53.Finding Treehouse

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

*****

After walking up Kemang Raya for a short while, I didn’t get a geographical epiphany and suddenly remember where the elusive Treehouse venue was, but the girls spotted a place they had been to before.

We walked up the steps into a noisy little cocktail bar called Attics. It didn’t look much from the street but inside it was a chic modern space, very dark, lit only by glowing purple and red panels around the bar. We sat at the glowing bar and I ordered some drinks. I shouldn’t really have bothered as the music was horrible. A shrill, caustic sound that was tantamount to a forced electronic ear-fuck. As we sat at the bar trying to talk, every word was assaulted by this hideous, aggressive, techno sound that seemed to be the theme tune to Jakarta’s nightlife. It smashed into the tight dark space and ricocheted off the walls, battering the life out of us until we could take no more. We endured about fifteen minutes before drinking up and escaping.

attics-kemang

As we stepped out of Attics and turned to go back up Kemang Raya, I suddenly got that geographical epiphany I was waiting for and remembered where Treehouse was. It was the big McDonalds on the corner that jogged my memory. I remembered walking past it when I had gone there the first time. As I had suspected, it was just a stone’s throw away from Murphy’s, which was only a short walk from Attics.

Once inside, I remembered just how small Treehouse was. There were about fifteen people in the downstairs bar, but that was enough to make it crowded, so we walked up the roped spiral staircase to the little terrace.

It was either a coincidence or Treehouse must be a popular spot for parties. I don’t know whose birthday it was, but there was still a lot of cake left and whoever it was didn’t mind us being there. Besides that, there was a free sofa and table and I was in no mood for doing any more walking around Kemang. Like everywhere else in Jakarta, any unnecessary walking around Kemang increases the risk of an ankle injury.

The DJ in Treehouse was playing some respectable old school funk and hip hop at a respectable bar room volume. A simple equation but one that was clearly lost on the proprietor of Attics and all those bars around Tribeca Gardens. Being able to hear ourselves think, the two Naomis, Simon and I finally settled into our drinks and the rest of the night.

The two Naomi’s were similar but different. They had been best friends since school and had come to Jakarta to work for a film production company. It wasn’t too clear what their roles were, but they were both working in some kind of capacity as production assistants for an advertising or media company of some sort. They were both from Amsterdam, which is a pretty cool city, so understandably they were far from impressed with Jakarta.

“We have only been here for a couple of weeks, but oh my God it’s so fucking boring!” said the smaller Naomi, suddenly animated now the niceties of introductions were out of the way.

Little Naomi was arguably the prettier of the two. She was a lively, petit little thing; no more than five-five, long brown hair with big wide eyes. She had a stud in her pierced tongue and a voice like an excited teenager at her first concert. She wore white Adidas shell-toes with her little mini skirt and tight little backless crop-top. She had that kinetic energy that winds down to a standstill before most people get to their late thirties.

The other Naomi also sported a pair of retro-Adidas, but she wore them with a pair of trousers and a patterned blouse. She wasn’t small and petit or or as energetic as her little friend, nor did she look like a typical northern European. Her black hair and olive-skin betrayed her Mediterranean origins. “My parents are from Cyprus”, she said when I asked her “but I was born in Holland”. I had worked as a holiday rep in Cyprus many years ago, which was a most memorable summer. However, I never learnt much Greek apart from ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘cheers’, all of which I pronounced badly.

I found the Dutch girls to be good company, particularly the little one. She just had so much energy, practically bouncing up off her chair when she spoke. It was a very low chair and she was wearing a very short skirt so she couldn’t help inadvertently flashing her little black and white polkadot knickers at me every couple of minutes; a running theme of a Kemang night out perhaps? Hmm, could be worse.

Time flew as we each finished a couple of Jack Daniels and cokes. I was enjoying sharing the company of a couple of lively young women who spoke English, but I had noticed that Simon had been a little subdued. I thought that his early drinking may have caught up with him, or maybe he wanted to go somewhere a bit bigger, a bit more lively. Perhaps somewhere less young and trendy. Me and the two Naomis were dressed pretty casually – smart, but casual. Simon on the other hand was in his suit and may have felt a little out of place. Whatever it was, he wasn’t being his cordial and congenial self, so after we finished our drinks I suggested that we go to Bremer, the big lively outdoor venue next door that I had been to that first night I came to Kemang with Claire.

