Brief Encounter, One Year On.

For the sake of anonymity, as these are my reflections on things that happened, I am going to use aliases for the people in the story that aren’t me. To change my name would be a bit confusing, especially if I have to refer to myself in the third person as some ‘other’ throughout. Happily, both of the women in this tale worked with assumed names, and whilst I know LaShona’s was ‘Danielle’, I never found out what Sarah’s was. Just kidding, Danielle’s real name isn’t LaShona. LaShona is the name of a woman who has a similar gmail address to me, and I get some of her messages from time to time, and as a name I’ll never use anywhere else, I thought I’d get something out of this oddly infuriating connection. And as for Sarah, that’s the name I already gave the other player in this piece, in a scribble about her a year back.

Danielle I met in the lobby of a cheap hotel in Cairo, where I was taking advantage of the Eid week-long holiday given to me by the school I work at in Iraqi Kurdistan. I was there to eat food unavailable in Iraq (forgive me, but in this case it was KFC and McDonald’s on more than one occasion, as well as the expected fare), drink beer that had been as easy to come across as rocking horse shit in the preceding month of Ramadan, and ride a camel to the Pyramids so I could have my photo taken doing that daft hand-on-the-pointy-bit-perspective-every-tourist-ever. As yet, I have no plans to push the tower at Pisa back into place or stand under any bridge anywhere, holding it up.

I’d overheard a conversation one evening between Danielle and an Englishman we’ll call Andy on account of the fact that that is his name and I’d like him to recognise himself if he happens to catch this story. Andy was busy spouting forth, either about his lack of knowledge (“Why didn’t the Pharaohs convert to Islam earlier?”) or his odd appreciation of Egypt (“There were three metre tall men in ancient Egypt, but ‘they’ won’t show us the bones” or my favourite, “I’d help them try to build a Pyramid again, but only if we are allowed to use lasers like they did the first time.”). It was apparent that Danielle had missed a chunk of education, as she accepted Andy’s unique (I hope) take on the history of the region, before the conversation moved on to the numerous celebrity conspiracy theories of the day. The shooting of JFK was not evoked, neither were theories about the death of Elvis, but I had some years on them, and their demographic was more Michael Jackson and whatever else E! Channel coughed up.

The next evening, Andy left for Thailand, possibly to question the usefulness of painting elephants white, and Danielle and I struck up a conversation. She was bright and had plenty to say. Occasionally she listened too, but I was happy to keep my mouth busy with the can of local Stella beer, so limited my questions to the occasional clarification. One of which was in response to a reflection on her time working in a strip club, “Behind the bar?” “Initially, yes,” was her tantalising answer. She went on to discuss the work in a little detail, and she was frank without being offensive, intimating that on occasion she had done a little something extra to get the punters off and earn some extra dollars. The slope, I imagine, from working the bar in a strip joint to jerking customers off, is probably quite slippy. If that doesn’t sound too grotesque? She added me on Facebook and if I had had any lingering doubts about her past employ, they were shattered by her profile pictures. This girl liked to party. And to pose, wearing about as little as one can on Facebook without sending the servers into a meltdown hitherto matched only by its share price. I hadn’t been intimate for quite some months, and was all too aware that my dry spell and her past could lead to all manner of misunderstandings in the ‘signals’ department, on my side at least. So, no matter the lusts she stirred in me, no matter quickly my sap was rising, I took myself quietly to bed, locked the door and breathed deep. It felt good to allow enough blood back into my head to think a bit straighter. She’d told me she had a boyfriend back home, so acting on even the surest of signs with more than a gentle flirt was likely to land me with an accusation of “just because I took my clothes off for a living ……” and in the confined area of this small hotel, I didn’t want a confrontation or to feel in the least bit uncomfortable. Besides, the place wasn’t physically suitable for unsuitable liaisons, so all thoughts were put to bed, with the hope they’d not rise with me in the morning.

And what a revelatory morning it was. Over breakfast Danielle flicked open her notebook and alerted her 1,500+ friends of her plans for the day in this ancient land. Then she showed me some pictures of herself and a friend at a holiday resort called Hedonism in the Caribbean. This is an ‘adult’ place and not just ‘no kids’ like Mark Warner Holidays. Her friend was….well to steal someone else’s line, she attractive in what less pretty women would call ‘an obvious way.’ Obvious in that she wore a fair amount of make up, appeared to have had some work done, and the complete package was alluring. Danielle explained to me that (oh, I don’t know, let’s called her ‘Misty’) “Misty loves the black cock, she’s wild for it – and that’s when it struck me, right when we arrived, that we weren’t there to work. And I ain’t spending two weeks getting stretched and sore with those guys for nothing, so I just hung by the pool and watched it all going on.” Jaw/floor, eyes/wide, I asked, “So, you were a working girl?”

There followed an hour or two of indiscretions that I shalln’t repeat here – Danielle worked at the top end, and along with actors likely to expire priapic, and cheap hip hop stars, I learnt a lot about the life of a top end working girl, more than I’d even wanted to find out from…hold on, what’s the date? It was the 22nd August. One year to the day since I last saw Sarah. (If you don’t know Sarah’s story, click here and use ‘monday’ as your password.)

So, roll on 22nd August 2013 – where will I be, and what will be the name of the ex-working girl I meet? In the spirit of ever-decreasing returns, I wonder if I’ll even get her name.