She was on the side of the road in the village, close to the crossing at the monument. She had golden earrings and worn-out sandals, or slippers, and her clothes were dirty. Holding a shiny fake leather women’s wallet with a golden buckle, she jumped from one side of the concrete-lined ditch to the other. Couldn’t have been older than 8 or 9. When she saw me she started walking towards me. I opened the door of the white car.
She said: – Hi. What’s your name?
Anna. Nice wallet you’ve got there.
My mom gave it to me. But I need money to put in it. She couldn’t give me any money. She needs it for the little girl, for diapers. She couldn’t give me any. Do you have any?
Sorry. You gotta wait till you’re older and then you can work and earn it.
She had a feral look, though she was still in control. I could feel her being my equal, almost stronger, analyzing what she could see of the inside of the car, almost planning how and if there was something to grab and run off with. She was still in control but at the same time a part of her mind seemed to already be wandering off. Healthy beggars never look at you with this piercing look, like they would like to x-ray and have you all turned inside out in a few minutes, take what they need and discard the rest. If they think it, they know how to hide it. At the same time she was still a child. There was a sort of innocence in her. She did not act upon her wandering thoughts. Her eyes betrayed both sides, the innocence and the precipice.
My husband was running back towards the car with our daughter, only slightly younger than her. I pointed her out:
Look, that’s my daugther.
She looked at her feeling that her chance was gone but tried one last time.
Please give me some money for my wallet. I need money.
You’ll grow up and work and earn all the money you need.
Somehow we both knew that sounded untrue.
Look, I see you already have a few bills in there, so it’s not that bad.
She smiles like one of her secrets has been uncovered. As he approaches the car she slowly steps back looking at me disdainfully than looking away in shyness.
Who was that he asks.
A strange beggar. She didn’t want any pretzels though. Only money.
An hour later I already forgot her name.