Bag Guy Piet

Lisa Echcharif
Bag Guy Piet
Just as I leave my corner in the city park, I feel this pull in my left pinkie. My corner, yes! I don’t like being with others. Although it would be safer for me. In my case. I prefer being on my own. The others think I am a snob. You will see what you think about this.
The pulling in my left pinkie, which is sticking out from my ripped gloves, increases. I rub my hands. Warmth is supposed to get rid of the pull-feeling. I should have listened better to the pull. Before it is drowned out by a howling array of voices and the heavy beating of my heart takes control. Now my left pinkie and all the others clutch tighter onto my bags.
“Hey, boys! The bum ahead certainly has some liquor left! Come on!”
By now the eight-armed octopus is on top of me, tearing at my bags. Eating me lock, stock and barrel. I have nothing, I want to yell. My mouth refuses. The first bags rip. Parts of me roll across the path.
“Hey, where are you hiding your stuff, dude?” The sour breath of the young men hits me in the face. The next bag tears. I am breaking up. No! I have to free myself. One of them trips me. Pain jolts through my ankle, shoots up my leg. I am falling. Once again.
“Stop! Leave him immediately!”
“Piss off, grandma. Mind your own business!”
The woman will give up now. I know the game. The young guys as well.
But her voice makes me look up. Everything about her, right down to her student-satchel seems practical. Even though she is surely around fifty and she stands there utterly calm. Chillingly, like frozen metal, without a trace of fear she says into her cell phone: “Miller, good day. In the city-park, south of the kiosk a man is being jumped.”
Immediately one of the men lets go of me and approaches her threateningly. But even as she moves calmly in the direction of the now-gathering bystanders, one of his buddies calls him off.
“Come on, let’s get out of here. There’s nothing here anyways!”
As farewell, he gives me a last kick, dampened by my bags.
Already the practical face appears above me. Two hands reach towards me.
“Is everything all right? Come on, I’ll help you get up. Give me your hand.”
Before I can react, she pulls at my hands. Even her grip is practical. Mine fastens itself tighter around my bags.
The pain in my leg makes me grunt.
“Oh no, are you injured?” She lets my hands go, but now tugs at my bags. “We have to free you of this stuff, in order to see what happened.”
A can of cola rolls over the path.
“No! Get away!” I screech. I can’t say anything more. She can’t get to my bags.
Everything inside of me yells danger. I will lose my things. They will take them from me, leaving me behind without anything. Where is the most important bag? What actually is in the bags? I don’t know what’s in all of them. They can’t look inside, nobody should see what I carry around with me.
I try pushing the practical one away. Somewhere somebody is laughing.

“If you don’t want help, I cannot give it to you”, the woman says, letting go of me and leaving. “Straight ahead,” I hear her. “He doesn’t want to be helped.” Then two police officers are standing in front of me. I try to get upright. The pain and my bags prevent it.
“Are you all right?” a police officer asks. I nod. “But you can’t stay seated here,” the other remarks and they have already grabbed me under the arms to lift me up. When they realize that I cannot run, they go into my bags.
No, not my bags. I am nothing without them. From all possessions, nothing is left. Everybody will see that nothing is there, pathetic nothingness. Naked will I stand before them. One cannot show oneself naked in public. Naked without warmth, without protection, at the mercy of the wind, the looks of the others. I don’t even realize that I am hitting around me. Until I suddenly hear my name.
Renate. In her grey wool sweater, smelling of frying fat and homeland, she stands before me. Her cheeks, flushed by the cold, are glowing like her red hair.
“Piet. Everything’s fine. Nobody will take your bags.”
I stare at her.
“I’ll look after everything. They’ll take you to the kiosk, okay?”
“But he needs a doctor,” one of the police officers says, when I finally sit on the bench in front of Renate’s kiosk.
“I’ll take care of it,” she says.
Silence, at last.
Renate hands me a cup of coffee. “Should I drive you?”
I shake my head.
“You tell me when you are ready.”
The pull in my pinkie has left. Renate as well. Quitting time. It takes almost two hours until I realize that she left the storage room door open. And then another painful half until I am lying rolled up in my blanket on the storage room floor. My bags within reach. Maybe I will let Renate bring me to the doctor tomorrow.

Translation: Shannon Wardell

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