I was in the middle of a dip in the Mediterranean, at Fregene, when I clutched about my neck to discover that my gold chain and green India locket were gone. George Harrison hadn't given it to me, exactly, but he did point it out to me in a shop window and told me how much to offer to buy it, which I did. That was my favorite bauble of them all, and I was thus wearing it the night my hotel room was robbed. Where was it? It was still draped around one of the goal posts at the Collegio — 22 kilometers away, where I had hung it, respectfully, before taking my morning run. How to retrieve it was now the question. That was the last little thing I had.
Everything else had been taken by thieves. Not ordinary thieves, mind you, but experts skilled in the art of industrial espionage. They would have gotten the locket too, had it not been around my neck at the Tre Scalini restaurant at the Piazza Navonna, where I had been lured by a beautiful foil, under a full moon.
I made my way out of the warm water and began to pick my way through the maze of jabbering, near-naked sun-bathers. I doubled my pace when the sand got hot, jogging in the direction of the beach bar — a sun-drenched place by the side of the sea called the San Marco. You could sit at the San Marco all afternoon, drinking Frascati wine and eating grilled bits of seafood and pondering the turns your life was taking.
The sand got hotter still, and now I was running flat out towards the patio, burning with the fear that even a prompt telephone call back to Rome could not possibly reveal that my locket was safe and sound.
After all, I was in a foreign country, in the midst of a corporate mutiny which identified me as the Captain to be crucified. Some I could identify as probable mutineers; others I could not be sure about.
So how could I call back to "the office" and ask one of my ALSG employees to go out into the heat and down to the soccer field and retrieve my priceless locket for me?
They might actually find it and report to me later that they hadn't.
Could I ever believe someone who said, "I couldn't find it"?
But I had no choice. My locket was at stake. So was my pride. How much did they want to take from me, anyway? What had I done to deserve all this?
Only, the phone didn't work. You needed a Gettone, and there weren't any Gettones except at the bar, which was crowded. Nino the waiter hustled by and asked if I wanted a Caprese. I told him I was desperate for a Gettone instead. He fumbled under his white apron with his free hand and came up with two of them.
I grabbed them and pumped one immediately into the telephone, neglecting to thank Nino the waiter. The phone rang and rang.
Disaster! No one at the Collegio. Both numbers rang about ten times, with no results. Then I let the first one ring another ten times. Still no answer. I felt blood pressure and a feeling of frenzy rise into my head.
That was a danger signal. I stopped on the middle of the hot patio, concentrated deeply on that spot half-way between my closed eyes, and let things cool.
"Easy does it, Gil. Don't let this ruin your afternoon. Remember your upbringing."
Things clarified some, and the pressure subsided. I was letting things get under my skin. What, after all, about my resolve to travel lighter and be more free of my material possessions? Had I really intended to 'lighten up'? This incident was obviously sent to me as a test of that resolve. Did I really intend to be free of these things, or didn't I? My attitude towards the locket — temporarily 22 kilometers away hanging from a piece of net in a soccer field — would tell one way or the other.
And further, I found myself remembering on the patio, in the hot sun, isn't it when you can work an "attitudinal twist" like this, that you are sometimes "given back" the very thing which you were willing to sacrifice — like Abraham? Isn't that the way it goes? Forget about it; then get it back?
"Why not," I thought? Maybe it was time to experiment! Perhaps I could help the event along some — help engineer the redemption, so to speak.
"Yes," I said to myself. "That's the sort of meditation I should be doing — not lunging after material objects." Grasping after them. Trying to get close to things. Nothing worse than that.
Or... I could look into the side pocket of my flight bag, like so, and see gleaming up at me, yellow in the sun, my locket(!) which I hadn't left hanging on the goal post after all, now that I really thought about it, but which I was clever enough to have slipped into the side pocket of my flight bag — this bag — not wanting to get it sweaty after my morning jog at the Collegio.
And that was the miracle of the locket.
Editor's note: it was clear to us all in reviewing the manuscript that, at this point in the narrative, our man was close to "losing it."
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.