Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Worm in the Big Apple

October 25, 1997

Dear Mom and Dad,

Our confidence in New York City was shaken yesterday. After we had been to the MoMA, we were hungry. We bought hot peanuts from a vendor, but they were not quite enough to satisfy us until 6 p.m. We had an appointment to see Sister Valeriano (a woman I had taught in the Philippines, now 87 years old, living at 333 14th Street), and we weren’t sure we would be fed at 6. We planned to visit a shop called “Gus’ Pickles” on the Lower East Side first and entered the subway by Radio City Hall.

This was the Rockefeller Center Subway Station, a little nicer than most. A nearly deserted pizzeria came up on the right. We decided against it. And then we saw Au Bon Pain on the left. That seemed perfect. We could get a cup of soup and a bagel. Katie decided to get fruit instead of soup but found that the watermelon was bad. I encouraged her to take it back to the counter. As she left, I had the sensation that something slipped from its place near my hand. I turned to the left and noticed a man headed for the door and yelled, "My wallet!" "You took my wallet!" "He has my wallet!" He broke into a run. I was running after him yelling, "Give me my wallet!!" "Give me my wallet!!" "Give me my WAAA-LET!!!"

All I could think of was the little money I had, my checks, my cards, my ID, everything I valued that HE had no right to. He was very tall and easy to see loping through the crowds. His thin head towered above everyone, and the shoulders of his light tan jacket stood out above the crowd. My voice surprised me, a foghorn magnified in the subway tunnel. A couple of men took up the chase. I was hoping for a man, a policeman, anyone ahead to stop him. I felt I was running like the wind and took three stairs at a time coming out of the subway to the street. There I met the men who had chased ahead shrugging their shoulders. He had disappeared.

I knew I had lost. The closest man pressed two quarters into my hand, apologized for my trouble and insisted I call the police immediately. At least, he said, I could claim the loss on my income tax return.

I was still trembling with adrenaline when I returned to Katie. I felt strangely invigorated. I had always wondered what my reaction to theft would be. Now, I know. It would be mindless and uncontrolled. Why would I expect control when I had never been controlled?

1 comment:

Jenn said...

Oh, your mom is brilliant and so is her writing! Thanks for sharing