birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Some Enchanted Evening

I had just arrived in Prague, last November, and had managed to locate the bus that would take me into the city. My suitcase was somewhat cumbersome and the young woman smiled as I sat down next to her. Being fairly friendly and bold when I travel, I asked her, using my map, what subway I needed to take to get me to my hotel. She nodded and said that she was getting off at that metro stop and I could just follow her. I nodded my head wildly. Seriously? How could she be this friendly? We chatted a bit- I sensed her desire to speak English, and we talked about her recent trip to Barcelona and how she longed to visit California one day. Once we got off at our desired stop, she directed me to the metro stop; I thought she would take off once we got there. Then, she asked me if I had any Czech crowns. I didn't of course- I was waiting to go to the nearest ATM machine. The next thing, I knew, she had walked me, down two escalators, over to the metro ticket machine and asked me for some cash. I hesitated for only a second, though there was no need to, because the next thing I knew, she had bought me a 24-hour ticket, which she handed over, plus a bunch of Czech crowns in change. Clearly, I had watched too many episodes of SVU, because she then pointed to the platform I needed to get to, and turned to shake my hand. I said "Thank you" about a hundred times, and she shook her head. She said "I know how it feels, I've been in your position." This wasn't the first time this had happened to me, and I've had my ups and down being a tourist, but in this crazy world of ours, it's hard to trust people.

The flip side to this happened when I was in Greece, as a very young woman. On a busy corner in Athens, I asked an older man for directions. Nothing said young female tourist than me with my backpack, a money belt, and a map in my hand. He motioned to me with his hand, telling me he would "take me there." Relying on the kindness of a stranger and totally taken in by the magic and allure of Greece, a country I had dreamed of visiting for several years, I allowed myself to believe that this kind, elderly man had good intentions. We walked for 1 or 2 blocks, as I continued to believe he was walking me towards the Museum I was looking for. He paused at what looked like a secluded garden. He opened the gate and I walked in behind him a bit suspiciously. I turned towards him and it was quickly very clear what he wanted. The minute he put his hand on me, mumbling in Greek, I said "NO," turned, and high tailed it out of that garden or whatever the hell it was. I ran for a few blocks, and stopped when I felt I was safe.

My innocence never left me that trip, because several weeks later, I spent the night with a man I didn't know, that I had just met at a play. Clearly, youth had an effect on how I dealt with strangers. Though, to be honest, I would do it all over again, given the right circumstances.

Passing Through

Iron lung