Someone stole my purse today.
It was our final morning in Santiago, I’d left Faye packing up the apartment, and headed down to the local coffee shop to finish off an article that was due. I wrapped my lips around the usual treat of a cortado (con muffin) before submerging my face in the laptop for a few hours.
I was sat on a long bench that ran up against the back wall, with a small round table in front of me. After half an hour of key tapping and face screwing, I became aware of a woman who had plonked herself next to me on the bench. I say plonked because that’s exactly what she did. She slam-dunked her butt cheeks down onto the wooden surface so quickly and so close to my own, that she actually sat partially on my bag. Not wanting to appear rude, I didn’t look at her directly, but instead pulled my bag in a little closer, thinking that perhaps I’d spread my bits n’ bobs out just that little too far and wide, as usual.
Article complete, I thought I’d be naughty and get one more coffee for the road. Only, when I went to pay for the coffee, my purse wasn’t in my bag. It wasn’t on the table where I’d been sitting or in the pocket of my jumper. I searched everywhere for it, and then I remembered the woman and her slam-dunking, and it all made sense.
She’d seen an opportunity, a stupid tourist engrossed in a laptop and taken my little tattered pale blue purse with a yellow duck holding a white umbrella. Thankfully I’m in the habit of stowing my debit/credit cards in my pannier bags (not in my purse) just in case I lose it, and so they weren’t taken. But I had just got out a wodge of pesos for the road, and so the thief had made off with the equivalent of £80. A big blow to this month’s budget, but it could have been a lot worse.
I now try to explain to the nice man behind the counter what’s happened, and why I can’t pay for the coffee he has lovingly made me. He keeps repeating ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’, but all I want to do is get out of here.
I feel saddened, let down, a bit teary and above all violated. I would gladly pay £80 to take away the fact that there is someone who would target and steal like that. An inexplicable feeling of icky-ness fills my veins.
I didn’t actually want to share this story, because I don’t want to do anything to perpetuate the belief that the world is full of thieves and bandits and evil do-ers. We can flick on the news or read a paper to get a shot glass full of that. But I have chosen to share it because a) You lot get the whole story warts n’ all and b) because I am resolute: I will not let the f**kers grind me down. I cannot control whether or not my belongings get stolen, but I can control my beliefs, and I’m not letting them steal those too.
On the walk back to the apartment, I think about the woman’s motives. Perhaps she was desperate and needed the money, perhaps she just saw a chance too good to pass up, perhaps she just didn’t care about the impact of her actions on another human bean. Either way, I conclude that she is probably far from the happiest person on the planet, and although she is now strolling the streets of Santiago with my packet of pesos, that surely makes her poor.
I still have my riches – they exist in my heart and in my mind, places where no thief may ever go.
If I were Braveheart and if this were a Hollywood blockbuster, I would now hold my new money carrying device (a ziplock bag) aloft and shout: “You can take my duck puuuursee, but you won’t take my faith in mankiiiinnddd!”