Posted: 1 June, 2018 in 2012

If it was not for the man sitting next to me with that smell of cigarettes impregnated on his body, the trip would have been very pleasant. I had just arrived in Amsterdam. Soon my suitcase would be in the luggage carousel. I was surprised to find a purse on the floor. Considering its colors, blue and yellow, I thought it belonged to a young woman.

I looked around me.

A girl jumped, bored, next to those who I imagined were her parents. I showed them the handbag, but they ignored my signs.

–Don’t abandon your belongings!

A security guard ordered me in a rather choppy English.

–They are not mine.

I replied in the same language, about to raise my arms as a sign of surrender.

An anecdote in Raymond Carver’s book I had just read on the plane came to my mind. In that short story, a woman forgets her purse in the bathroom of a museum in Germany. A lady, upon seeing and opening it, finds an identification card with a local address in Munich. She decides to take a taxi in order to deliver it herself to its owner.

–Pick it up immediately! –insisted the guard–. If not, you must come with me to Security!

Without giving it another thought, I did what the woman in Carver’s short story should not have done either: I took the bag.

What would be in it? What would happen if the owner had seen me?

My suitcase arrived.

I went to the customs line trying to hide my nervousness. It was cold, but my hands were sweaty. I was beginning to feel heat all over my body. The guard stared at me. On leaving the airport, I would take the first taxi I found and check out the purse. It had to have a document.

I was in the line after four people.

I did not want that handbag with me any more. The short story written by Carver was still in my mind. The woman of that story returns the purse to her owner who, upon receiving it, discovers that the one hundred and twenty dollars which she had fastened with a paperclip were gone. She does not say anything to the lady imagining that perhaps someone else had taken the money. In gratitude, the owner of the bag and her husband, invited her to stay for a cup of tea.

–Your turn –a boy said behind me.

I approached the customs officer and showed my declaration and passport with a shy smile. Tried to look calm. Answered a few questions that I do not remember anymore.

–Welcome to the  Netherlands –he said.

I took my passport and smiled again.

Sighed softly.

Walked slowly.

Left the airport.

Felt cold.

In three minutes I was in a taxi.

–Where should I take you? –the driver asked me in English.

I opened the handbag. There had to be a document, something that could take me to its owner.

A scarf. An old book

I was stunned.

There were dollar bills fastened with a paperclip.

Could it be another coincidence?

I preferred not to touch them and flipped through the pages of the book.  A piece of paper fell out with a handwritten text.

I gave it to the driver.

It was an address.

–Is it far away?

I asked him while trying to calculate how much money was in that paperclip.

–Fifteen minutes. Here, in Amsterdam, everything is close.

What should I do?

In Carver´s short story, the woman, the one who finds the purse and gives it to her owner, was invited to stay for tea. She seats down happily and after elegantly telling about her life, travels and fortune, she dies. Yes, she dies. She dies in the living room with her mouth opened, dropping her cup on the floor and collapsing on the couch. They felt her pulse. There were no signs of life. The owner of the bag, shocked, averting her eyes from the increasingly pale corpse, takes the good woman´s purse in order to find out in which hotel she was staying. Opens it. Is astonished. Deeply disappointed. There they were. Fastened with the paperclip. Her one hundred and twenty dollars.

–Shall we go to this address? –the driver hurried me.

–Yes, please.

I said almost instinctively still having doubts if I should give back the purse to her owner.

–Do you feel well? Is the heating too high for you?

–Don´t worry. It´s fine. Thanks –I answered breathlessly.

My hands. They were sweating again.

I took my jacket off and placed my stuff in order without looking at the handbag anymore. I did not want to count that money.

We went through several streets. Hundreds of bicycles crossed and invaded the avenues in perfect order. It was almost four o´clock in the afternoon. I was tired and needed sleep.

–Here we are –said the taxi driver as he returned the paper with the address to me–. It´s thirteen Gulden.

–Can you wait? I just have to deliver something and will come back soon –I said trying in some way to change my destiny.

–Sorry, madam –he answered–. I have to pick up another passenger.

I rolled my suitcase very slowly towards the house. The facade was tall and narrow. The roof had the shape of a bell.

The sky was gray.

Was it going to rain?

As in Carver’s short story, I saw a woman leaning out the window. She opened the door before I could even ring the bell. Her hair was black and very short. She received me with a brief smile, staring immediately at the purse in my hand. At the same time she said loudly: You were absolutely right, darling! The lady brought my handbag!

–Come in please! It´s very cold outside! I’m Tess –she said while giving me a quick handshake and closed the door behind me. Let me introduce you to my husband…

But I had seen them before.

–It´s my pleasure –a man with black, bushy eyebrows greeted me–. I noticed on the plane your enthusiasm reading my book–. While putting a cigarette to his mouth he continued: I’m Raymond Carver. But don’t stay there standing up, sit down. Sit down –he insisted while making space for me in the general disarray of the living room–. Would you join us for a cup of tea?

Rossana Sala


Spanish version:


  1. Giovanna Demurtas says:

    Excelente relato Rossana! Felicitaciones!… Un fuerte abrazo!


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