 

51. Almost, But Not

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

*****

Despite the fact that my days off were Tuesday and Wednesday, Friday still marked the start of the weekend. This weekend also marked a full month since I had been in Jakarta and a week since the robbery at Jeff’s apartment. Yet since agreeing to flat share with Simon, he had not yet formally signed a contract with the owner Vivi.

It was probably just my instinctive lack of trust for the man, but I was beginning to suspect that Simon was stalling and considering other options for himself. He had made excuse after excuse for why he hadn’t finalised the signing of the tenancy contract with Vivi. By now he had got himself another phone, but he hadn’t bought any phone credit to call her and she hadn’t called him he said. She had told me that she had emailed him several times to request a copy of his passport, which she needed to finalise the tenancy contract, but he told me hadn’t received any email from her. Perhaps he had reconsidered living in an apartment complex next to the man he was trying to avoid.

In the meantime, I had Jeff sending me messages asking if I had seen Simon and asking to meet with him “to talk”; about what I don’t know. I suspected that he was anxious to get me to give him confirmation about his apartment. I didn’t owe either of them anything, all I needed was a place to move into. If Adam let me down I always had the room in Jeff’s place to fall back on, but Adam didn’t know that. I also figured that Jeff suspected that I was stalling him because he knew I had agreed to move in with Adam, but I hadn’t confirmed that fact with him either. So as it stood, until Adam signed the contract with Vivi and paid his deposit, I was still in a limbo of sorts.

It was all ridiculous. I felt like one of the players in some petty drama where all the characters were trying to con, bluff and double-bluff each other: An English teacher thousands of miles from home, a salacious salesman masquerading as an English gent and a Belgian buffoon with a place to rent. But who can be trusted? It was comical really. But at the same time it wasn’t, because I needed to move, and my time was running out.

I didn’t want to give Simon an ultimatum so instead I pretended to be relaxed about the apartment and told him that I had found another place that I could move into if he was having second thoughts. This seemed to spur him into action and he promised to arrange a meeting for us to get the keys off Vivi on the Monday. In truth, I had until the following Wednesday, which bought me a little bit of time if he didn’t come through as agreed.

I may have been just a little paranoid about Simon, but I didn’t really know this guy and my instincts were telling me that he couldn’t be relied on or trusted. There was just something about him that I found ingenuous. Probably that fact that he was a salesman; can you ever take the word of a salesman? There always seems to be something manipulative between the lines of what a salesman says. So it was with Adam, with his penchant for evading direct answers to direct questions and his ever so particular choice of the appropriate adjective. Furthermore, he described himself as a libertine and seemed quite proud of the fact that he had no moral qualms about how he sought his pleasures. Obviously, this wasn’t the best foundation for the start of a flat sharing relationship, but unfortunately I wasn’t left with much choice. Nevertheless, it was Friday and Friday is the first day of the weekend and should be a good day anywhere. Whatever Adam’s faults, he was a fun guy to go drinking with, and he was the only guy I had to go drinking with. So with Monday set as the date for signing the contract and collecting the keys, we agreed to meet in Kemang for a night out. Also, with this being Simon the salesman, there was another reason why he was keen to go out – I still owed him for that night he had covered in Loewy’s and Blok M a couple weeks earlier. This night was going to be on me, but there would be no late night pick ups!

50. Mind The Gap

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

*****

As I walked in the sticky heat from FX mall to the main atrium at the centre of Senayan Plaza, the sharpness of contrast between the lives out on the street and the aspiring lifestyles presented in the mall was startling. Passing the sweating vagrants and exhausted hawkers pitched up along the road desperately trying to earn a living whilst those who had broken through, those who had gained employment, those who had gained a uniform, those who were shielded from the unsightly poverty grazed in the shop windows inside, cut through to the poor inner city kid at my core. I just couldn’t help but feel socially disconnected from the air of superiority in the place.

Walking through Senayan Plaza felt like walking through a hologram; none of it felt real. Irrespective of the fact that it wasn’t very busy, it felt empty. Devoid of any soul. There was a very attractive, smartly-dressed Indonesian woman travelling up on an escalator. She carried an air of importance about her, but for no reason that I knew. I saw an Indonesian man in a sharp suit sat at his laptop in a stylish coffee shop. He looked focussed and aspirational. In fact, as I looked around, I noticed that everyone in there looked as if they were of a superior, aspiring class. Particularly the Indonesians. I imagined none of them had any reservations about turning their backs on the life of indigenous poverty outside. Their goal was being achieved, if it hadn’t been already. I wondered if they even cared about those left behind on the streets and those doing the shit jobs for shit money. They probably didn’t. Like many people who have escaped the poverty trap, they are likely to have been hardened by the idea of never returning to it. For those who were never there, there is seldom empathy for those who are. Despite being all too aware that this was simply the way of the world and I should accept it, my thoughts wound me up.

