There I stood, alone in the noisy jungle of stalls. Great tent canopies leaned in on each other weighed down by their produce- hundreds of purses, jackets, necklaces, and other goods grew and swayed from ropes and poles like exotic fruit ripe for the picking. Shop sellers called noisily at the herd of startled tourists stumbling down the aisles of the market. They stuck together eyes stealthily scanning the fruit being guarded by the fierce callers and jaws set against their words like saints fighting the temptation to sin. Above all rose the warm and sweet smell of leather baking in the hot sun.
Lost in the swarm of activity, I was exhausted. The heat had beaten down my senses and my feet begged for relief but I was gripped by a hazy determination that propelled me forward. It had begun as a simple thought: “it sure would be nice to buy a purse here” that became a statement “I should buy a purse here” that in the harsh light of the Florentine sun had evolved into a mantra “I will buy a purse here.” Even though my strength was sapped, I was isolated from the wiser advice and protection of my friends and didn’t have full possession of my mental faculties I let the harsh cries of the venders and the inviting smell of leather lure me into the danger of the market jungle.
A tunnel of hundreds of bright leather purses stretched on forever before me and miles behind. The shimmering purses crowded my sight and confused my vision. Only bare fragments of thoughts could form in the muck: “yes, no, too pink, too big, too shiny.” One purse stood out- “How much?” “60 Euro” too much. After a long period of searching, I stopped at one stall selling clothing and talked myself into buying a skirt. It was not a particularly expensive skirt and it was a fairly simple transaction, but somewhere within my dulled spirit it awakened a fierce jungle cat. And that cat was hungry- it had tasted the satisfying meat of action and demanded more.
The cat bought earrings. They were clip-ons, the cat turned on the shop owner and took her four Euros back in a terrifying and determined rage. She prowled down the aisles of stalls surveying the prey. She felt a soft leather purse between her dangerous claws. She admired the color as she playfully tossed it back and forth- not ready for the kill.
“55 Euro” too much.
“I’ll come back”
“Name your price.” The jungle cat backed away releasing the prey. A trap?
“No-50- I meet you in the middle” The cat continued to back away.
“No, I can’t”
“It’s genuine leather, see?” A flame licked the side of the bag.
“I’ll come back”
“NO, don’t go. 45? Okay. Don’t go.” The prey was staring the jungle cat in the eyes- why didn’t it run? The cat’s stomach grumbled but it remained carefully still. “Don’t go, it’s good leather.”
“45 Euro.” In an instant, before the jungle cat could think, its muscles tensed and it sprang.
Suddenly, I was standing alone in the Florence leather market with a bagged purse limp in my hold and only a fuzzy recollection of how it got there. I felt like a man who discovers he had become a werewolf in the night and killed a mountain lion- he is mortified but a small part of him is impressed with this new ferocity. The following morning I awoke with the kill staring at me across the room. I felt sick. I picked it up, I felt it, wore it, threw it, loved it, regretted it. I was afraid and fascinated that somewhere within there is a wild animal unafraid to go for the kill.
A few weeks later, the piece of shit broke.