Update from Italy: The Quickly-Exchanged Coin

. I know it’s a Brazilian real and not a two-euro coin but the image was so lovely ….
Photo by Eduardo Soares on Unsplash

This morning I walked along the Lungarno, the Via dei Tornabuoni. Listening to a podcast about Marla Rusicka and feeling my heart ready to burst with the tales of antiwar protests, her work in behalf of civilian victims in Afghanistan and Iraq, knowing by the language used that she would not live, she would not be alive at the end of the story.

In Piazza Antinori, in front of the Chiesa dei Santi Michele e Gaetano, I saw it, glimmering on the wet pavement. A coin.

Two euros. Perhaps destined for the the offering plate? Why was it out here and how had no one else seen it yet? No matter, I picked it up. A sign from the universe! Yes, surely a sign that the Universe wanted me to have a cappuccino this morning. I slipped the coin into the pocket of my red raincoat, feeling buoyed by this benevolent sign. I turned right to go up Via dei Pecori, Sheep Street, the façade of the duomo and the bell-tower looming high above me, the blue sky and scraps of clouds floating above. What a glorious day! And soon I would be seated at a bistrot table, sipping a steaming cappuccino on this glorious morning. I felt very pleased. I passed a clothier, a bar, a terrazza with tourists sipping their cappuccini. Soon I too would be sipping a steaming cappuccino! I smiled to myself. How wonderful to have received this sign! I walked with a spring in my step, the weak sun streaming in the sky.

At Via dei Brunelleschi I saw him, with his pink baseball cap. A man of about twenty, African, always with a literal cap in his hand. More often than not I crossed the street to avoid his imploring, obsequious face. But I knew what the Universe was asking now. Easy come easy go. The coin was already in my pocket. I fingered it with my left hand. He smiled at me, his cap empty. I dropped the coin in his cap. Signora, grazie infinite! he smiled at me. Well, maybe not infinite thanks, I thought with remorse. It was just two euros, and I had only picked it up around the corner a moment before.

Easy come, easy go. My bag weighed heavy with the wallet which just he week before had been a source of mirth for the security at the US consulate. Però signora! Why do you have so many monete in your portafoglio? the private security guard exclaimed. Where else would I put my monete, I wondered, confused. Half annoyed. First world problems. Yes, x-ray my wallet! Count all my damn change!

But it occurred to me this morning that perhaps my heavy wallet full of monete was sign from the universe enough that I might order a cappuccino outside this morning. And indeed I did, at Caffè Ciapetti, where the aged signora served me with a trembling hand, and I sat outside next to a potted plant and to write in a flimsy journal while the motorini and cars and busses zoomed by.

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