Darkness fell. Rather worryingly, I had no idea where home lay – unfriendly unwelcoming home though it was. If the situation reached critical point, the option of striding off unilaterally was thus rather compromised. The growing babble of my internal monologue had concluded this would be my last resort. Albert had led me to a very quiet corner of the city he knew backwards. Surveying all points of the compass without recognising any familiar landmark, I elected to head towards the busiest place.
At a junction, I chose the road with the most shops, while half-expecting him to question where I was going. Other than the rather confrontational – ‘away from you’, I had no effective answer. Albert shadowed me closely like a pursuit cyclist hugging the wheel of his opponent before the race proper breaks out with furious intent. The recurrent theme of his conversations concerned us buying some cocaine and seeing ‘where that took us’. A brief flash of that prospect crossed my mind. I didn’t want to be taken there. Or anywhere near it.
Three potential outcomes presented themselves.
If his interest was sexual, his tale of a passionate night with a lady-friend may have been a cover story, while he gauged his chances. In a region where homosexuality was often viewed with disgust and incomprehension, a passing stranger might offer a good opportunity for a discrete liaison.
The second possibility was robbery. If so, we were reaching a critical point in a sinister and protracted dance of deceit. The final one was that the exotic difference of a far-flung stranger was more appealing for a lonely man than spending another night in with his mother. In conclusion, two out of three possibilities came under the category of Very Bad Things to Avoid.
It was impossible to decipher without resource to truth drugs, by which I don’t mean snorting lots of cocaine together to get him to talk. And his imposing height and biceps loomed worryingly large in my mind’s eye for reasons related to my second guess. His persistence had exceeded the boundaries of friendliness even amongst the warm and courteous people of this land. I wasn’t that charismatic.