I got back to Jerusalem a week later – it took a while for me to say goodbyes (and wait for my meagre pay packet). Paul was waiting for me at the bus station at the top of the Jaffa Road. He’d been true to his word and found me a job at his hotel.
The hotel was a long way from being a deluxe establishment. Everyone who worked there did the full range of hotel jobs. During my 12-hour shift, I had to check people in and out, run the bar and make sure the rooms were clean. I had to stop people smoking dope on the terrace (yeah, right, sure I did) and generally make sure the place didn’t fall down. The Lord only knows how this didn’t happen.
Paul and me slipped into a routine of sorts. We shared a room, shared a bed and we definitely had our moments. But we weren’t lovers. We weren’t boyfriends. I was 19 and he was 20. Neither of us had a clue. 2 city boys in a dangerous country, too drunk or stoned to appreciate what was going on, where we were or what we had.
We had run-ins with all sorts of locals who wanted to quiz us on Israel vs Palestine, who wanted to know what the fuck we were doing there and which side we were on. We were surrounded by anger, drugs, love, guns and sunshine. It was a heady mix that did neither of us any favours.
“I’m leaving” Paul said, one Friday evening, just after the Sabbath siren had gone off.
“Where are you going”
“Back to England, this place is too crazy”
Seems he’d had enough. One too many bags of exploding tomatoes, one too many nights on acid, one too many identity checks, one too many Arabs thrown off the bus for no reason. I was gutted. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew that going home was not the answer.
Maybe it was the shock of the decision, maybe it was a realisation that things were at an end, but that night we got it right. We had a great night, dancing, off our tits on ecstasy at some dance party in some underground nightclub. For once we were able to ignore the guns, the hassle, the political questions. Love was all around us and we spent the night together, finally realising that what we had was pretty awesome.
“I’ve got an idea” I said to him over breakfast coffee and smokes.
“This place is fucked, but there’s no reason to go home yet”
“So what’s the idea then?” he said, curiously.
“Let’s go to Egypt”