55: Shame and Suffering

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

*****

The ideal fiction for what happened next would be for me to recount the menage et trois fantasy of every grown man; to tell you that those two young Dutch women couldn’t wait to get me back to their place so we could all get naked and have a lick-nasty, sordid three-way. Well, whilst the truth is often stranger than fiction, in this case it’s just plain ordinary. We simply listened to some music, talked for a while and then I fell asleep. Although, I don’t actually remember when I fell asleep. I’m pretty certain it wasn’t long after we got there. I don’t even think I managed to finish any of the beers we bought from the mini-market. It was a little embarrassing for me to be honest. They lived in a kost, which is the Indonesian name for a homestay. In their case, it was basically a hotel room with a bed in the middle and an en-suite bathroom. When I woke up I was sprawled across the bed so they wouldn’t have had anywhere to put themselves; awkward!

“Hey, come on party boy. Your taxi’s outside” I heard one of them say as I unpeeled my eyelids.

Disorientated and a little embarrassed, I mumbled an apology for my lame showing, slowly got up off their bed and shuffled out of the room through a pleasant indoor garden and into a waiting Bluebird taxi outside. The daylight was harsh, but the stark realisation that I still had to go to work that day was harsher.

Mercifully, my timetable of classes that day was relatively light, but it was still hard going. My morning swim had been replaced by a cold shower and the excesses of the night before had been converted into dehydration, a headache and a lack of appetite. Grimacing inside, I got through the day with an artificial smile, minimal conversation and an exemplary level of professionalism. When it came to an end, I couldn’t wait to get back to the Grand Prix Inn (this was a first) and just lie down.

The people in the room next door were noisy bastards. They seemed to enjoy a good sing-song before bedtime at around midnight. Then, a couple of hours after the five o’clock call to prayer, they’d have the television on full blast. I hadn’t complained about them, only because I couldn’t be bothered making the effort; I wasn’t going to be staying there permanently so it hardly seemed worth it. Yet that evening, the one evening I was happy to just stay in, rest up and listen to music, I get disturbed by a knock on the door. When I open it, there are two security staff stood there with grave looks on their faces. I can’t really relay what they said to me because their English wasn’t very good, but para-linguistic communication and the odd English word here and there translated into a complaint from the neighbours about the noise I was making. Not the noise from my music, but the noise of my door closing when I come in late at night. Of course, I tried to counter their complaint with my own, but I don’t think the security guys had any idea what I was trying to say. So, I smiled and nodded and apologised and they returned to their important standing duties. I turned down my music a touch and lay back on my bed thinking; ‘Three more days and I’ll be out of this shit fucking place’.

That night, as I lay in my room going through the final stages of my hangover recovery, I thought about the last month I had spent in Jakarta. It had consisted of frustration, swimming, teaching and excessive drinking. Already a corrupt little pattern was emerging: Get through the frustrations and mundanity of each day and then totally abuse myself with alcohol at the weekends; I might as well have been in England. I wasn’t exactly embracing a new culture and this certainly wasn’t a wise way to structure my week. But for the time being it was all I had to work with. I had spent most of my life making lemonade out of the lemons I’d been lumped with, and the lemonade usually had a healthy dash of something alcoholic in it. Does that mean I have a problem with alcohol? Well I certainly overdo my recommended weekly intake, but that doesn’t mean I have a problem with addiction. I don’t think I’m the addiction type; I get bored too easily. I enjoy drinking up to a point, but I wasn’t going to descend into the binge and depression state of an emerging alcoholic that’s for sure. No, this had simply become my way of dealing with the boredom and the feeling of isolation that had so far been representative of my life in this city. Nonetheless, I also knew that it wasn’t a healthy pursuit and if I didn’t reign it in it could potentially be destructive.

54: Beery-eyed & Leery-eyed

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

*****

When we got into Bremer there was no DJ playing house music, there weren’t even any decks. In fact, there was hardly anybody in there at all. But there was a bar and the floor was flat so it beat going back out onto the streets of Kemang to stumble around looking for somewhere else to go. Besides, good fun is more about the company you’re with than the venue you’re in. I had good company and I was in good spirits. I was tipsy enough to be the witty and charming me I can be, but still sober enough to want to drink some more.

