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  • Writer's pictureAlex Fear

Lost in Belgium With No Money in a Tiger Costume

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

I was living in Cologne with an English person called Zack who claimed he was German. Zack would often rhapsodise about how we were going to visit three countries in one day. ‘Let’s go to Oktoberfest in Munich,’ I'd say. ‘No, its full of Germans. We’re going to go to three countries in one day.’

On the train to Holland Zack marveled at how sudden the language change was when you crossed the border. Then we walked around looking for a bar where we could smoke weed, not because either of us particularly liked smoking weed, more because we could. All the bars turned us away because we weren’t local or cool. So Zack bought me a cocktail in a converted church, and I started eating hallucinogenic truffles I’d bought from a head-shop. Zack started eating Hawaiian-baby-woodrose seeds also known for their psychotropic properties. As I was coming up off the truffles Zack started having a go at me about the state I had left his toilet in. Then I walked through the middle of a man and woman’s photo. If people are taking up about an acre of the street for a photo of their significant other standing in front of a pillar, I will walk in front of the camera. Zack started shouting at me about this too. ‘I don’t think you know how to act around people on hallucinogens,’ I told him ‘Lets have an hour apart.’ But he didn’t want an hour apart and I remember eating chips at a fish market and looking out at the river with a deep feeling of psychic unease.

Then we were crossing a large ornate bridge into Leige, Belgium. At the hostel, the hallucinogenic seeds seemed to have turned Zack into some agro German muscle bunny. Despite my protestations, he insisted on doing loads of really strengthy violent pull-ups on the edge of the weak hostel bunk bed. I had a Belgian alcho-pop and one of the hallucinogenic seeds, and we set off in search of Belgian gay bars, stowing the rest of the seeds in my pants. I was dressed in a skin-tight tiger onesie, and Zack was wearing a PVC negligee. We tried to have a cigarette in an alleyway and were cornered by four French speaking Belgians asking us for cigarettes and money. Zack decided to join in and started demanding one of the Hawaiian-baby-woodrose seeds out of pants. I told him I wasn’t going to get them out of my pants in this alleyway in front of all these crazy people. Then my body remembered that alcohol and Hawaiian-baby-woodrose seeds don’t mix, and I let out a stream of projectile vomit which scattered the people demanding stuff off us. Later I realised I no longer had my phone or my bank card on me.

We went into the gay bar, in our non-traditional attire and the bar owner approached Zack and told him the stripper hadn’t turned up and asked if he could be the stripper. Zack wholeheartedly agreed, and the owner told him there would be money and champagne in it for him. While he was backstage, I met a really cute guy called Arnaud whom I started violently making out with. Then in French they announced the strip show, and Zack appeared in an actual shower at the centre of the stage flinging himself about in a staccato manner while getting drenched in water. Afterwards he gave me Champagne, and I introduced him to Arnaud. The owner tried to pay him to do another strip show. It really seemed that despite only having been here a few hours and loosing my phone and wallet our lives in French speaking Belgium were really taking off. I went back to Arnaud’s house and we both bit each other all night I woke up next to Arnaud. I felt really bad kissing him goodbye, knowing that when I was gone he would realise I had been so drunk that I'd pissed on his bed in my sleep. It was a boiling late summers day, and I was walking through an unfamiliar country in a skin tight tiger costume with no phone and no bank card. I had to put my French to use asking strangers,

'Ou est la Auberge de Jeunesse?’ (Where’s the youth hostel.)

From their reaction my pronunciation must’ve been off. It took me three hours to get there and when I did, Zack was gone, and so was my bag. I realised this could really hinder any attempts to ever leave this country. I was aware the only person I knew was a cute one-night-stand whose bed I had accidentally pissed in. The Auberge de Jeunesse let me use their computer and I found Zack’s number on a website we had made for a failed English tutoring service. He'd been having breakfast with some elderly suitor. We arranged to meet on the platform that led back to Cologne. The defining moment of the trip for me occurred during the long walk to the station in the scorching afternoon sun. I was navigating my way through a run-down area with children playing in the street. They saw me dressed as a tiger and it was like one of those moments when a fire hydrant breaks in New York and all the children are dancing in the street. Except they were joyously jumping and skipping around a dehydrated English person dressed as a sort of fetish tiger.

I waited about an hour for Zack on the platform, trying to hide in shadowy areas so my skin didn’t burn off. I didn’t have any money to buy water, and I was close to lost-in-the-desert-drinking-my-own-wee dehydration. I went to the toilet, and the toilet attendant refused to let me in due to my lack of currency. I attempted to explain my situation using my thirty-or-so words of French but the language barrier was as impenetrable as the Berlin wall circa 1988 and I had to just walk past her. When I got out: there was Zack, mincing through the station with my bag. He paid the toilet lady and shouted at her, then we left the strange quantum singularity that we had been trapped in for the last 24 hours.

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