We arrived in Sant Roc without a sure contact there. An old enemy in Barcelona had given us a single reference point: the Sant Roc metro station.
The reference point was given by an old friend who was supossed to be my creator, as many persons throughout time. My love for freedom and independence put me in an uncomfortable situation against him; a few years ago, when I was a seller of socks in the streets, he offered me his hand to see the whole world and to raise my voice. Though the friendship remains caught somewhere between mutual acussations, I decided to meet him for a lunch, reminiscing over old times. After just a moment I realized it was not a good idea — my old friend started to accuse me, depreciating my work and this project, attacking YAG BARI with a soft smile. Unfortunately, his words found me very sensitive, so I almost abandoned the table we shared. A possible misunderstanding between us I guess, but maybe something more deep since it made me think about the ephimere of the friendships we gain in the NGO Industry. Project follows project, and people get lost somewhere between revolutionary ideas and the complexity of their personal traumas.
Alfonso, AKA “El Petete”, a 36 years old Roma Family father, is way different. I met him a few years ago; he and his wife Isabel were participating along with other youngsters in some activities. It was a bright time for me, full of hopes and promises; unfortunately, the kind of conspiracies and political intrigues you can find in a Tom Clancy book are saturating the whole European Agenda. From the scholars to the presidents, from youngsters to old megalomaniacs, the field of the youth work is full of poison and danger for a naive 23-year-old youngster who stayed his whole life selling socks and going to church while reading X-men comics.
Petete was also a seller of Socks, and Roses, and many other things; he was for a time an Iron Picker, now father of 4 children. I proposed to Rebekah to meet him. But, where to start our search for Alfonso? Last time I met him was three years ago and we didn’t have his phone number or address, as apparently nobody does. So here our search began…
The Consorci, and old building in the “nice” part of Sant Roc might have been the place, though I knew to find a Roma man is never easy, especially in their neighbourhood.
We enter in the building after a while, but people didn’t know him. It was strange, because I though he was working here…
Bekah and I walked all over the place. It was a very windy day; we stopped in a Cafe to order 2 coffes with milk, and before we left I asked the waiter, a Roma woman, if she knew Alfonso “El Petete”. She turned back her head and denied any knowledge even of the name. As I walked to the door, I heard her say to her Gadjo co-worker: Nastias, nastias!
I started to laugh. Bekah didn’t realize the hilarity of the situation. The woman, who didn’t believe I was Roma, spoke in Kalo to the gadjo trying to stop him from giving me directions to find Alfonso. I could not stop to laugh, but I decided to keep walking. The next day, the same woman would apologize, explaining to me that she just though I was not Roma. She looked almost angry: “yesterday, why didn’t you talk to me in Kalo? You were speaking English with this woman!”Once in the street we find a group of Gadjos. I ask Rebekah:
Can you recognize them?
Because I believe most of the times Roma are easy to recognize, not for be dark skinned but for many small details. Most Roma are able to recognize their brothers and sisters. The same happens with Gadjos: even if they dress or look like Roma, it is easy to distinguish them for us. Though maybe this is not a totally rational argument, I frequently ask Rebekah if her Spider-sense of Gadjo/Roma is starting to work. Ironically, not all Roma recognize me! So I guess I am a very confusing person for Roma and Gadjo Radars.
The group of Gadjo tell us something about Alfonso, and they clarify that since they are not Roma, we must ask some Roma directly. It is funny, because no Roma in the world will ever tell you where another one is, especially if they believe that your are a menace.
Gadjo, on the other hand, I found very funny, they are the only ones who are giving me some correct guidance to find Alfonso. I guess some things will never change. In their codes, if people are searching for you it is normal. In the world of Roma, if somebody is searching for you, you better run.
We wander all over Sant Roc until we find an old Roma woman. I feel a bit ashamed to ask again for Alfonso, so I started by declaring myself Roma, trying to prove it by speaking some words of Kalo. The woman told me where he was — well, she told me the building he lived in, which was not so useful honestly. The day after, the same woman would apologize to Alfonso for revealing his location!
Once in the building we are really lost. People start to look at us, who the hell is searchign for Alfonso? In this kind of situation, to find him is proving difficult, but the preassure is also growing and it is getting cold. Rebekah thinks it is her fault, so she offers me to hide herself in the car. In moments like this I think, why am I making these crazy things?
We followed our afternoon, meeting different people and asking about Alfonso, El Petete, the son of La Loca, with as many details as we could give. Nobody answered. A dark-skinned man appeared, looking himself like Alfonso. He said he could not tell me where Alfonso was but that he would go and tell him that we were searching. Later on, I discovered that this man basically went to Alfonso to advise him to run!
We moved to another place and sat on a bench to wait. According to my theory, people came to us, so we just needed to stay there long enough and Alfonso would arrive. Bekah complained about this approach; I guess she had a little less faith in destiny. Later on, when it was getting cold, a gadjo appeared. We asked him, and he told me that he didn’t know, but talked to me about a Pastor who probably knows Alfonso. While Rebekah talked with this guy (a racist and a primitive kid who was bent on complaining about the Roma in Sant Roc), I found the pastor and in the while tried to keep an eye on Rebekah. She always tells me that I’m more afraid than her in this kind of neighbourhood. Of course I am afraid! I don’t trust anybody, especially in the neighborhood declared the most dangerous in Spain!
Some seconds later, while I’m thinking of running, fighting or debating, the pastor faced me and after listening to my history he was confused by my question,”where is Petete?” So I explained to him that I was Roma and I was Christian, and that we needed to find Alfonso for an interview. Many times, when people don’t believe me, I tell them about how important Bekah is. Thank God she looks so elegant and sophisticated! So after looking at Bekah, who was still talking with the young idiot in the bench, the Pastor gave me a phone number, our last chance! Later on, we discovered that this Pastor, like almoust everybody we saw that day, were all family of Alfonso.
I called carefully, and then after some lost rings, when I was close to losing hope, Alfonso’s voice appeared. After such a long time, I found my friend! By the moment he approached we were surrounded by three people, family members of Alfonso ready for a fight or anything, very confused. One young guy was paralized while I explained the whole thing, talking in English and Kalo. But by the time I began to look totally lost an tired a shadow approached; it was Alfonso “El Petete”! Fortunately, Alfonso recognized me and started to laugh. In the following days he would tell me many times, “though Sant Roc is a terrible place to be, here Roma take care of you, all the time. I will never go elsewhere.”
The truth is that I had my black hat on that day. Maybe it was the hat, maybe it scared people. Now that I am losing hair, looking more and more like my old father, I have a collection of hats in the beloved Chevrolet Rebekah and I share. Next time, I will try to look more harmless, I will wear the colourful hat.