I met Chris in the early 1980’s whilst I was travelling around China.
A charming and very good looking young Dutchman of Indonesian descent, he and his friend had been backpacking in Asia for over a year. They were in the final stages of their adventure and getting a little weary and travel worn, I suspect.
Chris and I got on extremely well and though we spent time together and had obvious chemistry, we never went further than a few kisses and hand holding. We parted ways after several weeks adventuring together, with addresses exchanged and no backward glances.
China at that time wasn’t really the ideal place to either party in or start a romance, as all focus was needed to negotiate the terrain, regulations and language barriers.
I returned to Hong Kong where I was living and after several weeks received a phone call from Chris who was planning to settle in Hong Kong for a while, find a bar job and raise money to return home.
I met them both at the train station and they stayed with me until they found accommodation at Chung King Mansions on Kowloon side of Hong Kong. Chung King Mansions was a rabbit warren of shops and cheap rooms that were rented by travellers, drug addicts, illegal immigrants and criminals. An old style grubby labyrinth with little natural light and constant movement.
Chris started working in a bar in Central Hong Kong and we developed a close friendship and a casual sexual relationship that I was under no illusion there was any great depth to. He wasn’t a con man but he had little money and liked to have a good time, so he was always open to pretty young women with money taking him out and spoiling him.
Living in Chung King Mansions meant he had easy access to hash which he loved. He wasn’t into harder drugs, not because of any moral stance but he reasoned that using them was stupid and though not incredibly intelligent, he was shrewd and street wise.
Chris loved music and dancing. He’s make me the most beautiful mix tapes of music…all music that you felt deep inside of yourself and could only fully express through movement.
He worked hard, and aside from a bit of help from his bevy of pretty and wealthy women, he used to do something called the ‘Milk Run’ which enabled him to travel for free.
The Milk Run was a gentle form of smuggling that was still risky in that you didn’t get a chance to check your suitcase before you travelled. Chris was nothing if not a pragmatist and probably reasoned that as he was a dark skinned young man, the people who organised the run would have realised he was too high risk and visible to do more than the basic runs. My mother was very interested in the combination of free travel and frisson of risk, but quickly realised that a middle aged white woman could all to easily be set up to smuggle something a little harder, so she backed out.
Simply enough the milk run was smuggling furs and watches between Asian countries (mainly to and from places like Taiwan if I remember rightly). Your travel costs and a stay in a cheap hotel were covered, and in return you used your luggage allowance to carry goods between countries, and if you were caught the goods were simply confiscated and you were sent on your way.
Anyway. Chris and I had some great times until a woman that he had met on his travels in Thailand, paid for his flight back home to Amsterdam.
We swapped contact details and kept in lacksidaysical contact over the next year whilst I moved from Hong Kong to London and then decided to visit him briefly when I went to Amsterdam with a friend.
At that stage I was looking pretty rough. I’d been squatting for months in steadily seedier flats. I was bloated from drinking too much, was using a lot of drugs, and though still young I wasn’t able to negotiate the excesses anymore, and still look good.
All this was exacerbated by exceptionally bad hair. A rather strange friend of mine who was purportedly a trained hairdresser, had bleached my hair and ended up combusting it. Thus I had an afro of burnt Strudel Peter type hair in a variety of yellow, orange and blond colours, that was constantly breaking off in hunks and hanks.
Superficial yeah…but it didn’t make me good about myself.
So my friend and I ended up in Amsterdam and couldn’t find anywhere to stay as there was some big event on, and all the reasonably priced accommodation was gone.
Our first night there, we slept in the movie theatre of the Milky Way night club, where we were able to sleep until the club closed at 5 or 6 in the morning.
I rang Chris, but he said as he was living with his father, he couldn’t put us up, but he wanted to meet me for a coffee.
The young man I met was different. Distant, cool and a little forced. I asked him why and he simply said that he was working now, and the man that I’d met had been on holiday and was a different person.
We never saw each other again.