I volunteered the next round of drinks; the tab I owed Simon wasn’t quite yet paid, not that I was counting. As I was at the bar negotiating a good price for a jug of Jack Daniels and coke and ensuring that the jug was fully loaded, I asked the barman where the DJ was from the previous week. He told me that they only had a DJ on special nights. I had been quite into DJ-ing when I was back in Manchester. I had fancied myself as a promoter and even put on a few nights of my own. I love music and I enjoyed playing out in a bar or a club. I would have liked to have done more of it, but it’s competitive and involves the kind of social ‘networking’ – brown-nosing and obsequious fawning around other DJ’s and venue owners – that I have never been any good at, nor wanted to be. Nevertheless, I had brought my collection of music with me should the opportunity of getting a gig somewhere arise. In a city where there seemed to be nothing to do but wait for the next holiday break, moonlighting at the weekends doing something I enjoy would be the ideal way to meet people and save money that would seemingly be otherwise spent on drinking away my boredom. I liked Bremer as a venue and this was a good opportunity to try and get a spot there, so I left Simon talking with the two Naomis whilst I did some impromptu ‘networking’ with the barman.

The barman’s name was Rahman and it just so happened that his brother was the owner of the venue. So far I had found Indonesians to be generally congenial and friendly people so it wasn’t too difficult to get the conversation going. The place was dead so he was hardly rushed off his feet. I pitched him my slightly embellished DJ-ing history and he appeared to be quite enthusiastic about the prospect of me coming to spin some tunes there. Only the decision was not his to make, it was his brother Peter’s, but Peter wasn’t around.

“No problem”, said Rahman, “I give him a call and you can speak”.

Peter’s English wasn’t quite as good as his brother’s and I couldn’t entirely understand what he was saying, but I understood enough to arrange a meeting the following week. Apparently, he owned a few bars in Jakarta, including one directly across the road from Bremer called Route 86. I think he was suggesting that this is the bar where he has DJ’s from “outside” come and play. By “outside” I think he meant foreign, or perhaps he had a resident DJ who played regularly and the outside DJ’s were the ones who came to do guest spots. Either way, it all seemed very promising and I thought to myself, this night is going pretty good. I might have just been thrown a bone to chew on to make life in this city bearable, and who knows, with the vibes this little Dutch chick was giving off I might even get laid tonight. With the right amount of alcohol and positive encouragement, anything seems possible; unfortunately, it’s just a shame that devil-may-care optimism doesn’t last.

We spent the rest of the night in Bremer until it was close to closing time, my enthusiasm dragging Simon and his dour mood through the night. I wanted to carry things on and so did the Dutch girls, but none of us really knew enough about Jakarta to suggest a good nightclub that we could go to. This was probably a blessing as I wasn’t really in the mood for clubbing. Particularly if it meant risking further audio assault by that horrible Jakarta house sound. Then little Naomi suggested that we get some beers from the mini-market and go back to their place, which sounded like an excellent plan to me. Simon on the other hand was not so keen; there was just no lifting his flat mood. Although I’m pretty sure a late-night trip to Blok M would have cheered him up. But this wasn’t Simon’s night. All the energy was coming from me and little Naomi. We were the instigators, alcohol and Friday night were the catalysts, but Simon just wasn’t being the willing participant I wanted him to be. When we left Bremer and got onto the main road, he jumped into the first taxi that came along and left without so much as a ‘goodbye’. This man was proving to be a somewhat odd and unpredictable individual. And his off-mood hadn’t gone unnoticed by the Dutch girls.

“What was his problem man?”, said the little one.

“Oh I’m glad he’s gone”, said the other one, “He was so boring”

I was inclined to agree with her, but at that point, full of alcohol and lurid high hopes, I would have agreed with anything either of them said. I felt like there was a little more adventure left in this night and I was happy to follow them into it even if Simon wasn’t going to join in.

“Come on, there’s an Indomaret on the way to our Kost”, said little Naomi. “We’ll get a taxi, stop on the way for some beer and go back to our place”.

“Yeah, ok” I said, “sound’s good to me.” Of course it did.

 

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 tube 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 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 was 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. This was the big lively outdoor venue next door that I had been to that first night I came to Kemang with Claire. They had a dj playing cool music and we had a good night in there.

