One journalist's musings about the beautiful, bizarre world in which we live
I was walking home at 5 a.m. The day before my little brother’s 21st birthday.
I thought, it’s only five blocks.
I held my keys between my fingers in one hand, a pencil in the other. At least I could startle an attacker if necessary, I thought.
I got to the main street. A police officer stood on my block.
“Buenas noches,” I said. Good evening. He nodded and said the same.
* * *
I walked about 100 paces more to my door. I had almost reached it when a man started yammering at me. I walked a little to the side and ignored him.
This action – avoiding him – put me under an awning. The video cameras were on top, unable to tape me.
A woman walking with him came to my right side and started rummaging through my purse. I put my hands in my purse with hers, moving things she was trying to touch.
“Un momentito! Qué haces?” I said. One moment – What are you doing?
I said it a couple times more, louder each time when they didn’t respond.
I looked to my left side, and noticed that two other men were standing there, keeping watch.
“Callate, o voy a cortar … ” Shut up, or I’ll slit your throat, said the one who had yammered, now standing right in front of me. His chocolate-brown eyes popped as he made the slicing motion across his neck.
I looked at her, then back into those chocolate-brown eyes. I leaned forward slightly.
“No tengo nada! Qué quieres? No tengo nada!” I don’t have anything! What do you want? My voice got louder at each word.
The woman managed to get the cell out of the front pouch of my purse.
“Celular…” I heard someone mumble. She handed the phone to the yammerer and they started walking off.
I started following them, and kept shouting.
“No es de mío, y no es bueno!” I shouted. The meaning here… It’s vague. “It’s not of me and it (the phone) is not good,” is what I meant. “No, it’s mine and it (taking it) is not good,” is what they might have heard.
The man turned around and threw the phone on the road. They turned the corner and disappeared.
I debated picking up the scattered pieces.
What the hell are you doing?! my mind said.
I went inside.
* * *
I called the police.
It’s kind of difficult to explain a sort-of robbery in a third language. Address? Name? What happened?
“Well, they tried to take my things, but didn’t really. But they broke it.”
I stuck my head out the window, determined that anyone else walking on the street alone would at least make it past my block alive.
My roommate said I should turn off my light and get back in. I didn’t. She asked why I called the police. Good question.
* * *
I saw the sirens and went downstairs.
I stepped outside again, and explained the situation to the two officers.
I noticed the tiniest of smirks cross their faces. Whether that was because I was walking by myself at night, because of what I did, or for some other inside joke – I don’t know.
We looked around for the cell phone pieces, but couldn’t find them amongst the other garbage.
They told me I could go to the station to make a report if I wanted, in case the phone turned up.
I told them that I didn’t really care about the phone – I was thinking of keeping robbers out of the area and of their statistics (if they kept any).
* * *
Who’s really robbing who here, I thought the next day?
Where did the materials come from to make that cell phone? Who had to dig the metals out of the ground, and who had to piece it together for pennies?
I can afford to pay for my room in this apartment building. Tourists can usually afford nice places in the downtown core. Other people are forced to the outskirts of town or are just homeless. Am I doing anything to help this housing problem? Nope.
I was disappointed in myself more than the robbers. What did life do to them? What happened, that made them threaten to kill me for my boyfriend’s taped-up Bolivian cell phone?
Why didn’t I just give it to them?
Why did such recklessness and materialism kick in?
I decided to read more about robberies in Buenos Aires.
I was very, very stupid.
People are often killed for less. Last week, I met a guy who almost lost his life because of another fellow’s temper on Superbowl night.
* * *
I went over it in my head a lot, whether to publish this post. Even now, my heart’s beating a bit harder, trying to push the publish button.
Does it do more harm to my family than good to others?
In the end, here it is.
Perhaps it’s unsafe. Perhaps I’m stupid – perhaps more than perhaps, I’d say.
I’ve always felt that saying something is better than keeping quiet, but perhaps this is one instance where I should have just stayed silent.