WHEN YOU SPEND EVERY night in a dorm, you become part of a little family. You don’t have to like your family, but they’re there and they hear about you as much as you hear about them. Their problems become your problems and their joys are your joys. I’ve been involved in the arguments and celebrations of travel mates and I know that the best stuff happens when they think you’re asleep.
A few nights ago in Bratislava, Slovakia, I was forced to eavesdrop on one of the more touching family breakdowns – a Bratislavian Bromance Break-Up.
I was organizing myself in my six-bed dorm when four young British guys came in. They were your typical group of British Gap Year guys, complete with Axe body spray and serious difficulty with the logic behind a pillow case. They rushed in, dibsed their beds, talked about how much they need showers, discussed the pros and cons of dinner at Maccas (British for McDonalds), made plans to get totally pissed that night and disappeared in a plume of scented deodorant.
Fast-forward to 4 a.m. when the group returned, slightly more clumsy than earlier but just as disruptive. They crashed around, talking about how good a deal the 4 Euro strip club was (“No, it was 14 Euros,” one finally corrected), and finally settled into their beds. Just as quiet returned, one of them whispered to the rest.
“Guys, I have to talk to you about something.”
Right. Good. It’s 4 a.m., you’re wasted, let’s all have a family meeting.
“Ok…” one of them prompted warily.
“I know you’ll probably hate me for saying this and you’ll probably never want to talk to me again and you might think I’m the biggest wanker but that’s fine.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on. I’ll sleep when I’m dead. This is going to be good. Come on then, spit it out. He was met with silence.
“I’ve decided I’m going to go to Budapest in the morning with the other lads.” He’d been on the phone with friends at another hostel during the Maccas discussion earlier. Cooler friends, apparently.
“I just think I get on with them better and I’ll have more fun with them.”
Ouch. I wanted to sit up, tell him to shut up, cut his losses and reconsider this discussion in the morning.
“I don’t mean to offend you at all,” he continued to fill the silence. Sure, British accents make everything sound nice and polite but that there crossed a line – an internationally accepted line.
“Well you have,” the other one said. Amen, brother. That’s when I decided that if a fight broke out, I was joining in.
This whispered conversation went on for a while. Dude #1 insisted it wasn’t to do with the other three, it was him and he felt that he was dragging them down, that they deserve better. “But you still want to be friends, right?” I wanted to add. “You love them but you’re not IN love with them, right?” This guy was obviously experienced in the art of classic break-ups.
The spokesperson for the other three tried to win Traitor Dude back with compliments. “You’re a hero man, such a laugh. What can we do to make you have more fun with us? We’ll do anything.”
“It’s too late, I’ve made up my mind.”
Someone please, cue up a soundtrack. Everybody Hurts, R.E.M., pronto.
“So we can’t change your mind?”
“There’s nothing to talk about.”
“This is going to break Wheels’ heart. He planned this trip for all of us and now you’re taking off.”
He may have actually said Will but I liked the idea of one of the involved characters, the most emotionally wounded, sharing a name with one of the best Degrassi characters ever. Wheels it was, and I felt for him.
The hopeless discussion wound down. One of them stormed off to the bathroom. Another got up and stared out the window while sighing heavily. Then I heard sniffles come from the bunk below me and I realized it was Wheels and he was crying.
It was pushing 4:30 a.m. I was convinced that Mr. Jumpship McSelfish would wake up in the morning and realize how unreasonable his proposition had been. Four hours later, the four of them were sprawled out in their beds when I left to get a coffee. When I got back, Jerkbagus Von Bailsinski had cleared out while the other three slept. The bromance was over.
I felt for little Wheels. Planning the trip of a lifetime for his buddies, only to have one of them take off with other people. I hoped he wouldn’t beat himself up over it. Real friends don’t ditch you in Bratislava. But as with all break-ups, there are some lessons here, ones that I’m sure the lot of them will pick up on before long:
1) A joyride to Budapest with the Party Boys is never worth the burnt bridges.
2) Never announce a decision between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m.
3) Travel alone.