Por Santiago Legarre.
In the vicinity of the Fontana di Trevi
My mother has fulfilled the customary rite at the Fontana —a coin thrown behind your shoulders into the water, thinking: «Arrivederci, Roma!», i.e. «Until we see each other again, Rome!» —, and we are now walking toward Via del Corso. A possibly Nigerian man who sells shiny goodies of sorts approaches us, he shows my mom the goodies –as we continue heading in our direction–, then he shines himself and says, looking at me:
«Are you African?»
I don’t answer, just pause, smile faintly behind my safari shades.
Perhaps he thinks I don’t understand the language, so he switches, but now in cheerful, almost affirmation:
By the rue Saint Honoré
I leave the Paris hotel early, while my mother still sleeps, and get out to try to get the Sports newspaper (L’Equipe). The kiosk is still closed. As I walk back to the hotel to stall for a bit, I approach a man, slightly older than me, who is sweeping the pavement across the street from the kiosk with a big broom , and we have the following conversation, in French:
«Excuse me, may I ask you a question?», I ask.
«I am sorry, sir», he answers, «but I can’t help you. I am poor myself».
«Oh… I just wanted to ask you if you knew at what time does that kiosk open…».
«Oh, dear. I am really sorry, sir. I mean, I confused you with… I mean… You know, these days… I am sorry!»
At the bar on rue La Fayette
This is the second time we come to this same bar with my mom for lunch. We really liked the Camembert and the foi gras, so we returned. The waiter —youngish—recognizes us and welcomes us. As we wait for the food to come, I pull out my copy of L’Equipe and read a bit, while my mom sends text messages to those at home. The waiter comes with the food, looks at me —my gray hair, Mourinho like; my actual paper newspaper—, and shoots the following words:
«Are you involved in the football business?»