Have you ever found an unattended wallet with money inside for the taking? Have you ever accidentally left your wallet and found that someone helped themselves? Have you ever threatened someone with violence until they gave you everything they had that was valuable? Have you ever been robbed in broad daylight?
When I was sixteen, I traveled to Guatemala with my school's Spanish Club. We saw wonderful things, took many showers that were meant to be warm but turned cold halfway through, and shopped like tourists. We visited many awesome places: a tiny town just off the Pan-American highway, a gorgeous lake in the mountains, and an ancient Mayan ruin called Iximche.
Iximche is a big place, with lots of open area dotted with buildings that used to be regal and grand and are now decaying. While we were there, we were allowed to ramble around and scale the tall, thin stairways to see the view from the top of pyramids. I enthusiastically took pictures of everything, stashing the used film in my brand new bag next to a photocopy of my passport, twenty American dollars, several hundred Quetzales, and a delicate teacup with a matching saucer that I’d just purchased as a gift for my mother.
Several minutes later, six other girls and I were walking out of a wooded area nearby when we were accosted by several men who demanded our things. We watched as everything was taken from us, except for Diana, who only had her hair clips to offer and was ignored. My favorite hat, with the crappy sunglasses I loved perched on top, fell to the ground as one of the villains removed my bag from my shoulder. I looked down at the hat, which I had purchased for fifty cents at a garage sale, and the sunglasses, which had been pink when I’d traded for them at a white elephant gift exchange at a school Christmas party but were now black because I’d chipped all the paint off of them, and hoped that since they were worthless, they would go unnoticed. But the man stooped and scooped them up. Everything that I’d had was now gone.
As we rode away from the ruins back to our hotel in the city, one of the girls exclaimed angrily that she couldn’t remember a thing about the culprits, even though her father, a policeman, had trained her to pick every detail out of a scene.
The delinquents were never caught and our possessions were never recovered. There was no chance for revenge or even closure. My favorite hat has been rotting in a ditch somewhere in the western highlands of Guatemala for thirteen years.
Last night I dreamed I was on a long walk across the city with my friend Sam. As we often did on these long walks, we stopped to rest for a bit in a nice air conditioned convenience store before continuing on our way.
It must have been a shady neighborhood, because while we were chatting, a nefarious passerby tried to distract me long enough to make off with my beverage. I was so upset at the attempt that I ended up driving the straw through the bottom of the styrofoam cup and spilling the rest of the drink. Sam made an attempt to calm me down, and we left.
A few blocks later, we were talking, and I reached for my bag to show him something. But then I realized that my bag wasn’t there. Realizing that I must have left it at the last place we stopped, we rushed back to reclaim my possessions, while Sam tried to convince me that they would still be there, safe and whole. I wasn’t convinced, because I had been keeping a quantity of cash in my wallet. Not a ton, but enough to make anyone who is sneaky enough to rifle through my things lucky that they found it.
Sure enough, we reached our former resting place, and there was my bag. I picked it up, a wave of relief flowing over me, but terror striking again when I found my wallet was not inside. The tide of relief crashed on the beach of apprehension once again when I spotted my wallet, but then went back out when I looked inside to find it empty.
Sam tried to be the voice of hope and reason, sure that we could ask someone about it, that we’d get it back, and apologizing for coming through this neighborhood and stopping here to rest in the first place. I was incensed. I was determined that I would find the thief and that they would get what was coming to them.
As luck (or maybe fate) would have it, the cocky, opportunistic person who made off with my possessions came around the corner at that very moment. Not only did he arrive, he immediately started bragging. Seeing me clutching my things in rage, he commented, “oh is that your stuff? Yeah, I’ve got your money. What are you going to do about it?” Sam whipped out his phone to call the police.
There was a short period of time with lots of scuffling and shouting, with both of them asking me what I was doing and me wrestling and growling that if the police were coming, then we couldn’t give the culprit a chance to escape.
I suppose since it was my dream, I was predetermined to triumph, because I succeeded in subduing the boasting pilferer on the ground with his arms above his head.
And when the police didn’t immediately arrive, my captive began to squirm and gloat that there was no way I could hold him until the authorities came for him. So I did the only thing I could.
I scratched him.
My fingernails have been getting pretty long lately, and I was holding both his wrists with one of mine while sitting on his chest, and his t-shirt had ridden up during the scuffle, so his belly was exposed. The scratch wasn’t anywhere near hard enough to draw blood, but it can’t have been terribly comfortable.
He started to protest, and I began to demand the return of my possessions. He refused, but I figured that while I had the upper hand, I may as well gain back what I had lost.
I pried a crumpled five dollar bill out of one of his hands, then threatened to scratch him again. After this, he seemed utterly defeated, and pulled my cash out of various pockets in his massive cargo pants until all of them were empty.
Satisfied that he wasn’t hiding anything, I allowed him to depart while I sat down to make sure it was all there. Sam, who was proving to be the fairness and goodness portion of my subconscious, sat down with me, scolding me for my behavior. Upon inspection of my spoils, I found that the miscreant had indeed returned everything he had taken.
In addition to this, he seemed to have turned over everything else that was in his pockets, which amounted to an alarming number of newspaper clippings about Christmas festivities. Sam’s admonishments got through to me at that point, and I felt bad for the lengths to which I had gone to regain what had been taken from me.
“These are obviously important to him,” Sam told me, “maybe he’ll come back for them.”
So we sat and waited. The dream ended there, with us asking anyone who came by if they knew who we were looking for and could return what we had seized. No one did, and no one could, and I sat there feeling sorry for myself and what I had done.
Though I never got to confront and wrestle with and pry back my lost possessions from any thieves in Guatemala, I never thought beyond their initial greed. I never thought that maybe they felt genuine remorse about what they had done. It had never entered my mind that maybe, possibly, one of them went back to that place and sat waiting for me to come back and retrieve what they had taken.
It is strange that a weird dream years and years later would make me remember and let me resolve some feelings. It seems that revenge truly is a dish best served cold... and even better when in a dream.