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A memorable night with a stranger

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A stranger in a strange land

Somewhere at the end of last century a nice service started in the city I lived back then. An organisation found passengers or drivers who were going somewhere abroad and put them in contact. The passengers paid a fee, the driver got a part of that and the organisation took the rest. Everybody happy.

That is how I ended up in a car driving through the night, from Bruxelles (Belgium) to Cannes (France), where my girlfriend studied engineering. We left at seven in the afternoon and since it was a 12 hour drive, we would arrive early morning. The driver, a middle aged man appealed to the service in order to keep him awake through the night.

We ran out of small talk before crossing the border, after less than an hour driving. We remained in utter silence for an hour, smoking cigarettes and staring at the road. Out of the blue he told me he cheated on his wife. A year before he had met this woman, and although he loved his wife and child very much, that woman was always on his mind. With no life experience at all I limited to say something like ‘whoow’. It didn’t bother him. She was a Nigerian prostitute. He had seen her passing by the red light district one evening. Ever since he would go and see her whenever he could.

He’d wait, sitting in his car, till her shift ended, and then stay with her. He paid and didn’t care about the other clients. They usually didn’t even ‘do’ it. They’d just talk, just be together. He brought her presents, he even paid for her younger brother’s schooling.

He was going to tell his wife about the affair. And wanted me to know what I thought. To which I mutter something that could be easily summarised as ‘no idea’. The thing was, he told me, she had put a spell on him. Rationally he knew it was grotesque and utterly preposterous. But although he tried to resist going to her, she had this overwhelming power over him. In a year she had drained him from his savings and recently he had taken a substantial loan from the bank.

Then he stopped talking again and we drove for hours in silence. He wept. I had no idea what to say. And all attempts failed. How old was his child? Six. Silence. Did he like his job? Kinda. Silence. How many kilometres he had driven? 230,000, pointing at the dashboard.

We arrived late that morning. A traffic jam due to an accident held us up. I had fallen asleep and he woke me up, gently as we arrived. I watched him driving off under the incessant rain.

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