Day 2: Gypsies

Day 2: Gypsies

A Chapter by Amanda

LeAnne encounters gypsies in Paris


The city appeared especially grey that morning, as LeAnne began trundling towards the river. The endless weather-worn skyscrapers and cobbled streets matched against a backdrop of smooth, dark cloud-cover reminded LeAnne of paintings where the “artist” had simply splashed shades of grey on more grey and left it hanging, as if by mistake, amongst galleries of the world’s finest portraiture and landscapes. Where was the beauty? Where was the romance? Where were all the fabulous things her travel book and two decades of movie-going had shown her? Where was Paris? This sure as hell couldn’t be it.

Hours passed before she reached the river. The River Seine was the central point where all things Parisian supposedly culminated. On its banks rested such defining artifacts as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.

“Ekscooz! Ekscooz!” a garbled voice shouted from behind her. LeAnne was standing on a sidewalk looking out over the river. She glanced back to see a middle-aged woman with a limp hobbling towards her. The woman wore a garment that could only be described as a mix between a burkkah and a sahri, her dark hair confined to a single, knotted braid that hung down her back like a piece of old rope. Her skin was dark and lightly creased, and her nose looked as though it had been broken at least once in her lifetime. “Ekscooz!” she shouted again.

“Yes?” LeAnne asked, as the woman came within casual speaking distance. The woman panted as she slowed to a stop on the sidewalk. LeAnne flinched as the woman forcefully took hold of her hand and shoved something soft into Leanne’s palm.

 “Two Euro!” she spat at LeAnne. LeAnne looked down and found that the object the woman had thrust upon her was a leaf. Just a leaf.

“What?” asked LeAnne. “For this? Two Euro? No.” LeAnne dropped the leaf and let it waft to the sidewalk.

“Two Euro!” the woman repeated, a little louder this time. Her face was hardened into an unwavering scowl, a hand outstretched in anticipation of payment.

“No,” LeAnne repeated. She turned to walk away, taking hold of the strap of her suitcase, but the woman caught her arm.

She prattled off a short strain of angry foreign words, waving around a fist full of leaves identical to the one she had given LeAnne. “Two Euro! Two Euro!” she repeated. The hold she had on her arm was painful. LeAnne tried to pull away from her, but the woman’s grip was unrelenting, digging deeper into her flesh with each tug.

“No! Get off!” LeAnne shouted. “Police!” she looked around, hunting the crowd for someone in uniform. “Police!”

This seemed to be the magic word. For an instant, the woman’s eyes lit up with fear. She released LeAnne’s arm, spat on her shirt, and ran. She ran with grace, her limp seeming to have healed completely over the course of sixty seconds.

LeAnne watched her flee and melt into the throngs of tourists all scrambling around a nearby intersection. She grimaced with disgust and used the sleeve of her jacket to wipe the woman’s spittle from her blouse. Gross.

This was the first of what would be many encounters with gypsies. No more than twenty minutes after the first incident, another woman who was dressed in a similar manner as the first stopped LeAnne. This one did not touch her, but politely asked, “Ekscooz?” as LeAnne was passing. She had held out a postcard, writing-side up, for LeAnne to read. In a childish hand, the following paragraph was scrawled:

“I am Asha. I live in Paris. My two childs is both sick and at hospital. My husband is died, and I do not own money for to pay for my sick childs. Pleas help me.”

LeAnne had no way of knowing whether this was true or not, and didn’t really know whether she would pity the woman if it were. She could work, couldn’t she? Rather than standing outside all day harassing tourists for their money. And even if both truth and pity were somehow evident, LeAnne had no money to spare. She had to guard each cent she had or she, too, would be standing street-side with a post-card before it was all over.

© 2010 Amanda

Author's Note

A little shorter than my usual tidbits, but this book is going to end up being rather short, itself. I apologize in advance if I have offended anyone by the term "gypsies." Not trying to push buttons. Just trying to write a story.

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Added on November 18, 2010
Last Updated on November 18, 2010
Tags: travel, hunger, fiction, creative nonfiction



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