Second day here.
I was walking home down a side street in Paris when I saw a cup-and-ball guy on the sidewalk. Cup-and-ball guy has three cups and a ball. He puts the ball under a cup. He shuffles the cups around. Someone picks a cup. Cup-and-ball guy asks for 50 euros. If you’re right, you win 100 euros. If you’re wrong, you’re down 50.
See, you’re never actually right.
I watched in a crowd of about 10. An old, kind, grandfatherly-looking guy also watched. People lost money. 50 euros, 100 euros. The old guy poked me and pointed at one of the cups. He waited until the cup-and-ball guy wasn’t watching and peaked underneath. The ball was there. He put down 100 euros. He won.
The guy shuffled the cups again.
He put down 500 euros.
He asked me to play and split a 1000 euro pot with him.
I watched some more.
You get it, right? That they were working together? The shuffler had just lost 500 euros and didn’t even bat an eye.
I walked away.
Someone else who had been watching the guy left too and said to me in French that it was a trick, a scandal. I turned, laughed, agreed. We talked about how the trick worked. The guy introduced himself as Mike from Kenya.
“What’s your name?” Mike asks me.
“Christie,” I lie.
“Where are you from?”
“The UK,” I lie.
“Are you here for long?” Mike asks.
“No, just for the day,” I lie.
“Do you want to get something to eat?” Mike asks.
It’s 7pm. I’m actually starving. We are on a side street. There are no other people.
“No,” I lie.
“Where do you live?” Mike asks.
“Pretty far away,” I lie.
He pulls out a knife, enough for the handle to peak out of his pocket. He tells me to take him to where I live.
We turn onto another street. We go down into the metro (subway) station.
He has a knife.
I go to the metro map and run my fingers down the lines, pretending to look for how to get home, trying to buy time to figure out what I’m supposed to do.
I turn. He’s still there.
I turn back to the map and tap a stop. Some stop. Decisively.
I start walking to the turn stiles. Decisively. He’s in front of me.
He puts in his ticket. Walks through.
And I RUN.
I turn, shove through the thick mass of people on the metro stairs, and RUN.
10 minutes later
I’m on a main street, looking around like a schizophrenic. Into the metro. I’m looking literally at every face, every person, looking for the guy.
Out of the metro.