I felt something behind me and caught his stare, very briefly. That was it. A feeling of something not quite right. Then I carried on packing the shopping in the bags, as quickly as the cashier’s steely stare demanded. It was 8.30am. Hardly any customers around, but she wasn’t prepared to let me pack conveniently. I paid. I left. Caught his eye again as I shoved the bags in the boot. He was quite ordinary. I told myself not to be paranoid and headed off to the next shop, a little smug at the thought of crawling back into bed with all jobs done by 9.30.
I already knew my wallet had gone when I parked up at shop number 2. I dont know how I knew or why. I was thinking about my hand-cream falling out of my bag as I scurried across the road in the rain. I had a memory of something, but I couldn’t remember what. I still can’t. When I ran back to the car, I knew I wouldn’t find anything. I didn’t. Then everything went very numb as I drove back to the first shop. the cashier didn’t see anything. No one remembered anything.
At home, I tried to find the numbers to cancel cards and stuff. I couldn’t even remember what was in the bloody wallet. Papers flying everywhere. It was some time and several bad-tempered calls later, before I could head off to the police. All the while furious at losing my precious day in bed. You see I never get to sit around, read a book, think, be ill…quietly.
The police inspector was less than gracious. I tried to tell her I’d parked on a meter without a ticket….no money, no cards you see. She couldn’t do anything about that. Wouldn’t do anything about that. There-followed an hour of seemingly bonkers Q&A. How much did your shopping cost? What were you wearing at the time? What was I wearing?? WTF does it matter what I was wearing FFS?? Could I describe him – yes – South American looking…..perhaps North African? she queried…..well no….
When we eventually finished typing, printing, signing and copying the 35 bits of paper required to officially acknowledge that some low life had nicked my wallet containing the largest sum of money i’ve ever withdrawn in one go, in order to pay the deposit on my daughters summer gym school (because I missed the deadline for bank transfers) , it was then that Inspector stoney-face asked if I was ok. Tears flowed from nowhere.She took me aside and tried a pep talk. Was I blubbering because of other things? I just carried on blubbering and eventually ran off to meet my friend who, due to catch a train, had stopped off on the way to give me some survival cash….and missed her train.
I made some tea, as Brits do in the face of an impending nervous breakdown. Tea for Ella. Coffee for me. I’ve been away from the mother country too long for tea to work.Turned out she hadn’t really missed the train. She couldn’t get on it, due to her own breakdown. Mine paled into insignificance very quickly, so I ignored my phone ringing incessantly as I listened and drowned her in tea. She produced a pile of cash through her tears. Human kindness is far more overwhelming than its wicked contrepartie.
As I waved Ella off back to her own private hell, the back of my mind was niggling me with the classic replaying of events. Why couldn’t I remember what happened at the till? Number 2 son was greeted home by my tell-tale red eyed ‘I’m fine’. Even he (he’s lovely, but 17 by the way) detected the lie and proceeded to interrogate. More tears….and the phone kept ringing.
Inspector Quigley drove round to my flat, after umpteen calls and texts. Mr Wagner had handed in my wallet, minus the cash and cards but still clinging on to the store cards and a business card…with my telephone number on it. My uniformed hero refused tea and rebutted any apology for my lack of response to his vain efforts at contact. He wanted to know if I was ok too. Tears again. His colleague had primed him about my ’emotional’ state. He was concerned. Just doing his job. He restored my faith in a holy moment of care. Rare is care. This kind of care. Powerful and restorative goodness. Pure good.
24 hours and 3 unsolicited encounters with selfish opportunism and human kindness have broken and rebuilt my fragile sense of security. My tears mark both.