“There’s no way we’re going to sleep tonight,” my friends laughed. I cringed. My heart felt like it would burst with excitement about seeing Pope Francis only a month into my freshman year, but pulling an all-nighter without even doing work? I could only imagine my parents’ dismay.
We felt determined to be the first people there. Two in the morning came and went as seven of my friends and I piled into Ubers headed to the Capital. Out of thousands of spectators, we found ourselves among the first people eagerly waiting in front of the West side Capital gates. Thrilled with our achievement, the realization then hit that we had over eight hours of standing before the Pope’s highly anticipated appearance.
“Guys, I have to pee…”, I whispered to my friends. With people already crowding in behind us and aggressively trying to push their way to the front, there was no way to escape. It began to look like our prized spots were going to cost us more than we thought.
“It’s fine,” a friend piped up. “Let’s just stop drinking water, and then we won’t have to go to the bathroom and lose our spots.” What could possibly go wrong?
Alarm bells went off in my head. The heat was already suffocating, and I knew it was only getting hotter. Humidity and a plethora of bodies packed tightly together would make things worse. For some reason though (probably the sleep deprivation), I still couldn’t wait to see the Pope. Worth it or not, I was committed.
The eight hours it took for the Pope to appear felt like years. We watched the sun rise over the Capital as the dark purple and black colors of the night turned into golden orange and yellow hues of the early morning.
The only thing that could possibly ruin this gorgeous view was my bladder screaming. By some miracle, I’d been able to hold it for the past eight hours, but the more I thought about it, the more I imagined I’d get stuck in a Porta Potty when the Pope finally came out.
At this point, my head was throbbing, I had to pee and I could actually feel the sun sucking away my hopes and dreams. The Capital lawn was so packed I became far too acquainted with the sweaty back of a man’s head, and I hadn’t eaten for the past 12 hours.
But wait…was that really who I thought it was? The Pope was here! My concerns about my body disappeared immediately, replaced by pure awe.
See? Even the Jews like the Pope.
Listening to Pope Francis’ speech brought my friends and those around us to tears. As fantastic as the experience had been so far, I was overcome with a sense of lethargy. As the Pope’s speech came to a close, I had no idea how I was going to make it home.
You have got to be kidding me… was that Ben Carson? No way. While I’m not a follower, almost any Presidential candidate is worth getting a selfie with. I mean, not to brag, but I knew my Ben Carson selfie would get mad likes.
With a friend trying to clear a path for me in my now deliriously dehydrated state, we closed in on Carson. But just before we finally reached him, I lost my balance as I thought I saw stars. I fell into the arms of a rather intimidating police officer.
He asked if I was alright, but for some reason I had trouble forming a sentence.
“Oh she’s fine, she’s fine!” my friends nervously laughed. “Let’s get you out of here, Emma.”
So I stumbled out of the Capital’s lawn area, muttering to myself about how I didn’t get a selfie with Ben Carson. As horribly disappointing as that felt, things suddenly took a turn for the worse.
Everything went black. I got a recap from my friends about the following events, as I was unconscious at this point.
A friend ran and grabbed a secret service agent for help, who proceeded to get an ambulance and a slew of paramedics to come to my aid.
Finally coming to in the ambulance, you could say I was pretty baffled. I remember mumbling something about how the Pope’s blessing at the end of his speech didn’t work on me, and then losing consciousness again.
Now in the Emergency Room they scolded me for not drinking enough water and skipping lunch.
“It was for the Pope, though!” I quietly protested.
On my ride home from the hospital with one of my friends, I rested my head against the cool glass of the car window. I applied Chapstick to my cracked and sunburned lips, silently wondering how one person could have such bad luck.
We finally arrived safely back to our dorm and I made a beeline for my soft bed. As I slowly tucked myself in, snuggling up to my dolphin pillow pet, I dimly joked with my roommate that maybe I’d be able to laugh about the whole situation in six months.
Six months later? Lesson definitely learned — I can’t stop laughing.