'Do you speak English?'
'Si" I reply. We've reversed languages.
'Can you help me? I am from Milano. Where is the Colosseom from here? He has a map on his lap which he thrusts at me.
I try and take in my location and get my bearings. Then, like an expert I offer my well informed advice - I've been in Rome almost 36 hours.
'I'm from Milano,' he repeats his plea.
'You are at the Piazza Republica' I tell him, 'You need to go back. It's the opposite direction.'
'I see,' he is so grateful 'Where are you from?' ' he enquires. ' ...Australia! My wife is Australian, from a place in Victoria. Melbourne' he turns this into a question as if asking me to confirm his wifes birth place.'And you?' he hurries on. 'From Brisbane! Yes I know Brisbane.' I have a moment where I sense there is something not quite right. "Melbourne? A place in Victoria." He is unsure of the status and whereabouts of the city of Melbourne? But I am the good samaratan and choose to ignore my doubting voice.
He reaches across and grasps my hnd in a firm manly grip s if we are having a reunion. We are best mates.
'And your wife?'
'From Brisbane also' I say.
'You have been most helpful' he races on. 'I work for Louis Vuitton. You have heard of him?' He shows me his card and his folder of fashion shots. Beautiful women in beautiful clothes. The folder is bent badly in one corner and a luittle dog eared.
'Here,' he says reaching behind to the back seat. 'I would like to give you this for your wife. A gift.' He has pulled a large plastic bag on to the passenger seat and flashes a huge handbag at me, metal studs blinking at me in the sunlight as if they are blinded by the sudden light. 'and for you..' He has in his hand a black box. For a moment I think he is going to ofer me a diamond ring to go with the handbag. He flips he lid. 'For you.' he proffers a silver watch with multiple dials and functions but only long enough to have me believe I am the luckiest man on the Viale today. Reward for good deeds.
I am dumbstruck. 'But why.? I thought you needed directions!' All I did was show you my map. I don't know you.'
'No. Take it' he urges
'Why?' I say.
Now he is saying something and pointing at this dashboard. 'I am short of petrol,' he says. 'Can you help with something, anything, so I can fill my petrol tank?' He sounding a little desperate all of a sudden. This is a weird moment. I almost can't believe that he's asking me for petrol money in exchange for a watch and a Louis Vuitton handbag. My voice says 'walk away' But I'm still here at the window. He has my hand again. Thanking me, asking me to help with petrol.
'But I don't understand.' I'm still in his thrall. 'You are a highly paid Louis Vuitton representative and you can't aford petrol?' I am hearing myself make this stupid statement as if it is reasonable and can't believe myself.
He has one more try. 'Just something for petrol. My wife is Australian.'
I shake my head partly to say no, partly in disbelief at both our performances.
'Okay. If you're not interested. If you don't want them Okay I will not waste my time.'
nd he drives off iin the opposite direction to the Coloseum.