The first time someone pointed a gun at Mario, he was in London, on a cold winter December night. The cold steel touched his forehead and sent shivers all the way down to his feet. He never knew if the gun actually had bullets, but it did not matter. He had found out a few days before that his wife was pregnant, and that was the only thing he could think of while he was held at gunpoint. Mario thought of his child growing up back in Argentina without a father, of his widow with a big belly, of himself bleeding to death in Shoreditch, thousands of miles away from home.
It was 2 AM. Mario was in town for a research project and a summit that would take place the following weekend. The whole week, he had been walking the same route from the hotel to the lab. His life was very simple and routine those days; awake at night at the lab, sleeping by day at the hotel. Suddenly, a voice that came out of nowhere said, in a clumsy English “Excuse me, do you have cigarettes? Mario got a weird feeling from the stranger, so without stopping, made a gesture with his shoulders as to indicate that he had nothing and decided to walk around him by the wall, instead of choosing the side of the street, because he did not want to seem frightened, although he felt very unsettled.
Mario then heard the stranger’s footsteps behind him and started to panic. The whole pantomime lasted for about a hundred yards or so, but Mario did nothing. Now the guy walking behind him was so close that he could almost feel his ominous presence in his own body. Mario, thinking himself a coward, felt his brain, who had always been so powerful (or so people thought, given his ability to apply it to scientific issues) starting to disconnect, sending a mental SMS to him “I’ll be out for about ten minutes. Sorry, this is not my strongest suit. See you at the clinic, xoxo”.