The Spanish Gypsy Who Ruined My Love Of Walking

Moroccan merchants are nothing compared to Spanish palm readers

Time To Read: 9 mins | July 6, 2017

I walk alone a lot, and not always because I’m lost. I just like it. You can wander around, relax in your own thoughts and, so long as you’ve got enough battery on your phone, will always be able to find your way home again.

I also do my best thinking while walking. I’m sure there’s a scientific reason for this, something about a huge amount of shifting external stimulus with little to no distractions to one’s train of thought. But really, simply put, I just think people and things are silly, and I like to chuckle alone at them.

Take yesterday. I had all sorts of clever and idiotic ideas on my random aimless walk through Seville. One occurred while I was passing a church – I don’t know the name of this particular ancient stoney worship house, but it’s huge and absolutely covered in steeples. Like, an aggressive amount of pointy towers were sprouting out of this cathedral, and I distinctly remember thinking, “Man, whoever built that must have been really afraid of space monsters.”

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Because space monsters would fly down, right? And steeples are like spikes… you get it.

I had several other equally incisive insights into humanity, but sadly all those are now forgotten because I didn’t write them down & had two beers with lunch. But I did think to, on my walk home, send a text to a friend in LA about my love of aimless wandering. I began typing it much like that earlier paragraph: “Just FYI, I really like walking around alone someti”

That’s how far I got when a sturdy, dark-haired woman invaded my personal space. She was gibbering in Spanish that was too fast for me to understand while trying to force a sprig into my hand. I never figured out what that stick was.

Having just come from Morocco, I have no problem being stern with street conmen. I probably told her no at least 5 times, the last two rather forcefully, but she strangely wouldn’t back down. Even the most forward Marrakech hashish peddlers would have surrendered after that.

She was shoving this little leafy stick at me like my life depended on it. And since I didn’t understand anything she was saying, plus the fact that we were standing in front of a church and I thought she might be a nun or the like, I finally accepted the sprig.

Then she grabbed my hand. Which, OK, red flag, but as sturdy as this leaf pusher was & as out-of-shape as I’ve become, I can still over power and/or run down an old woman if need be. But instead of robbing or attacking me, she started tracing the lines of my hand. I caught the words amor and vivo and linea in there, and as such deduced that she was reading my palm – in a language I don’t really speak.

Now, I’ve had this done before. I paid a gypsy woman an embarrassing sum of money on the Venice boardwalk to tell me my destiny – mojitos were involved, if I remember correctly. And at the time, while I put exactly zero stock in nonsense like this, I remember being at least impressed with her showmanship. She convincingly gave off an aura of earnestness and took the time to explain where her arbitrary conclusions were coming from. $10 for 10 minutes kinda well spent.

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This Spanish gypsy, on the other hand (nailed the pun), was shit.

In any language. She wasn’t even looking at my damn palm. She’d run her hand over the creases and say a few stock phrases about long lines meaning long life, strong romance in the future, etc. etc. But this was done faster than a high school boy finishes during his first blowjob, and she was constantly looking over her shoulder for another sucker (nailed it again) the entire time.

For something I don’t believe in nor care about at all, I was actually disgusted at her lack of effort. The entire thing lasted ninety seconds. When she was done, she dropped my hand like a hot potato and made eye contact for the first time, smiling and expectant, like she’d just done me the greatest favor ever bestowed upon a mere mortal.

I gave her exactly what her unwanted performance deserved: a gracias and three quick steps in the opposite direction. Which ended very not well.

She jogged in front of me and started yammering in full-speed Sevillan Spanish, which even fluent native speakers struggle to understand. Listening to Sevillans is like trying to understand Bam Margera’s uncle Don Vito on cocaine, in a different language, without subtitles. You catch a couple words here and there, but are mostly just left with the vague impression that they’re angry about something.

And she was. Obviously she expected to be paid for her services. Normally I’d wave her off and say terrible!, but remember, Jesus’ house is about ten yards to my right. It’s been a minute since I read the Bible, but I do recall there’s something about charity in there, so I caved and gave her some. A couple coins out of my pocket, maybe 75 US cents.

Not enough, turns out, and somehow this made it worse. She started looking at the money like it was a dead rat and pointing repeatedly at the sprig she’d ‘given’ me. “It’s a tiny leafy stick that you forced into my hand, you ass,” is what I would have said were my Spanish strong enough. Instead I tried to hand it back to her – nope again.

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She barked at me in more unintelligible Spanish; I think she was saying “no backsies,” in Sevillan.

Now people are starting to look at the Spanish gypsy banshee and the pissed-off American. So fine, peer pressure and what not, I gave her another couple coins, bringing her total to maybe $1.50. She still snarled at that amount, but then I snarled back — which surprised both of us — and she walked off muttering under her breath.

It was time to go home. Slightly turned around on account of my duel with the gypsy, I pulled out my phone to map the route to my apartment. That’s when I saw that I’d never finished that text about the deep enjoyment I get from walking alone.

“NM,” I ended it. “Ask me about the palm reader when you wake up.”

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photo: skyline of seville, spain. not the pointy place (if you’ve not read what’s on the left yet, that will make sense shortly)

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Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm Freberg
American writer living permanently on the road. Believes rye whiskey is superior to bourbon, Belle is the best Disney princess, and that selfie sticks should be snapped in half on sight. Hosted a travel documentary for AOL & played Survivor a few times.
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