A Night in the Belgian Ghetto (Part 2 of 3)

This is Part 2 of a tumultuous weekend spent in  and around Brussels during the Spring of 2012. For Part 1 please see: https://crobsabroad.com/2014/12/15/a-night-in-the-belgian-ghetto-part-1-of-2/

After leaving the pub, each seemingly missing some basic senses due to the amount of alcohol consumed, we found ourselves rambling toward a flowered garden. Michelle ushered us with assurances that he knew someone who could put us up until our train departed in six hours’ time. The repeated chronological dialling of his entire phone book however and ensuing voice-mails didn’t quite have me so convinced.

As we stopped for Bjorn to take a piss a gang of four boys approached. They could not have been more than twelve years old and were clearly a local ‘young team’ looking for trouble. Bjorn and Michelle told them politely to ‘do one’ but the kids kept back-chatting and giving them lip. At least I assume from both parties’ mannerism and reactions that this is what was happening; the whole exchange was taking place in French of course.

What then transpired still both amuses, and shocks, me to this day. Michelle said something to the supposed leader and the group immediately began to scatter. You would think this would be the end and the matter was closed, but no! Bjorn and Michelle began to pelt after them and after a brief tussle dumped the weakest member with an almighty splash right into the middle of a pond. The boy started to shriek as his friends pulled him out of the ice-cold water whilst my two companions simply sauntered back over, dusted themselves down, and then announced: “We should really get the fuck out of here – and fast!”

Ducking along side streets to avoid the fuzz Michelle eventually got hold of one of his friends who was a barmaid at a nearby pub. Fortunately, it was one of the staff member’s birthdays and all the employees were having a lock-in after closing time to celebrate. We made ourselves welcome, just thankful to get in from the bordering on zero temperatures, and I found myself perched on a bar-stool nodding in and our of sleep.

Seeing the state of us she offered that we share her bed until we could catch the first train out to Nivelles. What she conveniently didn’t let on however was exactly where this bed was that we could share. Leaving the bar we walked for about 10 minutes through rougher and rougher neighbourhood streets. When one stops worrying about their possessions being stolen because their actual life seems to be on the line it might be a good time to turn around. But still we marched between dilapidated warehouses and crumbling flats before turning into a gate, crossing a claustrophobic courtyard, and pulling our drunken bodies up a winding stairwell; a stairwell that looked and felt like a cross between part of the set from a Brazilian slum in City of God and a Mafia hit-spot from the Godfather.

Entering the apartment, a solitary room, it would be kind to say that Michelle’s friend might have been a minimalist. The walls were bare, the lighting temperamental, and Mother Hubbard’s cupboards lined an alcove kitchen that consisted of a rusty tap and crusty sink. The water supply had been disconnected and I began to wonder if this was perhaps a squat. Where the ‘bed’ should have been was a single stained mattress lying on the wooden floorboards and that would apparently be our accommodation for the next short while.

….

A beeping noise wakens me from my sleep and my first thought is: ‘thank God I’m still alive’. As my vision starts to focus I then see an arm resting over me and my second though shifts to: ‘apparently I had been given the role of little spoon in this cuddle orgy.’ The four of us were locked together under the skimpy mattress like pieces of Lego and as I unattached myself the others shook awake. Thankfully by the look on Bjorn and Michelle’s faces they to weren’t that bothered about hanging about for breakfast…whatever that may be.

We groggily made our way to the station without turning to look back once; weaving through the gardens where the early morning skirmish had occurred and onto the train that was waiting patiently at the platform. On the journey Bjorn surveyed himself properly for the first time and in great annoyance realised that in the commotion one of the runts had ripped the pocket clean off his brand new Ralph Lauren shirt.

“My girlfriend got me this for my birthday the other week and this is only the second time I’ve worn it!” he panicked. “She’s going to KILL me when I next see her.”

Pulling into Nivelles my stomach started to rumble. We hadn’t eaten in 12 hours and now the beer was wearing off I became absolutely famished.

“Is there anywhere we can get some grub around here?” I queried.

“Ha-ha not likely,” smirked Michelle. Today is Sunday. Everything is closed on a Sunday.”

Just when things were looking up…

Thankfully, when arriving back at Bjorn’s house his brother is there to answer the doorbell; a bemused and bewildered look upon his face. We wander in, cook up an omelette the size of a pizza and start to chow down.“It’s my birthday today and all I’ve done is mess about the house the last few days,” mutters Fillip.”Do you guys fancy going on a road trip somewhere?”

Looks like I wouldn’t be getting much of a chance to recuperate after all…

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