Looking back on this situation I shudder to think what could have happened.
Over a year ago I was new to the town of Antibes, France, trying to land my first job onboard a luxury yacht. The yachting industry is saturated with twenty-somethings trying to edge their way into the world of being over paid for menial labour.
I was not the only newbie in town, in fact there were thousands of others prositiuting themselves on the docks, trying to make an impression or a contact that may somehow somewhere come in handy. You do whatever you can to get your foot in the door. They tell you not to tarnish your name at the local watering holes because no-one will want to hire you, although some have been lucky enough to score a job in exactly that way. The industry is slippery and unpredictable and landing a job is no exception.
In my first few weeks there was the Antibes Yacht Show where boats are more shiny than usual for people to come and pretend to buy them. At this particular event a certain tall individual of the male species locked eyes with me. He edged his way closer and when someone spilt a drink on my shoe he disappeared down to clean it off. Interesting tactic.
There was no turning back from there for this French man from Reunion Island. Over the next few days my friends and I got to know him and I tolerated his flirting and tried my best not to lead him on. Unfortunately he was probably well aware of my state of mind. During this time I, and others like me, saw the sky as the limit for things you’d do to get a job. He claimed to have dabbled in the industry, but not really but kind of. You hear what you want to hear I’ll tell you that much. He offered to drive me to Cannes one day to ‘introduce me to some people’. As the day wore on I lost hope in my contact as he was shrugged off by one person after the other just like the rest of us.
Then he ran a red traffic light and next thing I know we were being pulled over. On top of that, he was driving with an expired license. Let me fill you in on all the things that were running through my mind at this point; ‘How on earth do I explain to the cops who I am to this person? Am even safe with him? Am I going to get deported? And finally- I can’t believe I’m going to the police station right now. And in separate cars to Thomas (that’s his name by the way). Could this situation get any worse?
Well actually yes it could. Waiting in the cop shop while my chauffeur was being questioned I called up my friend to find out how her day of dock walking was going. “It’s going really well actually. I got a job!”. I’m ashamed to admit the way I felt at that moment as rivers of jealousy ran through my body combined with disbelief that I was wasting precious time at the police station in the hope that some nobody would help me find a job.
The day didn’t really get any better. All I wanted to do was go home but he dragged me around town, first to his grandmother’s house so she could come and reclaim the car. Then she gave him money which he insisted on spending on me. Let just say that by the time I finally made it home I was one ring, a jar of honey, a jar of seaweed and frozen octopus richer.
In the days that followed his stalker tendencies really started to kick in. If there was anyone who couldn’t take a hint it was Thomas. I started by trying to ease him off gently and then resorted to completely ignoring his phone calls and texts. When he showed up to a night time get-together on the beach completely out of the blue and uninvited- that’s when I lost my temper.
I was finally free of Thomas except for the times I’d see him around town and I’d duck out the way.
But fast forward a couple of weeks to when I was still jobless and living in a different apartment. I told my story to someone I shared the flat with and this is where things started getting creepy. Her expression changed from entertained to intrigued when she began to realise that this all sounded terribly familiar.
The girl I was sharing a room with, she told me, had had the exact same experience. And when that girl got home and I asked her directly. It was official, we had both been overly admired and ruthlessly pursued by the same man from Reunion Island.
She didn’t necessarily find it as funny as I did, rather she felt quite annoyed that he had lead her to believe she was special while perusing someone else. As a result she told him what for in a not very nice way.
My favourite memory from all this? Shortly after my co-admiree lost it with Thomas he showed up at our doorstep (naturally he hadn’t been there before but being Thomas he knew where we lived). I watched on from my bedroom window, craning my neck to get a good view and trying not to fall out. I watched as he stood patiently waiting for one of us to show up – and I wasn’t going anywhere. When one of us finally arrived home he started his with his apology which of course came with a gift.
While she accepted his apology she was not keen on the apology jewellery he was trying to give to her. Eventually he forced it into her hands and walked away. If there was ever a man who didn’t understand ‘no’ it was this one. Poor girl, I had a great stifled chuckle at her expense that day. I was completely entertained.
The forgiving/open person in me saw something else in Thomas. I saw, after pushing through all the creep, a very lonely person with a kind heart. I know the picture I’ve painted of him here makes this hard to believe but the poor guy never appeared threatening. When he’d see my (male) friends out and about he’d offer them lifts or even just his company on their route home. Maybe they just do things differently on that little Island off the Island off the coast of Southern Africa.