My brother is splayed on the couch watching the Euro and says he doesn’t feel like telling me what happened with his bag yet. With the name of the security company he worked for printed aggressively along the sides, the bag in question was lying near the front door. It does not look particularly disturbed by the events of the day.
Whatever these events were, I am not going to find out just yet, because Simon can never just tell a story like a normal person. He has to be in the mood for it.
Which is endlessly annoying.
But I like a good story, and dad told me that the bag situation was one of the craziest things he’d heard in a while. I don’t want the truncated, monosyllabic version I’d get if I pushed it. Instead, I join my brother on the balcony after dinner, where he rolls a cigarette as the sun sucks its light behind the mountains in a whirlpool of coloured clouds.
“Gonna tell me what happened?”
He fixes his gaze on the horizon in a truly dramatic, moderately infuriating way and cups his hand around his mouth to light up.
Takes a drag. Squints a little for effect before beginning.
“So today I was working in Renens. The job was at this construction site, along a road, where they’d closed off the sidewalk. What I had to do was redirect pedestrians along the deviation. Man. I swear people are so stupid. Like, adults are so stupid. There was a carpet laid out for people to walk on instead of the sidewalk, and there was a break in the carpet about ten meters along it. You’d see kids come along, and I’d tell them, hey, follow the carpet, and they’d follow the carpet. Then they’d get to the place where the carpet stops and then starts again like, two meters later, and they’d walk across the break and keep following the carpet. You tell an adult to follow the carpet, and they’ll follow the first bit, and then as soon as they get to the break, it’s like they’re a character from the Sims. They wander out onto the road or go wherever the fuck they want. And as soon as the one in front goes the wrong way, everyone else follows, so I kept having to walk away from the start of the deviation to herd the people who would take off in the middle. So I kept having to leave my bag, which was just on the ground at the start of the carpet.”
Tapping cigarette ash into a little clay flowerpot on the windowsill, he shakes his head in retrospective irritation, “I come back from herding the people in the middle, and my bag is gone.”
“Yeah, dad said you called him about that. Did you have your wallet and stuff in it?”
“Nah, but the bag was the one given to me by the company, with all of my uniform in it. It’s worth like, 200 CHF, easily, you know, and I was super pissed. So I went and told the guy in charge of the construction site and he was like ‘well, I don’t know what to tell you, man.’ Then I called my boss and he was really annoyed but said he’d report it to the right people, for insurance or whatever. And i thought that was that. At my lunch break, I went to eat in this park right next to where I was working.
“Halfway through my sandwich, this guy walks by, this like, old, fat, Indian dude wearing shorts and a bright orange jacket with my company’s name on it, and carrying a company bag.”
“So someone who clearly didn’t work for the company.”
“Nah, like the sleeves stopped halfway down his forearms and he was wearing flip-flops. So I follow him a little ways and he stops by this bench and I go up to him.”
He pauses for a drag of his cigarette.
“And I go, ‘Tcho mec, ça va?’ and he’s like, yeah man. And I asked him where he was working security that day, and he was like, ‘Oh, uh, I’m not, the company just asked me to do some promo for them.’ Then I just kinda looked at him and go, ‘Hey, is that my bag?’ and he was like, ‘Oh, yeah.’”
There’s the hint of a smirk behind his words, and I laugh, “Well, at least he admitted it.”
“Yeah, but I was like, really annoyed, and it was almost the end of my lunch break and I didn’t feel like making a big thing out of it so I just asked him if I could have it back. And he’s like, sure, just give me a minute, and he starts taking all his stuff out of my bag,” Simon’s kind of laughing now, and getting more animated, “He had si much shit in there. he had it on the ground and was basically unpacking it. But then this lady comes up and gets involved.”
“She comes up and just stands between the two of us and starts talking to him. Like, just chatting shit about absolutely nothing, and I needed to get back to work soon so I interrupt her and say, ‘hey, we’re kind of in the middle of something here.’ Then she,” – Simon’s not laughing anymore – “She looks at me, then at the guy and goes, ‘Oh, I see what’s going on here. Security is as bad as the police.’ And then I got super pissed.”
I am admittedly quite relieved that the previous mention of the guy’s race was relevant to the story, but I’m also a little taken aback by how upset the stranger’s assumption has made him.
“So I was like, what does she mean by that, but she just shakes her head and sits down on the bench and won’t say anything, and all I can guess is that she assumed I was like, racial profiling or something. When the guy was wandering around wearing my fucking coat right next to where he’d stolen it.
“You didn’t mention that he’d admitted to stealing your bag?”
“No, I didn’t need to tell her, she shouldn’t have jumped to that conclusion. But whatever. He finally got all his stuff, and I went back to work.”
A flutter of wings as a bird takes flight from the darkness of the trees below us and rises up with the smoke from Simon’s cigarette. A pause long enough that I think the story is over when he breaks it.
“A couple hours later,” tapping off some ash, “He comes back to where I’m working and says, ‘Hey, I actually left my house keys in your coat pocket,’” the smirk creeps back onto Simon’s face and he lets himself laugh a little, “I was working so I told him, “Man, I’m working, go get them yourself. You know where they are.’ So he gets his keys and comes back to offer me a cigarette and say thanks” he chuckles again and shakes his head. He stubs his cigarette out and goes back inside as the last of the day’s light fades to a dull glow behind the jagged black outline of the mountains.