My Hostel Year, Chapter 5: Gilbert, the Chronically Masturbating Con Artist

gilbert

At least I think his name was Gilbert. It might have been Max. He went by a lot of names, but they weren’t fun nicknames like T-Bone or Coco. Instead, they were ordinary first names, like Gilbert or Max or Joe (which, honestly, should have tipped me off immediately that I was dealing with a pathological liar– it’s kind of weird when every person in the hostel is calling you by a different first name). And I think he was Venezuelan. I heard him claiming to be Swiss, or having lived in Switzerland, or being from a Swiss family or something like that, but he spoke with an extremely strong Venezuelan accent. I never heard him speak German. His English was atrocious.

He was a big man, tall and portly, but he carried himself like someone who’d just recently moved into a new body and wasn’t quite used to the feel of it. He appeared to drag himself around laboriously, like a soggy, uncooperative mattress. He was never quite at ease, shifting in his seat, constantly pulling on his t-shirt to keep it from sticking to his torso, I guess maybe he was a little self-conscious, which in hindsight seems out of character. He had these tiny little eyes that always appeared to be squinting mischievously, like he approached everything in life with bemused skepticism. He always wore sleeveless shirts and cargo pants.

I asked him once about the rainbow-colored bear claw tattooed on one of his arms, and he explained that he was a Bear, a sub-culture within the gay community where girth and hairiness are celebrated and sexualized. As an 18-year-old kid who’d just left his parents’ house in Colombia, the concept was fascinating to me. Gilbert told me once that if I ever decided to venture down that road, I’d be a Bear sex symbol. I laughed nervously. It kind of skeeved me out.

Gilbert was a tough person to live with. He’d ask for a lot of favors. He’d ask you to pick up a money transfer through Western Union, in your name, because he couldn’t do it himself for some mysterious reason. He’d often try to sell you electronics, claiming to have a hookup in the distributor who’d give him laptops dirt-cheap. He couldn’t go to sleep without spending 45 minutes or so masturbating. These were hostel dorms, mind you, but he didn’t care. Guests complained. I think he struck up some sort of deal with hostel management, because he was never kicked out. He was just moved around a lot. Thankfully, I never had to experience his blatant and unapologetic onanism personally. But my friend Dominic wasn’t so lucky; he had the misfortune of sleeping on the top bunk, directly over Gilbert, and having to endure 45 minutes of creepy moaning and squeaking until he was finally moved to a different room.

gilbert

He left the Hostel quietly one morning, without saying goodbye to anyone. There was a bit of an uproar because he’d “sold” a few laptops to hostel guests that were supposed to be delivered the next day. Of course, they never came. Several things were found missing the morning he left. Somebody’s wallet. Somebody else’s shoes. Yet another guest’s entire backpack and everything contained therein. He left no contact information or evidence of his extended hostel stay. Oh, except for a series of horribly explicit photos of himself he left in a folder titled “private” in the shared hostel computer, the tamest of which I’ve posted above.

A couple of years later, when hostel life was already a distant, fading memory, a former roommate sent me a Facebook message containing a link to a website dedicated exclusively to exposing an international con artist. Of course, the con artist was our old pal Gilbert. Apparently, he’d been spending the last few years traveling around the world, making friends at hostels, bars or Craigslist. He’d give each one of them a different version of his life story, earn their trust and steal their money and possessions before high-tailing it out of their lives. A would-be lover claiming to have welcomed him into his home only to find he’d pilfered it and run away before morning. An elderly couple claiming he’d pretended to be a travel agent and sold them an expensive travel package that was, of course, completely fabricated. A police report about him bumming aroundΒ Geneva, posing as a Catholic priest, selling stolen laptops. Yet another story about him claiming to have been a fireman in New York during 9/11 and suffering from PTSD. And so on and so forth. The claims piled on. Literally hundreds of reports. People sharing stories about this poisonous individual who had betrayed them completely, and approached life as one long con.

What a weird guy. I’m pretty sure he stole my copy of “Love is Hell”, too.

7 thoughts on “My Hostel Year, Chapter 5: Gilbert, the Chronically Masturbating Con Artist

  1. “He appeared to drag himself around laboriously, like a soggy, uncooperative mattress” is the best analogy I’ve read in the last two days.

  2. If you are a complete newbie, then you need to focus
    on these steps first:. When choosing a domain, select one that’s easy to remember, and can be written and pronounced easily.

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