France 1976

I was so furious, unnerved, anxious. Mostly furious. Otherwise I don’t think I’d have spoken to the bearded stranger. We were locked in the waiting room of the Gare du Nord, the main railway station in Paris, after midnight.  The station's workers had gone home. The last backpackers had boarded the Warsaw train, heading east via Amsterdam and Berlin. This left just me and the bearded stranger, who had spent the day wandering the city, and a Colombian girl who only talked about gold. He had expected to find a place to sleep in Paris but his friends had moved without leaving an address.  So he came to the station.

Like the story of my day really. I had allowed a friend to stay in my flat. He ran away with a kilo of my finest hash. Hash all the way from Afghanistan. I smuggled it in, I did! I know what he’s done: he’ll have gone to Amsterdam. I missed the last train to catch up with him. He knows how to smuggle the stuff too. We hide it in the toilet at the border. We get off and wait. Our contact gets on at the other side of the border and collects it. The money then comes the other way, person-to-person.

I told the stranger more about ‘le business’ than I should have. His head was nodding. His friends had moved, my friend had betrayed me. I talked on and on. Maybe his eyes did close but we were shut in together until 05.30 when the station guards unlocked the waiting room and let the three of us out: three strangers who had the previous night been able to produce tickets for early morning trains.