0 Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?
After moving back to the small city of H in Japan, I had a period of not meeting or befriending many foreigners. I had little money to blow on nights out and fate didn’t seem to throw me into the path of many fellow ex-patriots. It was about a year before I started making many native English speaking friends. And one of the first new people I met and started hanging out with occasionally was Romeo. He was a chubby brown chap who claimed to be a racial mix of American, Brazilian and Japanese. Orally, he seemed fluent in all three tongues, but it was apparent that English wasn’t his mother language. He worked for a small private English language school for Japanese children. We happened to meet one night in a bar. We started chatting about computers. Immediately he assumed an air of authority about all things binary and offered to show me how to illegally download films and music. The carrot of free entertainment was a strong inducement (along with loneliness) to pursue the friendship. So within a short time of that first meeting I went around to his flat to receive my first lesson in downloading. His flat was remarkably big and immaculately clean. It amazed me how he could spend $800 dollars a month on rent when most other English teachers took smaller apartments for half the price. From the outset I thought something was slightly odd about Romeo. He seemed too perfect. He was a computer whiz, he was a polyglot, he was a great cook, he had a certain charm, he professed to be an expert pedagogue, he knew all about music production, he was once a professional DJ, he had travelled extensively and he was a hit with the ladies. Putting all that aside what got my goat most was his supposedly profound new age philosophy of peace, wisdom and harmony. Whenever we met and I unburdened some of my frustrations on him, instead of sympathizing, he would lecture me on the Tao of Romeo; which just made me feel worse. However, I thought nobody is perfect and a slightly self-righteous friend is better than the tediously wholesome company of the Japanese that inhabited my social sphere. Not long after fixing me up a treat on my computer – expunging viruses, installing cracked Norton protection and getting Shareaza up and pulling files from around the world, Romeo approached me for the first of many subsequent loans. By this time my business was doing well and I felt somewhat beholden to Romeo who had spent hours tweaking my laptop into shape. He claimed it was to tide him over until next pay day. So I loaned him $100. The following month Romeo needed a bit of prompting but sure enough he came round to re-pay the loan. However, within a week he phoned me to ask for another loan. And so it went on for more than two years. Borrowing and paying back more or less on a monthly basis. It wasn’t until near the end of our acquaintance that the balance tipped permanently into the red – paying some of the debt off but never managing to get back to zero.
ganja grows wild on the remote island of Hokkaido in the north of Japan
As time went on I expanded my circle of friends. I started enjoying my Saturday nights and I felt I had a wealth of true and close friends to rely on. I had also tapped into the underground world of ganja smokers in Japan. And as I got to know more people, the more it became apparent that Romeo was borrowing small chunks of money from nearly everyone I knew. Tongues began to wag when he started acquiring expensive toys: a new 4 wheel drive SUV, a surfboard, expensive sound engineering equipment and a frighteningly big and powerful apple computer. There was also a fancy mobile phone, top of the range camping equipment and a limited edition ipod signed by Bono. Romeo seemed to flaunt his possessions and regarded each and every item as necessary to his well being. One friend told me the story of how he lent Romeo $50 and someone shortly afterwards witnessed him buying designer eau de cologne. Another good friend recounted to me how Romeo borrowed $100 at a nightclub in Tokyo and immediately spent the bill on a bottle of champagne to wash down the pills. The same person told me about how he went surfing with Romeo and slept the night in his SUV and how the next morning $100 was missing from his wallet. Still most people were prepared to give Romeo the benefit of the doubt. He was generally discussed in tones of mirth rather than malice. It was amusing how his outrageous consumerism was at odds with his pose of being superior to the foibles of the masses. His ethos always pronounced in soft tones that forbade snide remarks was a confusing amalgam of yoga, North American mysticism, blatant New Age cliché and the power of surfing to reconnect man with nature. My wife was one of the few who could not see the lighter side of the situation. She was against me lending him money from the very start.
Marijuana found growing in yard of Abarishi prison in Hokkaido, Japan. According to reports over 300 plants were plucked and the ground treated but still more plants sprouted the following year. See below for Reuters link to the story
The non-linear narrative kept returning to how Romeo hadn’t betrayed me and how I was responsible for getting him hooked on drugs in the first place. I drank quickly and encouraged Romeo to tell me more. Eventually I bid him good night on Christmas Day. Later that morning my wife fed Romeo and I slipped him $50 dollars before he demanded money. That was the last I saw of him. He left determined to get back his re-possessed SUV and computer and fight the court case and stay in Japan. He cost me $350 all told. That same day my wife and I smoked joint after joint until nothing remained then we went to a nearby river. It was a horrible blustery day. We threw our pipes and other paraphernalia in the river. We pulled up our plants and chucked out the soil. In short we erased all traces of gear from the house. We phoned our friends and they buried or chucked their stashes. A few days later I got a call asking for more cash. I was clean at that point and over the initial shock and so abruptly refused. Several smoker friends also got calls from Romeo demanding money in payment for his silence. Nobody paid anymore. Most of them were still owed money by Romeo. Nobody had any sympathy for him. The last we heard of Romeo was through a friend of a friend in Tokyo who said they met a bloke in a nightclub who needed a place to stay for the night. The Good Samaritan woke up the next day to find his guest gone along with the contents of his wallet. Ben Johnson the playwright famously divided the world into gulls and knaves. It was more than apparent to me and everyone I knew in H that we had been the gulls and Romeo was a knave of the highest order. Only my dear wife had seen his true colours from the outset. And it was no wonder that Romeo wanted to stay in Japan for where else could you find such an unending supply of dupes and pretty girls to take for a ride? Looking back on all that happened with Romeo two things stand out clearly. The first is how alone he was. And the second is how he lacked any conscience or feelings of guilt. He lived alone and always did his own thing. Even when he went camping with others he always contrived to be slightly removed from the camp circle. He always had a girlfriend, but they were normally in distant cities. By the end he was alone in his belief that he had acted correctly. He never expressed any true remorse at the pitiful financial hole he had dug for himself. Indeed he never tightened his belt in any way to try to pay off his debts. Far from it, his extravagance just seemed to increase. He never spoke of how he used women to get money. He absolved himself of all blame by acting like he lived on a higher plane of understanding. Yet the truth was that he borrowed, stole, lied and exploited everyone around him in order to gratify every passing whim and desire.
Two postscripts1)Antisocial Personality Disorder or APD is diagnosed by the following personality traits:
- Persistent lying or stealing
- Difficulties with the law
- Tendency to violate rights and boundaries of others
- Substance abuse
- Aggressive behaviour
- Frequent bouts of depression
- Inability to tolerate boredom
- Lack of remorse
- Superficial charm
- Inability to make or keep friends
- Problems with authority figures