Lost in an Unfamiliar City

Faaiz Gilani
5 min readMay 14, 2023

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The road diverged into three different paths. Should I take a right? Or go in the direction of the restaurant I knew the way of. Tic tic, the brain started processing numerous possibilities, all promising a different outcome, yet the key was to remain calm and not let the situation get to my head.

Working under the scorching sun of Mexico for good ten hours had sucked the energy out of me. Lahore has similar weather, but the cold weather of London made me soft. To think back in A level, I would play cricket for hours in even harsher conditions but would be smiling at the end rather than panting for breath and struggling to keep up with my work. So when we all decided to go together to grab dinner, there was an urge to refuse and order at the hotel, but I went, knowing these were the few days to enjoy with the rest. Life in London has made me normalise having meals alone, which are low-key depressing, so why refuse to eat as a group?

The streets of Merida remind me of home. Not London. Lahore! While Lahore is much prettier, urban planning of the city makes one feel transported to Liberty Market or Kareem Block. The electricity poles, the footpath that is crowded with passersby, the construction of shops, street vendors, bikes on the road and the typical transportation bus. The walk usually led to me being a keen observer of the city. However, today, I had to ensure the city does not distract, and lose sight of my group. We were going to a new restaurant, one I had no idea about and was following my friend with the Google map operating. Upon reaching the city centre, I found myself at the back of the group and followed the rest. Just as we were about to approach the signal, a group of Mexicans crossed paths, coming in between the group and me. The line would not end, and by the time the last “amigo” crossed, a new problem awaited me. The friends whom I came with were nowhere in sight!

This reminded me of Liberty Market

The only time I was not supposed to get lost, I achieved the unexpected. No mobile sim, or internet, was the perfect recipe for disaster. As the mind reassured us that it would be alright, it recalled what we did the last time we found ourselves in this situation. And the truth was that I was never lost in my life (ever). Be it the airport in childhood or any school trip, I would be the one who would report someone missing in the first place. Today, I prayed that someone does play that role within my friends to notice that their talkative giant friend is absent. So what do I do now? Panic and start running around in the hope of finding my friends? Isn’t that what you always see people doing when they are lost?

This was the place where I lost my friends

Surprisingly, calamity prevailed with no sense of stress. Perhaps living alone and having earlier explored a global city (London) on my own familiarised me with the experience of being alone on the streets. I was more worried about what my friends would go through. They lost their friend on the streets, not knowing where his whereabouts, without any means to contact and unsure even if I knew my way back to the hotel. I would not like to be on the other end, as a million thoughts would go through my mind. Therefore, it was time to change the situation. I turned my neck to assess the options, and a restaurant was an ideal start. Go in, ask for wifi, connect your phone and contact your friends. “Hola! Is there wifi?” I enquired upon entering, but the girl behind the till looked unfazed. Her eyes kept looking at me, and I decided to narrate my whole story. From being lost to how I could not find my friends, the tale went on until she replied, “No inglesa solo Espanola” (No English, only Spanish)

Won’t lie, but a part of me sunk hearing that. I was aware of the language barrier, but having a Spanish-speaking friend was like a cheat code to acing life in Merida. I looked around the restaurant and humbly muttered “English?” to everyone. With a sense of guilt, they all shook their heads, adding to my misery. However, one setback wasn’t going to get the better of me as I now went towards three policemen. For some reason, I expected policemen in the city centre to be fluent in English, yet their response was even worse than those in the restaurant. They depicted rudeness in their refusal to understand what I asked. Dejected, the lad returned to the spot where he lost his friends and waited for someone to show up.

Soon, I learnt how your mood defines the place you are at. Suddenly, the walls of the city came closer to me, my stomach churned, and my blood went cold. The eyes of strangers, while they were watching earlier too, now caused discomfort. I still was not worried about myself but rather felt daunted by the idea of what my friends may be going through. With curses to remember the moment I lost sight of my friends and replaying the whole scene for a thousandth time in my head, slowly, yet surely, I could feel my nerves freaking out.

Places like this became noticeable when I started panicking

The ten minutes wait on the sidewalk felt like an hour, and eventually, I took a decision. It was an even bigger risk but…my best bet. With a deep breath, I decided to trace back my steps and return to our hotel. Was I sure of the way back? No! But did I have a better idea? With caution and silent prayers, I dragged my feet across the pavement until I finally reached Doralba Inn Merida.

I took this photo on my way back to the hotel

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Faaiz Gilani

An aspiring writer, with no prior writing experience, talking about his experiences to help others getting bored in Quarantine……….enjoy my short stories!