This Man is a Good Man
By Gabrielle Bremer
“Get on the train!” I yelled to Cameo as we ran down the concrete platform. We were slow from the weight of the bags on our backs and the heat of late morning. The train was about to depart the station in Salzburg, Austria. To our surprise, half of the train was going to Innsbruck, and the other was going to Budapest, our next destination.
We jumped on the half going to Innsbruck, figuring we could walk to the Budapest side of the train. However, we couldn’t reach the other side because it was closed off. Cameo, and I decided to wait outside the doors to the first cabin class until the next stop when we could jump to the next train car. The sweat beaded on our foreheads and ran down our backs. The smell of our unwashed clothes and sweaty shoes filled the cabin with a pungent odor. The people in first class started to give us dirty looks.
Ten minutes later, the train slowed down, its wheels screeching until it came to a complete stop. I looked out the window and all I saw was fields with green grass and wildflowers. Another ten minutes passed and the train was still sitting in the middle of the field. What was supposed to be a 15 minute ride to the next stop had turned in to 40 minutes.
A tall man in an absurd floral print shirt, khaki pants, and a fedora came from the first class door. He huffed and puffed, obviously distraught. “Do I look like I cannot afford a first class ticket?” the strange man muttered in frustration. He looked at us and said, “Those rich white people keep giving me dirty looks because I am a black man in first class.” Cameo and I looked at each other awkwardly. “I’m sorry” Cameo said in her polite Midwestern way.
“Where are you from?” the man asked with a Nigerian accent. “The United States,” I replied, a little reluctantly.
“Ah, American girls,” replied the man, with a smile that exposed his yellow teeth. “I am from Nigeria, but live here in Austria. Where are you going?”
“Budapest” I answered.
“It is a great city. Are you alone?” His gaze intensified, and his face filled with excitement.
“Just the two of us.” I said, not thinking anything of my answers.
“I am alone too, but I have a wife and one child.” The man pulled out his phone to show us a picture. A lady, who also appeared to be of African descent, held an infant child in front of a house.
“I am also a politician, running for mayor.” he mentioned with enthusiasm. At least he didn’t say he was a Nigerian Prince.
He pulled out a cheesy flyer that looked like it was thrown together by a 10-year-old. There was very little writing and no image of the man, but there was a long phone number, outlined in black. “Here is my number, call me if you need anything.” he said. The man must’ve sensed our hesitation because he went on to explain how he was a good man. Then he pulled out his cell phone and called his friend.
“Do you want to speak to my friend? He can tell you I am a good man.”
Cameo and I exchanged a horrified look before one of those indestructible Nokia’s from 2007 was shoved in my face.
“Hello?” was all I was able to utter.
“Hello, how are you?” a man with a Nigerian accent said at the end of the line.
“Um, I’m good,” I mumbled awkwardly.
“This man is a good man, very trustworthy. You are safe with him,” the voice declared confidently.
“Thank you?” I responded with speculation. I handed the phone back to the man and he gave it to my friend. She reluctantly took it and held it to her ear.
“Hello?” she said with a courteous tone.
“I am good, thank you…. Oh okay, thank you.” She handed the phone back to the man. I assumed he told her the same thing.
“See, I am a good man. You girls should come with me and I will take care of you.”
“No thanks, we’re on our way to Budapest.” replied Cameo. She was more polite than I.
“Don’t go. I will take care of you,” he promised.
“We already booked our hostel, we don’t want to lose money,” I said.
“I will pay you the difference, come with me and I will give you a nice hotel.”
“Sorry, we can’t do that.”
“How about I give you a hotel room and we go for dinner. We will go to one of those places where you can point at a fish in a tank and they kill it in front of you.”
We stared at him, not knowing what to say. We were the fish, trapped in this unmoving tank.
“I will buy you nice clothes and we will go out to dinner. You get my friend,” as he pointed to Cameo. She crossed her arms and backed away.
“And you,” he pointed to me with a sharp and bony finger, “I get you.” Then he pinched my arm and winked.
“Sorry, we can’t go with you,” I stated, a little rudely this time.
“Are you sure? I can get you a hotel for as long as you want. You don’t have to repay me.”
“Um, no, but maybe next time we are in Austria,” I said as I dreamed about a warm bed.
“When do you come to Austria again?” the man wondered.
“We will be in Vienna in about a week.”
“You will call me?” he asked.
“Yes” I lied.
The man seemed content with this answer. We rode for a few minutes in silence as the train pulled in to the next station. The man said his goodbyes and got off the train.