In 1965, Britain and the USA backed a violent coup in Indonesia to oust the then President, Sukarno, from power. Sukarno wanted to implement a socialist style of economic reform in Indonesia and redistribute the wealth of the country amongst its people. He had already rejected the edicts of the IMF and World Bank, infuriating the rich western nations who knew the huge financial potential of exploiting the economy of Indonesia and gaining control of its natural assets. They knew that if they could impose their version of western democracy and thrust a brutal Milton Freidmann style of capitalism onto this nation, it could be transformed into a rich cash cow for generations to come. So with the support of western commercial interests and information provided by the CIA, a military coup led by General Suharto took over the Indonesian government. This violent coup led to the imprisonment, torture and brutal murders of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians. In fact, it is believed that in a little over a month, Suharto’s brutal regime massacred around a million people. Witnesses at the time said that the small rivers and streams in Java ran red with blood and were clogged with bodies for weeks. And for what? so that one day someone could drive to a fancy mall in an air-conditioned luxury car, buy a Gucci handbag or a pair of Nikes and stop for a fucking Starbucks before going home!? It’s insane. Senayan Plaza was insane. The clinging humidity of the outside world glued me to those who were relegated to the streets and the commercial opulence of Senayan Plaza disgusted me.

plaza-senayan

The prize of progression.

I got a sense that Indonesia – Jakarta in particular – had been forcefully nudged toward a commercial culture in the mould of western society. South East Asian pegs being forced into western consumerist holes; holes that quickly become bottomless pits of emptiness that can only be filled by purchases of unnecessary shit. Pits filled with snakes that want you to spend all your money. Pits that lure you in with advertiser’s lies about improving your lives and seductive marketing promising you happiness if you spend. These pits have little room for ethics or culture unless they can be rebranded and used to sell more shit. These pits use spin to make you dizzy and forget who you are and where you were going. Like the proverbial crab in a barrel, once you’re in this pit you forget everything as you try to crawl to the top to get the latest, newest, most improved stuff to fill the hole in your life that those seductive corporate marketers have convinced you that you must have. Wants become needs and as you pursue those imaginary needs you no longer want to hear about what is beyond your aspirational consumerism because it gets in the way of the dizzying dream of the shopping pit and its promise of a better lifestyle. Fuck pollution and the environment, fuck culture and tradition, fuck your friends, neighbours and countrymen over if it makes you rich. Fuck an expat if he can help you be that badass bitch with the Gucci handbag and Manolo Blahniks. It’s a well-worn path in the industrialised west, but it doesn’t seem to fit here. No more than those naturally broad flat Indonesian feet fit into those narrow high-heeled shoes. Having taken a glimpse of the rural life on Java, Jakarta’s culture feels as ill-fitting and unsteady as the beautiful Indonesian girls painfully hobbling through the malls and nightclubs in six-inch heels and tight mini-skirts. It feels as odd as those young, aspiring go-getters in their shiny, pointy-toed shoes, tight pants and long-sleeved shirts sat at their laptops in 30° heat. It just feels wrong.

I was going to take a taxi back to Taman Anggrek because it was rush hour and the bus was likely to be packed, but I didn’t want to. It felt somehow hypocritical. As ridiculous as it sounds being British Expat with all the privilege that it affords, I just felt like I wanted to be with the regular people. I didn’t want to be in the air-conditioned bubble that many of the expats spend their lives in as they travel from office block to apartment block in taxis. I think I maybe just wanted to readjust my social compass and brush alongside reality for a while. Or perhaps I was just having another rush of extreme culture shock.

49: Plaza Senayan

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I took a look around FX mall there wasn’t really a great variety of shops for a place designed for shopping. There were probably more places to eat than anything else. I did find one sports shop, but they didn’t sell swimming goggles. However, the eager young sales assistant told me that I would find more sports shops in Plaza Senayan, which was a much larger mall that was “only next door”. Naturally “only next door” isn’t quite as simple as it sounds in a mega city knotted together by traffic, pollution and crazy paving. It’s even less simple when the place isn’t actually next door.

