The greatest clarity I ever experienced came when I heard my mother scream.
She screamed, and I am still astounded by how I reacted.
When your mother screams, it’s unmistakable—it’s the voice you know but at a pitch you’ve never heard it before.
The urgency, the shock, the pain.
I have never been in a warzone, never been in a fight, never experienced real danger.
This was Via Laietana, in the very centre of Barcelona, on a Sunday evening at 7 p.m., bright and sunny, middle of summer, crowded street.
I didn’t look around when she screamed, I didn’t swivel, I didn’t pivot; with that scream still coming from her throat, I had already turned, I still remember seeing the position of my foot as I used it to propel myself. That’s what I find so remarkable, the clarity, the speed; it’s like it was hardwired.
As I passed her, she was falling to the ground, unbending like a tree, still holding the strap of her handbag, as was the bastard who had grabbed her bag.
I made a pathetic attempt to wrestle, to box, yet they managed to get away, we got the bag, and my mother went through physiotherapy for her injuries. She will never return to Barcelona.
I have since followed progress—what little there has been—on Robbed In Barcelona. I have learned it wasn’t an isolated incident, and I have learned, to my disbelief, that having punched my mother’s assailant, if I had managed to bloody his nose and restrain him, it would not have been he who would have gone to jail but would have instead been me. He hadn’t stolen anything after all. I, however, had assaulted him, according to Spanish law.
As it turned out, he scurried back to his hovel, ready to prey on the next victim, of whom I’m sure there were hundreds more that long summer.