The cabbie was laughing as he drove away. He had stared at us with wide eyes when we gave him the address of our guesthouse, and assured us that yes, he did know where it was. After helping us unload our backpacks, he rounded the little black car and wished us a good stay at the “five-star Lodge Guesthouse,” chuckling as he slammed the door and left us among rubbish bins somewhere in L6.
This was, of course, entirely uncomforting. We had spent hours online in an attempt to find a suitable lodging in Liverpool, and the cabbie’s laughter told us that we had failed. I exchanged an exhausted and discouraged look with Kaitlin before we took a collective deep breath and crossed the street to enter the guesthouse.
Our reputable internet sources had told us that the place was suitable. It was close to Everton and the LFC, and attracted mostly football fans and larger groups for stag and hen parties. From the computer screen, the gray house hadn’t looked as if it were a bad place to stay—not the Ritz, certainly, but definitely not the rubble. The surrounding buildings looked safe and nondescript, and so we had pushed aside our doubts and booked ourselves a room.
In the darkness, it was hard to tell if the building was run down. All I could see was that the sign was working, all its letters lit, and the hedge wasn’t completely overgrown. Still hesitant, I reached for the door, hoping another option might suddenly present itself. When none appeared, I pushed the door open and Kaitlin and I stepped inside.
I was immediately greeted by a smell I could only describe as “clean”—it wasn’t lemons, or linens or eucalyptus, it was just clean. The reception area was immaculate, tucked away next to the stairs. Several miniature Buddhas sat on the desk, along with a bell that was labeled “Ring for Assistance.” Business cards were stacked in neat piles on the dark wood. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, letting the scent fill my lungs. Somehow it was calming, and after a few deep breaths Kaitlin and I had recovered our bearings. We were about to ring the bell when we heard someone distinctly Northern yelling from another room.
“Is that people out there? Do I hear people?” Kaitlin and I glanced at each other as a man bounded into the room. He wasn’t tall or impressively built, but his appearance was striking. A bleached line of hair started above each of his eyes and traveled straight back to the crown of his head. He had several lip and ear piercings, and as soon as he entered the room I had the sense that he alone was radiating the entire world’s energy. I explained to him that we were here to check in. He introduced himself as Anthony, then whisked us off to a back room so that he and Steve, the owner, could take care of payment. By this I mean that Steve ran our credit information while Anthony chatted, and by chatted, I mean that he asked us questions without really giving us a chance to answer them. By the time Steve handed us our receipt, Anthony was nearly jumping up and down with excitement at having made two new friends.
Anthony was given the task of showing us to our room. He kept up a constant one-sided conversation—“D ’you like music? What kinda music d’you like? D’you like punk music? There’s a pub down the street that has great live punk music and I’m always goin’ down’ere and gettin’ pissed and spendin’ all my money”—and we learned that he was from Manchester and had been hired to do some social media work for the guesthouse. He explained how to connect to the WiFi and informed us that “You get breakfast! Bet you didn’t know that!” before he bade us goodnight somewhat ruefully and went back downstairs to bother Steve.
If I saw him getting pissed at the punk pub as he claimed he did every weekend, I’d probably feel differently, but Anthony’s friendliness eased the doubts I had about staying at that guesthouse. As Kaitlin and I settled in to watch Hollyoaks before falling asleep, I thought about how an amiable welcome in an unknown place had drastically altered my perception of our situation. The exterior walls of the guesthouse were a nondescript grey, but the interior now seemed to be bursting with light and warmth.
Anthony was one of the few people in Liverpool we talked to who was genuinely friendly without asking for anything in return. We trusted him completely in booking us cabs, recommending things to do, and keeping us entertained while at the guesthouse. He was a saint of sorts, disguised by multiple piercings and N*SYNC-gone-wrong hair.
Fast-forward twenty-four hours: after four museums, one McDonald’s meal, and a thoroughly perplexing film showing, the only thing we wanted to do was get back to the guesthouse to ask Anthony if he had seen Gone Girl and if his mind had been entirely blown by it too. Upon our return, we found Steve at the front desk. He told us that Anthony had left at nine that evening and would be off the clock until the following evening. We went up to our room, disappointed. We did not see Anthony at breakfast the following morning. We called our own cab.
St. Anthony is the saint of things lost. Our Anthony found us when we felt lost, and he turned a potentially unpleasant experience into an enjoyable one. His warmth and enthusiasm reminded us that there are bright spots even in dismal situations, and in this case, our bright spot was the friendship of a small but excitable punker from Manchester.
Lindsay is a recent Westmont College graduate. She’d pick gold over silver if she had to choose, but Sherlock and Psych are tied as her favorite TV shows. 2014 stands out as her most significant year to date, when the high and low point of that life-changing time was getting her credit card stuck in a machine while topping up in the Madrid metro.