 

52. Double Dutch

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

*****

Kemang is probably the most popular district for expats and Friday nights are very busy. When you come off the main highway and enter the district at the start of Kemang Raya, the main road that runs through it, the traffic grinds to a halt. I had found it impossible to time my journeys from Taman Anggrek to Kemang. The busway is the quickest way to get out of Grogol in the evening so I took route 9 and stopped at Semanggi where the traffic eases of a little. I took one of the taxis that were waiting at the bottom of the steps of the overpass up to Kemang, but it’s just impossible to predict how bad Jakarta’s traffic is going to be so it’s hard to make solid meeting arrangements.

I had arranged to meet Adam at Eastern Promise – EP as it’s known – at 9.30 and I was already a little late by the time my taxi rolled up to the back of the Kemang Raya tailback, so I got out of the taxi and started to walk. I knew EP was close, but I didn’t know where it was exactly. However, I did know that Murphy’s was on Kemang Raya so I decided to call Simon to tell him to meet me there. But just as I was about to dial his number I saw him walking toward me.

“Hey, how are you doing?” he said as he greeted me with his toothy grin and firm handshake.

“I was just about to call you”, I said to him. “It’s a good job I bumped into you because I can’t remember where EP is. I was going to tell you to meet me in Murphy’s; it’s the only place I know how to get to.” My sense of direction is as bad as my memory for names, and to be honest, I wasn’t even too sure where Murphy’s was. It was now about ten o’clock and Simon had just come from an evening of drinking with one of his clients so he was already a little drunk and in pretty high spirits. “So where should we go?” I asked. I wanted to try and find Treehouse again, but Simon wasn’t too bothered where we went, he just wanted another drink.

As we were stood by the side of the road considering where to go next, two young white women came walking by. As white women are few and far between around Jakarta, I assumed that they were expats. As they approached I said, “Excuse me, do you know a place called EP? Eastern promise; it’s a… popular… expat bar… near here…” For an awkward moment I thought they were going to completely ignore me and walk on by. But then they stopped.

“You speak English!? Where are you from?” one of them asked. Perhaps they just needed a moment to adjust to the sound of an English voice.

“I’m from Manchester” I said, “What about you? Are you Dutch?”

There is something about the Dutch English accent that sounds like the German English accent, yet with a specific tone that, if you have the ear for both, makes it easy to tell them apart.

“Yes, how can you tell?” said the other young woman.

“Oh, my brother lived in Amsterdam for a couple of years and I know the Dutch accent”, I replied.

They didn’t actually look Dutch, if the Dutch even have a particular look other than being tall, which neither of them were. They were actually both quite short. The smaller of the two, whose name was Naomi, was a slim, pale young woman with long brown hair and wide eyes. Her friend, who was also called Naomi, was a little taller and more solid in her build. She had black hair, pale olive skin and looked Mediterranean.

“So you’ve never heard of EP?” I asked them. “I believe it’s the local spot for expats in Kemang.” It turned out that they had also only been in Jakarta for a couple of weeks and hadn’t really been anywhere – hence their pale complexions. They said they had just come from a nearby rooftop bar where they were the only white women. It hadn’t been very busy and the host at the door had been pestering them so they had left. The littler of the Naomi’s said that they thought I was Indonesian at first, which is why they were ignoring me; nice.

“When you said hello, I was like, ‘what’, then I realised you were speaking English. I thought you were going to start hitting on us like the weirdo in the bar”, said the taller Naomi. I guessed that meant that Simon and I had passed the obligatory man-scan that women silently give strange men before committing to engaging in further conversation. This is an involuntary and informal ‘Not a Total Dick’ or ‘Complete Weirdo’ test that, in fairness, any sensible young woman should do. However, it seems like the assumption is always that the man wants to get into their knickers, which more often than not is probably true. However, on this occasion, although neither of them were particularly unattractive, I didn’t have any lurid intentions. And I don’t really think Europeans were Simon’s taste. But they were young, lively and spoke English with no effort at all. All of those things were bonuses for me. Plus, we were all new to Jakarta and shared a common geographic dyslexia with regard to Kemang, so I decided to invite them to join us for a drink; only perhaps not in EP. I didn’t ask, but I guessed that they were both in their mid-twenties. I didn’t think that a bar full of middle-aged expats and Indonesian Bule-prey would have really been their scene so I suggested that we go look for Treehouse. I knew it was close and I was determined to find the place. If we couldn’t find it this time we could always ask someone.

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.