Escorting a Walking Caricature

I’m seated in the middle of a long table at a somewhat classy restaurant with a group of people. It’s the end of our meal so we stand to thank and say goodbye to one another. I glance at my watch and realise that I’ve overshot my next important meeting by two hours! I’m supposed to be meeting my new client at this same restaurant. I swerve my head to the right to begin scanning the environment for him. My eyes first land on a slightly disheveled man. We make eye contact and there’s an innate understanding between us that the other is who we’re supposed to meet even though this is the first time we’re seeing each other.

He looks like he has just entered the premises and is a little out of breath, which I’m relieved by. But those details are not what strike me the most. It’s his unnaturally large head and exaggerated features: a very high forehead; an incredibly long, broad chin; extremely wide and angular jaws. He’s a walking caricature. We greet each other and then proceed to do the awkward “social do-si-do”: I ask if he’d like to start now, or later if that’s better for him; he says he’s fine with whichever but asks if later works better for me. There’s a misunderstanding about which we’ve both settled on but, in the end, we decide to start now.

We sit at a table for two, across from each other, and start making conversation. He seems quite at ease talking to a person he just met and is a natural conversationalist. While I, on the other hand, am nervous and overthinking about what to say and how to respond. He is my first client since I’m new to this line of work — escorting, or whatever it’s called, where I’m being paid to accompany a client by dining with them at a restaurant. I try to feign good conversational skills; after all, that’s what he’s paying me for — to socialise with him. I try to act natural, behave comfortably, and, to the best of my ability, try to hide my anxiousness. I worry that he’ll see through my act and know that I’m a fraud. What did I get myself into? Why have I gone into this line of work when I don’t possess the skills needed and when I’m unsuitable for this job?

As he talks, my mind wanders to analysing why he’d pay for such a service. He seems like a friendly, likeable, and casual person, so why would he need to pay for companionship? Is it just because of his appearance? Or is there something more sinister underneath his friendliness? Is he expecting something more from this service? Am I in danger? How can I leave this place safely after we’re done? What other routes and backup plans do I have if he were up to something?

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