Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The Pickpocketers

Twice in France they tried to pickpocket me. The first time, I was walking up the metro steps in Paris. I must have been carrying Jackie in her stroller, holding up the handles as Sara held the front. I felt something on my ass. A feathery, faint sensation I might have ignored had it been momentary. But it persisted, deliberately, for two seconds or so, and I understood. I swung my arm around behind me, feeling nothing. I patted my pocket, felt my wallet, and looked for the thief. There were two people, I think, one to either side, a woman to the right, a man to the left—I think. They appeared absolutely oblivious. Neither looked up at me. Neither betrayed a bit of guilt. Was the man reading a folded-up newspaper? I don’t know. It couldn’t have been either of them—could it? Was the criminal somehow among the two or three others, further down the stairs? Or had he disappeared completely?

The second time, we were walking up the streets of Nice to the train station, hurrying for our train back to Cannes. I was carrying Jackie. There it was again, that telltale, wispy feeling. I turned around and pushed my wallet back into my pocket. Behind me were two very young boys, maybe 11 or 12. I lifted my right hand, Jackie still cradled in my other arm, and prepared to slap one of them—the one to my right, closest to me, who evidently had done it—across the face. He lifted his arms above his head and mumbled a vague plea: M’sieur… non... His face bore a mixture of insolence and shame, the Fallen Angel’s grimace. I hesitated. I did not strike him.

“Salaud!” I yelled. I turned back around and they ran away.