We arrived in Florence the following morning. We were walking towards the hotel when I felt a tug on my backpack. Maya was ahead of me. I turned around, and there were two children, a girl about ten and a boy about six years old. The girl held a cloth still in cover shape. They swiftly stepped back, but as I reflexively stood in a defensive position, they inched forward again while mumbling please, please. Their eyes looked lifeless like those of dolls. My nerves tensed with fear. They were smaller than me, but I sensed their cruelty. Go away. I howled the best I could. Please, please. Their voice was feeble, but their bodies moved like a couple of coyotes about to pounce on prey. Go away, go away. I kept squealing. Maya was now behind me, dead silent again. Please, please, their hands reached out toward my neck. GO AWAY. I bawled for the last time, with a swing of my arm. The children stepped back as light as a receding wave, please, please, fading as they retreated.
I didn’t feel so uplifted after the incident. We walked around seeing what we had to see, and the Uffizi Gallery was stunning, but I don’t have memories of much else. One night Maya went out alone because I was afraid of going out in the dark. I didn’t tell Maya how scared I was or how anxious I felt after the encounter with the children. Maya told me I was ferocious when I fought them off, not in the way of consoling me but of informing me of her observation. She also told me about her experience when she was attached, also by a child in Paris a few years back. She and her friend were eating ice cream on the street when a child smacked her in the face. She fell and dropped her ice cream. Her friend watched her from a safe distance, inquiring her if she was ok, as she was being assaulted. She told me this in a matter of fact way, but I could hear her irritation that her friend was unhelpful in the situation.