The Reluctant Brotherhood of the Travelling Wallet
It’s a debilitating feeling losing something precious to you. The blood drains from your cheeks, but they are effervescent with anxiety. You pat down your pockets and severe panic sets in. In that moment, your life flashes before your eyes. And, just when the Grim Reaper’s boney embrace feels inevitable, you look to your hand. Comfort returns. Blood rushes back to your face and your death is averted. Your wallet was in your hand all along.
But this time was different.
You’ve been overseas for less than 48 hours and the streets of Glasgow are everything you imagined. The people are warm; the parks are full of life. You arrive at the bus stop closest to where you are staying and just for safety, pat your pockets down. That severe panic is back.
You turn your head in sheer terror and see all of your available money riding on its own seat on a Glaswegian First public bus up the street into oblivion. You stare blankly and all you can say to your partner is, “My wallet is on that bus.” Helplessly watching your own wallet take its own trip, without an itinerary, should instill action within you. Instead, you stand perfectly still with your hands at your side.
You trudge back to the house, footsteps slushy on the rain-soaked Glaswegian street. Your thoughts are sopping with worry. You idiot. With the door shutting behind you, you sit on the toilet to contemplate the situation. In the other room, your girlfriend is on the phone to a relative who works for the bus company, but there’s a thick air of doubt in the air that would be sliceable with your pinky. The negativity is all-consuming as your feet begin to develop pins and needles under the weight of your impatient leaning.
Now you’re sitting by the phone waiting for positivity to call out from the landline’s earpiece. There’s no call for what feels like days as you sink deeper into the couch. Suddenly, a ring pokes through the fog. The pure relief releases off of you like a hydraulic press machine lifting off of a flattened object after crushing it with all of its force. Your wallet is on its way home to its proper owner.
You excitedly skip to the bus stop you were panicking at not 15 minutes ago. The returning bus is taking a while. Your foot taps at the speed of sound and your heartbeat echoes in your ear canal. Finally, the right bus slowly comes to a halt in front of you and you anxiously board, passport gripped in your fist tightly just in case they don’t believe you.
A kind-faced driver peers down from behind a sheet of protective glass.
“AY-DEE, please sir.”
You can’t believe it. Is this a sick joke? Your ID is in your wallet – this can’t be right. You go to offer your passport as a suitable replacement for ID and he interrupts you.
“Naw mate am only kedden you awn. Here ya go.”
He offers the wallet kindly but once you reach your hand out, he retracts the wallet back. Your face flattens into a bored expression; games are the last thing you want to play now. You hazily mutter “please” under your breath and he gives in, wishes you a good day and continues on his day puttering towards Glasgow City.
You stare at the returned wallet. Distance had made the heart grow fonder and you swore you would never let it out of your sight again.
That is until you lose it for the second time.
It’s two weeks later – yes, that’s right, it only took you less than 14 days to make the mortal mistake of misplacing every penny. You’ve travelled past the North Sea through the west of Europe to the gorgeous medieval-modern Stockholm. It’s mid-June, but the weather is soggy. After traversing the Swedish capital’s old town, and surviving the memorabilia gauntlet that is the ABBA museum, you force a break upon yourself, almost pole-vaulting onto a public chair. You feel more relaxed than ever, but don’t get too comfortable, dumbshit. Something tells you to inspect yourself.
It’s missing. Again. For such an anxious and pedantic person, you really don’t make things easy on yourself, do you?
You are more mentally prepared this time, but the trauma of the first incident is impossible to shake. Endless scenarios flash through your mind like relatives at a family gathering you really don’t want to talk to. The combing of the area is fairly simple this time, and the wallet is found by your girlfriend underneath the public chair you so elegantly speared yourself onto, but the self-hatred stems this time from the scary coincidental nature of finding the item again. Two minutes later and you could’ve been entirely walletless, which is a thought that eats away at your conscience like termites to a delicious pine tree.
In a sick, twisted way, you find the way your mind kicks you around a consolation of sorts. It’s beating you into submission in such a way that means you will literally never consider holding yourself in such a way that you will ever lose your wallet again. You will always wear a bum bag now. You will never carry all of your cash on you. You will always zip your pockets all the way.
Your wallet will never plan its own trip again.
Cover by Andrea Natali