It didn’t matter that she was in public, or that numerous strangers were walking past her without even pausing. It didn’t matter that this would ruin her makeup beyond salvaging. She simply couldn’t hold the tears back anymore. So there she sat, on a bench at the edge of a stone courtyard, sobbing into her hands. She was alone and hopelessly lost in this city, with no clue anymore how to get back to her hotel, and no way to navigate the streets and signs all written in the local language that she didn’t know.
She spent the past hour trying to keep herself together, approaching the kindest looking people she could find, asking for directions. One after another, she was met with a solid language barrier, getting only looks of confusion and shaking heads. Some even waved her off in disgust, until at last she had given up.
The sound of a throat being clearing above her made her jump, peeking up from her hands. A man was standing in front of her. “Um… sorry…” She was immediately too embarrassed to meet his eyes, instead only quickly wiping at her face.
What came next from the man was clearly a question, but she wasn’t able to catch a single word of it. She hiccupped over a sob, choking it back and finally looking up at him. She expected to see annoyance or even mocking on his face. Instead, his expression was nothing but open concern. He repeated his words, and though she couldn’t understand them, his tone was gentle and low, as if to help calm her. She felt at a loss. “Uh…I don’t…” she managed, shaking her head.
He frowned, seeming to understand the predicament. He gestured to the empty seat on the bench beside her, eyebrows raised in question. She nodded quickly and moved over to give him more space, sniffling and wiping at her eyes again. She knew her face must be a disaster of mascara streaks and red, puffy eyes.
He sat down, looking at the grass like he was trying to think. Glancing over to her, he softly asked another question. She looked at him, then at her lap again. “I don’t know what you’re saying…” she said helplessly, more tears falling as she partially covered her face.
She heard him mumble a word, sounding apologetic, and suddenly his arm was around her shoulders. The shock stopped her tears and she looked up. His face said what his words could not, that he only wanted to comfort her and she didn’t need to worry. He smiled at her and she felt such reassurance that she was able to return a small smile back, marvelling at how much safer she felt than before. Relaxing against him, she finally stopped crying. Somehow, this stranger hadn’t needed words to promise her that he’d help her, and everything would be okay. Maybe today wasn’t a total disaster after all, she thought.