“The first mistake I made was letting the man with the moustache catch my eye.
Actually, scratch that. There were mistakes before then. Way before. Getting on the plane without knowing where I’d be staying when I arrived, for one. Without having heard from Theo since his last email, over two weeks ago. Hell, booking the trip in the first place—that in itself could be construed as a major cock-up on my behalf. I mean, seriously, what were you thinking? You haven’t heard from your brother in almost two years, and then he asks you to come over to Spain to visit him, no explanation or apology for his absence. And then, less than a week later, he disappears, leaving you stranded on a Saturday night, in the middle of Malaga…
There I was, standing in the plaza, just after ten in the evening. All around me, Spaniards, and other late-night revellers of origin indeterminate—none of ‘em with a care in the world—and me, shitting it, wondering what the hell, when suddenly, from across the square: a man with a black moustache. A moustache, and a pair of eyes, fixed on its prey and already moving in for the kill. Shit, I thought, and turned away. But it was too late. Within about six seconds he was standing there in front of me.
“Hello my friend, you need hotel room?”
I sighed. Made a quick calculation. What are my options? An enormous great backpack at my feet, brimming with burden and nowhere to unload it. Back to the airport? Sleep on the street? Fuck. I looked at the man with the moustache. He wore an open-neck shirt that had once been white, and his oily black hair was combed to one side. He watched me with twitching eyes as he waited for my response.
“Si,” I said. Because, why not?
He waited while I lifted the backpack and loaded it onto my shoulders once more, and then turned and started walking. I followed; a couple of paces behind, across the plaza and up one of the streets, round the corner, and into another, narrower little calle. We came to a hotel quite quickly; the man with the moustache went in to ask, but returned almost immediately, shaking his head. We carried on along the same street and turned left when we reached the end. A bit further up that street, another hostal; in went the moustache, and out he came again. Fuck. The sweat rolled down the curve of my spine and into the crack of my ass. How could it be this hot at this time of night? Jesus Christ…
We carried on walking for I don’t know how long. Everywhere we tried, though, it was the same old story: lo siento, muchacho, try this one on such-and-such street, la calle no se que. The airport option was becoming more and more appealing, until, finally. Hallelujah! A nod from the moustache and in I went, into a brightly-lit lobby with gleaming white marble floors, where I found an old man with thick-rimmed glasses sitting behind a reception desk. Still sweating, but smiling now, I filled out the paperwork and found my way to my room: a small, windowless box with a single bed and a way-too-big wardrobe; I dumped my backpack and stood for a second, my hands on my hips. Now what? I was absolutely fucking starving, but I knew the moustache would be waiting outside, expecting payment in some form or another…”