He picked it up off the ground. After putting the single Euro coin we gave him in the vending machine, he picked the cigarette up off the cement and began to smoke it. Yeah. We watched in disbelief while Anthony walked beside him, conversing in Spanish. Ian and I didn’t want to take directions to the post office from this guy anyway, but once Anthony had paid the stranger, we knew we couldn’t leave him alone.
But now he had taken us past his first “just around here” point, was approaching his second, and we only had a half hour to get back to our Explorica tour group. And Seville was confusing to say the least, especially as a sophomore with only two years of rudimentary Spanish language skills. Ian kept shooting me looks and checking his watch. I didn’t know what he expected me to do, so I stayed a few steps behind, keeping my eyes twitching between Anthony, our guide, and our surroundings.
How had we met this guy? He was creepy, that’s how. Trying to figure out our phone cards in the central plaza, he sat down virtually on top of Anthony’s backpack. Eavesdropping maybe, but at the very least looking like he wanted to rob us, we made a pact, Ian and I, in hushed tones, as Anthony stepped off beside him: if we had not reached a post office in fifteen minutes we would turn back. We would have to.
The final checkpoint, El Corte InglÃ©s, poked through the busy streets. Our guide pointed to it as he drew on someone else’s cigarette. We walked up toward the largest department store—and then walked past it. Thirteen minutes had gone by. Around another corner, and we deviated from the main streets to a side alley. Great. It was darker here, as clichÃ©d as alleys come, dingy and abandoned. Our guide stopped and turned around, grinning, pointing up at a poorly lit sign. It read “correo”. Muy bien.
It was a lesson in trust I guess, one that Anthony passed and Ian and I failed, letting our paranoia win the day. We never did go in the post office. The three of us had to run down the interlocking streets of Seville, trying to remember on our own if we had turned left at the tienda de helado or if it was a right, if at the Cathedral we had changed direction or continued straight down the path. Our actual tour guide Pedro (Piotr, really, from Poland) and our Spanish teacher from school sighed with relief when we got back ten minutes late, at first at least. We did share the story, but I think that may have contributed in the case against us. Ian and I were both embarrassed and had a great story, as well as the lesson to never allow Anthony to pick a guide, but I don’t think Anthony was any different. He was proud of using his Spanish to ask for directions, and to converse with the guy as they walked.
Sometime I wish I had that kind of courage, but then I remember that there could just as easily have been something else down that noir-like alley, and I’m okay with my natural distrust of people.
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