Friday, June 19, 2015

The Carterista



There are pickpockets in Barcelona, I am told. But I am not worried. The "carteristas" are opportunists, and I am careful. My hand is in my pocket, and my belongings are secure.

On the streets, I am vigilant. My eyes sweep the shadows for suspicious characters. I'm not sure what a pickpocket looks like. I imagine them in caricature—Dickensian, with Romani roots—handsome, and dangerous, with black, curly hair, and feverish eyes. The kind who would steal your girl, then steal your car to take her on a date. That, is what I feared.

***

This is what I knew:
  • The train was crowded.
  • The map obscured my view.
  • The young man with the map looked like an American college student.
When he handed me my Moleskin travel journal, I knew it could not have leapt, unassisted, from the depths of my Velcroed cargo pants pocket to the floor of the speeding Metro. I KNEW he had stolen it, but I was overwhelmed with relief that this, the one thing I could never replace, my external memory, had been returned to my grateful hands and not discarded, as worthless—for surely it must have seemed so to him.

I felt for, and found my wallet, secreted away in a protected pocket, and looked the would-be thief in the eye. Aye, caballero. We are men of the world. We have met here on this battlefield, and this time I won. You fought well, and I do not begrudge you your living. Thank you, for returning to me, what is rightfully mine, that could be of no value to you.

I emerged from the underground, jubilant, and pregnant with prose—storyteller, with a story to tell. It was a beautiful day—a great day to be alive. It was several blocks before I reached for my phone.

***

This is what I know now:
  • Pickpockets are clever.
  • They look like you and me.
  • They don't like notebooks.
  • One has a very nice phone. 

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