Plaza Senayan is behind FX at best. Quite a long way behind it. Nevertheless, it isn’t too hard to find as it is the largest of all the nearby structures, with its apartment block towering a good few stories higher than any of the surrounding buildings. There is also the Senayan City complex across the road from the plaza, so if you miss one of the developments you will probably find the other.

senayan-city2

Senayan City on the other side of the street

When you see Senayan Plaza, it is clear that this place is one of the showpiece shopping malls in Jakarta. It is a pristinely maintained mecca of high-end consumerism. Most people probably go there by car, which spares them the embarrassing discomfort of facing the contrasting display of poverty that clings to the fringes of this extravagant development. I myself got the full view of Jakarta’s gaping poverty gap as I walked from FX mall to the rear entrance of Plaza Senayan. Turning the corner down the street that runs alongside Gelora Bung Karno National Stadium, I passed the poor street vendors sat at their mobile rickshaw shops and the many homeless people sat begging on the street before turning left down the side street that leads to Plaza Senayan car park. As I teetered along the edges of the unpaved pavement, trying to avoid slipping into the deep gutter that ran alongside, and ducking and dodging the overgrown trees and bushes pushing their way into my path, I could see this gleaming palace of commercialism just ahead. There was a queue of Mercedes’, BMWs, Land Rovers and other $60,000-plus cars queuing up to the barrier and security checkpoint that allows you through to the rear car park of this big shopping, office and apartment complex.

At the checkpoint security guards opened the boot of each car, took a cursory glimpse inside and glided their bomb detection mirrors underneath the chassis’. Indonesia has been targeted by Muslim extremists several times in the past, but it seemed that the security was there for show more than anything else. I’m no expert, but looking in the boot of a car for a little less than a second is not the most vigilant or committed of security check procedures. I managed to stroll past this security pantomime unchecked, through the outdoor car park across to the rear entrance of the building, past another security guard, beyond the information point, across a road coming out of the underground car park where there was a valet service, and straight through the underground promenade that leads to the main shopping arena totally unchecked. I guess putting people in uniforms and giving them shiny badges is good for morale if nothing else.

As I walked through the promenade that led to the main shopping centre, there were bistros and coffee shops flanking either side. They were serving a busy looking assortment of expats, professionals and ‘suits’. An oriental man waved his hand in the air without looking at anyone in particular. His casually arrogant gesture prompted a waiter over holding a very modern looking digital ordering pad and ready to service the customer’s needs. As I looked around I noticed that there were more white faces and English voices in these bistros than I had seen anywhere else since being here. It could have easily been a hot summer’s night in an upmarket business district of London.

senayan-coffee-shop I carried on into the mall and there they were – Gucci, Dior, Bulgari, Armani, Rolex – all the commercial marques of distinction (and Zara) that tell people they’ve made it, or at least give them the appearance of someone who has. There were no gaudy, clashing colours or tacky promotion people hanging out of doorways with frivolous gimmicks. Everywhere was polished, cream marble, brass, chrome and glass. It was undoubtedly a very classy place; aesthetically at least. For as beautifully designed this temple of exclusive commerce was, I suddenly found myself filled with this feeling of contempt.

plaza_senayan-interior

Plaza Senayan, a gleaming temple of consumerism

48: The Best of a Bad Situation

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

*****

After a couple of days, I calmed down. Simon had been in Malaysia on business during that time and we had arranged to meet when he got back. I wanted to see him face-to-face, hear his side of the story about the incident at Jeff’s apartment and just feel him out a bit more as a person.

We met at a coffee shop in FX mall in Surdiman where the big EF school was located. It was central and the only place I really knew outside of Taman Angrekk. He arrived a little later then me looking a little bit sheepish. Nonetheless, he greeted me with his customary firm hand shake and big toothy smile before sitting down and filling me in on the details of what had happened at Jeff’s apartment.

There really wasn’t much more to add. It was pretty much as Jeff had told me. The only other pertinent detail was that Jeff had threatened to expose some porn that he had found on Simon’s phone to the Indonesian authorities. Simon assured me that it wasn’t anything creepy and I didn’t see any reason not to believe him. Despite being quite nervy, the effusive confidence that I had seen in him somewhat dampened, this was mainly down to his concern about how any pornographic material might be perceived in such a devoutly Muslim country. However, considering the blatant prostitution on display at Blok M and the far less than modest dress of some of the women to be seen around the nightlife in Jakarta, I convinced him that he was unlikely to be publicly stoned for looking at some naughty pictures and a few porn clips. Despite its strong Islamic influence, Indonesia was not Saudi Arabia. However, his arrogance concerned me a little.

