The Eritrean


Translated by Andrew Fentem

Everything started with a phone call one Sunday afternoon. I thought it was a taxi driver asking for my address. It took me by surprise. Nobody had ordered anything of the sort. I gave him the information anyway though. Some minutes later, a taxi did arrive in front of my house, but it was a black man carrying lots of luggage, not a taxi driver. He told me he had come to move in to where I was living. Since nobody had told me about his arriving, I asked him if had viewed the room beforehand. He replied that he hadnít, so I asked him if he knew the ownerís name, but he answered no again. He tried to call him but couldnít reach him. I knew the owner of the place was on holiday though, that was true. Just then, my housemate from New Zealand arrived. Preferring to check with her before I let the man enter, I discovered she knew nothing about it either. Calm down or youíll give yourself a heart attack, she said to me. Youíre just going to have to let him come in, she added.

So I let him in and started to get to know him. He was from Eritrea in Africa, had lived in Great Britain for ten years and just left Sunderland in the North East in to start training as a pharmacist for a year in Chester. Then I had a word with my Chinese room mate. I didnít quite understand what she was telling me, though she seemed to know something about somebody arriving, but was very surprised to find out that he had already moved in.

By Sunday evening, I was starting to quite like the Eritrean and had forced him into taking a tour of the walls in the rain before inviting him to a spot of beef and courgettes. Despite my cold, not to say suspicious, welcome, he told me he appreciated the hospitality.

One question remained unanswered however. Was the owner so incredibly rude as to not have informed us about his coming, or was the Eritrean trying to pull the wool over our eyes and getting away with it, passing himself off as the new housemate even though there was no such arrangement and he had not even viewed the room. Last night, I got the owner on the phone. He offered us his apologies. Oh, donít mention it, not at all.