A Stranger on the Road

by Idan Englander

A leap into the unknown Malta


You shouldn't talk to strangers. You shouldn't get rides from strangers. And you definitely shouldn't get rides from strangers in a foreign country at one in the morning-but sometimes you must make exceptions. We were set to stay in a hostel named THE HOUSE OF THE ANGELS-in all caps, mind you-by the owner, Moon. We assumed we would either learn the ways of the mystics or be sacrificed to their God, but the price was reasonable and the rooms looked welcoming online, so we booked. After landing on the Mediterranean island of Malta under moonlight, my girlfriend and I rode a rickety bus to the near-deserted port. A ferry eventually docked for the late-night voyageurs and took us into the night sea. Moon had informed us that getting a taxi once we reached land was easy enough. While this was accurate, the map was not, and we found ourselves driving slowly through narrow, crooked lanes of limestone homes looking for the address. We weren't getting very far in our search, so we bid the taxi driver farewell and told him we would surely find it on foot. We were mistaken. Once the taxi puttered away, all sound left with it; we could only hear someone's snores echoing off the stone passages, hard and bare inside and out. We were lost with no phone to contact Moon. A deep, pounding rhythm started growing louder and louder as a rattling compact came into view. Knowing this may very well be the only person in town awake at this hour, I waved him down without hesitation. I explained where we were going, but he admitted he wasn't familiar with Gozo. However, he was happy to search with us, so we piled in and off we went. The man came from Italy and had family in the area. I offered him crackers from the ferry in gratitude, but he politely declined. He raced through the streets-which was counter-intuitive to our cause, in my opinion-until we collectively gave up and set sights on the town center, where we might ask for directions. I thought it unlikely for anyone to be up and about at this hour, but a watering hole by the church had many locals old and young relaxing in the cool night air with their national lager, Cisk. An old man in flip-flops lent his phone to the Italian to obtain the correct path to the House of the Angels, and away we soared. As it turns out, Moon was not a High Priest but a young woman named Monica, who simply went by Moon. Exhausted from the long day of travel, we hugged her and made our way to our small spring bed adorned with plastic crystals and gemstones-not an altar in sight.