Simon showed no remorse for the personal loss he had caused Jeff; the poor man had lost all those personal photos of his wedding and his only child, but Simon didn’t seem to care. He actually believed that Jeff was the one who owed him an apology for his overreaction! Losing his temper, shouting and calling up security – how dare he!? From Simon’s pragmatic viewpoint, what had happened at Jeff’s apartment was simply an unfortunate accident. A misjudgement. He had apologised and had agreed to pay Jeff back for any of his financial losses, so in Simon’s mind there was no need for the ranting and raving – the nerve of the man was incredible! As a father myself, I explained to him how angry I would have been. I told him that had it been me, I would probably have beaten the shit out of him. Nevertheless, he was unrepentant, something that I kept in mind as we eventually agreed to a flat share.

I felt that I could manage Simon. He had already cocked up so he wasn’t likely to do it again. I think he also knew that I wasn’t of the same placable temperament as Jeff. Furthermore, he was still paranoid about the potential repercussions of Jeff going to the authorities and telling the story of how he let a Bule stay in his home with his Indonesian wife and child, not knowing that this dirty man who indulged in porn would expose his family to thieving prostitutes. Simon may have known as little about Jakarta as I did, but he knew more about Asian culture and I guess it was in his best interests to avoid any problems that could jeopardise his life and work situation here. Besides, I had agreed to broker the payment of the 16,000,000 IDR that he had told Jeff he would give him as consolation for his financial loses. This was around a £1000.

His cheap lay had proved to be pretty damn expensive!

On the whole, the situation had put me in a vantage point because Simon really couldn’t afford to piss me off. It was with this in mind that I agreed to go ahead with the flat share. We would take Vivi’s apartment and I would pay him on a monthly basis as long as I wanted to stay. He had seen pictures of the place, all that was needed was to meet Vivi, sort out the paperwork, pay the deposit and make arrangements for moving in at the beginning of the following month, which was less than a week away. He even agreed to let me have the bigger room at no extra cost, so on the whole I was getting a very good deal. Perhaps some bad things do happen for good reasons. In the meantime, he would be staying in a hotel in the north of the city. It was quite a way away from Taman Anggrek, so there was little chance of him bumping into Jeff.

After our chat, we cordially shook hands on our agreement and Simon shuffled off to a meeting with one of his clients. I headed off to look around the mall for a sports shop that sold swimming goggles. I just couldn’t cope with the stinging feeling in my eyes from the pool, and I had been missing my morning swims. They were like my period of meditation within the chaos of my current Jakarta life.

I was now within touching distance of finally having a permanent place to live, albeit sharing with an imperfect stranger. I had never flat-shared before, so despite my relief at sorting out my housing issue, I was starkly aware of the possibility that there was plenty that could still go wrong. But for the time being, I really didn’t want to think about it.

47: Chaos Theory

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

*****

It had been a little over three weeks since I had arrived in Jakarta, but it had felt like three months. Eventful for mainly the wrong reasons, apart from my trip to Jogja, my time so far had been pretty unsatisfying and frustrating to say the least.

Of course, niggling little issues are to be expected when moving to a new country, especially when moving from a European country like Britain to a mega city in a developing country in Asia. But the huge cultural changes weren’t too much of problem. The disorientation of being in an unfamiliar place and the unfamiliarity of everything was actually one of the things that excited me. No, it was simply not having the anchored security of my own place to live.

This was the first time in my life I didn’t have my place. A place that I could call my home. A place from where I could manage all the little obstacles that are part of daily life. I was confident that I would meet people and build a social life with other expats. I was confident that the estate agent back in Manchester would eventually find a tenant to rent my house. And despite the relatively humble income I would be getting for teaching at EF, I was pretty confident that I would manage to live fairly comfortably during my time in Jakarta. But until I had a decent place to live, all of that confidence was on hold and every issue seemed like a mini-mountain to conquer. And the fact that sheer misfortune had thrown itself in my way just as I was on the cusp of resolving my housing issue made me feel like my bold adventure was destined to be a disaster. This feeling was wrestling with my determination to remain optimistic.

I didn’t want to be negative, because negativity breeds negativity, but come on! Did such a fun night out really have to turn into such a fucking calamity? Did the first guy I befriend really have to be such an irresponsible letch? Am I simply a magnet for chaos? Had I travelled half way across the world in search of a paradigm change in my life only to realise that the chaos I was trying to escape was actually an insidious part of my own destiny? Or was I just overreacting? I had my health after all, which is priceless. Time would tell; or was it already telling!? Fuck! Fuck, fuckity, fuck!!!

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.