer Primrose gives me a look that I can’t possibly misinterpret.

“Ohh, I can’t stay with your aunt?”

Some issue with Latimer Primrose’s aunt and her husband feeling uncomfortable with me staying has surfaced. It isn’t the fact that they feel awkward that bothers me — more that there has been weeks of reassurance that the families we are staying with will happily have us both. But if I’m honest, the relief that we will be parting outweighs the panic that follows after the confirming look my question receives.

After some deliberation, we decide we’ll head to Paris for a few days, then go our separate ways: her to Germany and me to God knows where. We book our bus tickets. I walk back to my room, where I have been spending most of my time, and climb into my single bed. I look at my absolute joke of a budget that I’ve managed to accumulate in the month between booking my ticket and flying out, under the guise that accommodation would be free almost the entire trip.

Fuck.

A knock at the door signals Latimer Primrose’s presence, I look up.

“Hey, just letting you know I cancelled my bus ticket to Paris.”

Are you kidding me?

“…Okay, that’s alright! I think I’m just gonna make my own plans from here,” I respond, bearing a smile to hide my frustration.

“Okay!”  she says smiling with little-to-no empathy, quickly turning and making her way back to the lounge room.

Eager to get away from Latimer Primrose sooner, I cancel my bus ticket and book a train ticket two days from now. I manage to pull together an itinerary within the hour with enough money to spare for food, or so I hope.

The night before I leave, Latimer Primrose’s aunt enters my room and sits by me on the bed. We can’t communicate other than in hand gestures and broken English. She makes it clear she is worried about me being alone in Paris. I try and explain that I’ll be okay. I use a paper map that I have of Paris to show her where I will be arriving and staying. I’m not sure she is any more reassured, but she gifts me with a pink t-shirt, sporting a French quote that I’ll never wear. I thank her for the t-shirt, but really I’m thanking her for caring.

The last couple of days pass fast; I wake up two hours before my train, and Latimer Primrose’s sweet aunt makes me breakfast and packs me a lunch to take. The one positive from my short time in Bordeaux was the unwavering hospitality offered by Latimer Primrose’s family, even in light of such events as our high Vs “fight”.

Myself, Latimer Primrose and her 10-year-old cousin who thought it best she came too make our way to the bus stop.

It’s 7am; my train is due to leave in an hour and knowing it takes two separate buses to get to the station, I have a feeling I’m cutting it fine. As we arrive at the second stop, the screen on the bus shelter blinks “15 mins” for the arrival of my bus. It’s now 7:30. I panic for a minute, create an Uber account and book a car, not knowing if it will make any difference.

By the time we’re in the Uber, it’s 7:48. Latimer Primrose asks Alexandre, the driver, to get us there as quickly as possible – perhaps the first useful thing she’s done on this trip. I can just see Alexandre’s bald head from the back seat as he tells me there’s no way I’m making it to the train on time. I cry a little while Latimer Primrose attempts to comfort me and her cousin blinks sadly at me from across the backseat.

Alexandre, being the hero he is, manages to charge through the peak hour traffic, getting to the train station in 12 minutes. This results in me giving him as generous a tip as I can from my tiny budget.

Latimer Primrose and her cousin run ahead of me and I follow their lead. We sprint from the parking bay, into the train station, down the stairs, through the hallway and up the escalator to the platform, still running we make it to the gate. I scan my ticket and as I approach one of the assistants, he waves his hands and tells me I’m too late before erupting in a laugh. hAha.

I’m making my way to my carriage and turn to see Latimer Primrose and her cousin waving at me beaming with joy as if we’d shared the most wonderful eight days of our life together.

Fare-fucking-well, Latimer Primrose.

Photos by the author

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