‘How to Make Things Worse’ by Edith Pearlman


From The New York Times:

Some years ago my husband and I rented an apartment in Paris to celebrate our twentieth anniversary. On the morning of the afternoon we were to leave I packed, putting our clothes and books into two suitcases. I stashed our money and other documents in a leather wallet with many compartments, some hidden within others. I dropped this clever wallet into a quilted backpack. Then, wearing the backpack, I went out for a last stroll on the Boulevard Saint Michel. There, at a kiosk, I bought a lacey shawl for my adored aunt and some oversized hoops for my ears. I came back. I threw the backpack on the bed. And discovered that the clever wallet and its contents, including, God help us, our passports, were gone.

I peeked into the living room at the kindly man I’d married, who was patiently making his way through Le Monde. Was the kindly man to end the vacation, not to mention the marriage, by strangling me? Leaving the backpack on the bed I ran back to the kiosk where I had bought the lacey shawl for my accursed aunt and the hoop earrings for my ridiculous self. I’d paid with money from the clever wallet – I’d had it then. I begged the proprietor to return it. He retorted that he didn’t have it. “Those gypsies,” he shrugged. “Perhaps this is yours,” handing me a red scarf. I tied it around my head, knotting it at the nape. Perhaps this disguise would encourage the gypsy band to accept me as one of their own, and I could filch my clever wallet from them. I retraced my steps to the apartment, my eyes on the sidewalk. No clever wallet. No gypsies either.

“Oh, dear,” murmured the probable strangler when I told him my – our – plight. A moment earlier I’d thought I couldn’t feel worse. His kindness was my undoing, and I burst into tears which for the next several hours I never quite burst out of.

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