"Taking himself seriously, so you don't have to."

An American in Anarchia, Part II

We met at the grocery store, the American, the Anarchist, and the Beauty. We picked the ripest tomatoes, three different types of meats, olive oils, bottles of wine. In the checkout, I gave him cash for my share, and stepped outside to smoke a cigarette.

There were two men milling about. One was short and squat, wearing a greasy tank, smoking a cigarette, smirking at me. The other was tall, well-dressed in a blue-grey suit, dark-skinned, with slicked black hair. The taller of the two engaged me in conversation.

“You are American, yeah?” he said, in broken English, with an accent that was either North African or Romanian.

 

“Sure am! How are you sir?” I replied.

 

“Life is good! Do you have a cigarette?”

 

“Why yes I do, and you are welcome to one.”

 

“Oh great, thank you!” he says. He lights the cigarette and takes a long drag, and equally long exhalation. “You know, I love America and Barack Obama, but I hate George Bush. Right?”

 

“I was never a big fan of George Bush either.”

 

“You know what else? You ever play soccer? I love soccer.”

 

“I’ve played a bit, not too much. I can appreciate the game though.”

 

“Do you know Ronaldo? Ronaldinho is great too. He is my favorite. Do you know what he does?”

 

“Well yes, but, what does he do?”

 

The man then shifted to my side, slid his left foot between mine, and jimmied his foot up and down against my shin. “Ronaldinho does this! You know that right? That is the move!” At that moment, I felt a slight motion against my back pants pocket. The man quickly exited the conversation, said his thanks and walked off toward the short and squat fellow. I turned away toward the entrance and saw my friends coming out of the store. Then reached into my back pocket, where I had felt a touch, and quickly realized my wallet was gone.

 

“He stole my wallet!” I spun around, not 15 seconds since the moment, and he was gone, vanished into the night. The short and squat man still smoked his cigarette, still smirked. A security guard stood motionless some 20 feet beyond. I asked them, “Where did he go?!” They pointed down the street. Stefano and I gave chase, running down the block. We got to the corner, looked in all directions, saw no one, and turned around. We ran another block, and looked again; still nothing. We walked back to the store entrance, and Stefano spoke to the security guard, who was as indifferent as a stone block. He saw nothing, and saw nobody. The short and squat man finished his cigarette, stomped it out on the ground, and got into an unmarked white van, and drove off.

 

My wallet was gone: credit cards, driver’s license, cash, library card, casino membership card, and free coffee stamp card, nearly completed. I cursed the man, that hoodwinked me so, filching my wallet with style and grace, to such an extent that when I first felt motion during the soccer distraction, I declined to check my pocket because I may have offended him by doing so. And so, this is what it feels like to be a sucker.

 

Stefano and his girlfriend gave their best apologies, and we began a slow walk back to their house.

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