46. Unmoved

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.

*****

When my lessons were over I went over to the Solaria in Central Park to meet Jeff as arranged. I still didn’t know exactly what had happened apart from what he had told me earlier. Simon had also told me that Jeff had confiscated his phone and asked me not to say that we had been in contact, which suited me. I thought the best way to find out what really happened was to hear both stories independently before making any judgment.

When I walked into Solaria I spotted Jeff sat alone in one of the booths in his unbuttoned linen shirt, reading a book. As I approached he looked casual and relaxed, albeit with a quite serious demeanor. He greeted me with a handshake and a polite smile and made some small talk about Solaria being his regular local eating spot. He had brought in his own drink, but told me that since he was known by the staff there they didn’t mind. He said it was his personal little place to get away from the noise of traffic and the mall and while away a few hours reading a book. He was an avid reader and he spoke about his love of Dutch and English literature and the library of books he had at home. Having told him that I used to write, he asked if I would let him see some of my work one day. I told him I had mainly written spec scripts and theatre work, so he wouldn’t really find it a good read. He said he would like to see something anyway and kindly offered to let me come and lend one of his books if I ever fancied something to read. Despite his quirks he was always cordial and difficult not to like.

After five minutes or so of small talk I turned to the issue of the robbery in his apartment and asked him to tell me more about what had happened as I hadn’t quite fully understood him on the phone. So with a sombre shrug of resignation, he told me that the girl Simon had picked up and brought back to the flat had apparently crept out of his room barefoot, quietly shut the door behind her, and then helped herself to anything of value that was in the living room – a laptop computer, two mobile phones, a Bluetooth speaker and whatever change was lying around – all of which had belonged to Jeff and his wife. She did leave her flip flops behind, but she had not taken anything of Simon’s. As cruel as this twist of fate was I couldn’t help but find it funny. The sheer injustice of it was just laden with irony. Simon should never have taken anyone back to the apartment without Jeff’s permission, let alone a complete stranger who he had literally picked up off the street; an apparently vulnerable, drunken stranger who he was for all intent and purposes taking complete advantage of. Yet, for Simon’s sins, Jeff had been robbed. However, my amusement soon turned to sympathy for Jeff when he told me that his laptop contained all of his personal photos on the hard drive. Mainly pictures from his wedding and family photos with his wife and daughter. This was a really bitter pill for him to swallow.

Was there any real divine justice in this world? Poor Jeff had done nothing but provided a room to a fellow expat. For that he had become the victim of his lodger’s unscrupulous behavior. And whilst he had not only confiscated Simon’s phone, but also his laptop, the monetary losses he had suffered were inconsequential in comparison to the personal loss of all those photographic memories. Almost every visual momento that he had captured of his only child growing up from birth was gone. It must have been devastating for the man. And I now recognised that casual yet serious demeanor to be the look of vacant despair; there was just no way he was ever going to get any of those memories back. And all because his lodger wanted to get laid. There was even a further bitter irony, because when I had first met Jeff to view his apartments, of the many things that we had talked about, the subject of technology and backing up data had come up. Jeff had dismissed the idea saying, “I don’t know anything about technology, but it’s no problem because I have all my photos on Facebook”. That thought must have been one of many going through his head that day. That and the fact that he was also out of pocket, which was the primary reason he wanted to talk to me.

I was now sure that Jeff desperately needed someone to move into one of his apartments. He even alluded to the idea that he might accept Simon back, but that was unlikely. He had understandably lost his temper with Simon after discovering the robbery, and although Simon had agreed to compensate him for his financial loss, they had parted on pretty bad terms. Despite pressing me on the matter, I couldn’t let Jeff know that I had been in contact with Simon, and I certainly didn’t want to let him know that we had been out together the previous night discussing sharing a place together. Whilst I sincerely sympathised with his situation, it wasn’t my problem. Why hadn’t he taken a copy of Simon’s passport, or at least a deposit? Jeff’s excuse was that he was a trustworthy man who saw the best in people. However, from the little that I knew of him, I suspected he was just a little gullible and foolish, and probably too eager to take Simon’s money rather than making sure the man he was going to share his family home with his wife and child was trustworthy. Making decisions in times of desperation is always a risky business.

I had no help to offer Jeff. I couldn’t give him a definite confirmation regarding his place, although I wasn’t completely ruling it out. I also couldn’t shed any light on the whereabouts of Simon, which in truth, I didn’t know. All I could do is offer my sincerest sympathies for his predicament. I myself still had nothing absolutely confirmed regarding my own living situation, which one way or another needed to be resolved in the next week.

45: Don’t Trust Strangers

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.

*****

When I got back to the school Debbie, Kate and all the usual students who attended classes were there. I said ‘Hi’ to everyone, this time with far more sincerity since my hangover had long since passed. I then sat at my work station and logged on to my personal Yahoo account. If Simon’s phone was switched off, the only way I could communicate with him was by email. I assumed that he had probably gone to his office so he would be able to use the internet. I was right. When I looked at the messages in my inbox there was one there from Simon. It read:

Hi Jeff,
So what a night!  Wow.
Anyway I will go with this lady now, do you also have her email address?
If you want to share, you can pay me informally every month you stay.
Adam

Now this sort of confirmed my lack of trust in Simon. He had totally side swerved the events that had taken place at Jeff’s apartment and was asking me about Vivi’s apartment! I gathered that he had made the assumption that Jeff had not been in contact with me and figured that if he didn’t mention what had happened then I would be none the wiser. Why wouldn’t he want me to know? Well, if you’re going to share an apartment with someone then you don’t want that someone bringing home random ladies of the night who are then going to clear the apartment out whilst you’re sleeping. What you do want is for the person you’re sharing with to be upfront and honest with you about things. However, to think that I would not find out about his little contretemps sooner or later showed me that Simon was a little bit stupid himself. I mean surely he knew that Jeff was going to contact me at some point. And how did he expect to explain why he was no longer living there?

Although I didn’t have the full details of what had happened, it was obvious that Simon could not return to Jeff’s apartment. This meant that he was now as desperate as me to find a place to live. Due to the circumstances, I would have thought that his need was even more immediate than mine. He obviously didn’t want to jeopardise the opportunity to share with me and must have thought that had I found out about what had happened at Jeff’s place I would have changed my mind about the idea. He wasn’t wrong, but  the truth was, I needed him as much as he needed me, only I wasn’t going to let him know that. I hadn’t done anything wrong to Jeff so should the worse come to the worse, I still had the option of renting the room at his place, though I really did not want to do that. Then again, due to the current circumstances Jeff, who struck me as someone who was struggling with his finances, would be more willing to negotiate on terms and price. Simon was no longer living there so he needed someone to help cover his expenses sooner rather than later.

It seemed like this comical yet unfortunate chain of events had put me in an unexpectedly advantageous position. One way or another, I would have somewhere to live at the end of the month.  But before I was going to live with Simon, he would need to be made fully aware that I was not the trifling buffoon that Jeff was. He needed to be clear that should anything like what had happened at Jeff’s apartment happen whilst we were sharing, there would be more likelihood of him leaving via the balcony rather than the front door.