I was lounging on a bench at Luxemburg Park here in sunny Paris watching the kids play. A rather twitchy South Asian looking fellow walks toward me and the following conversation ensues:
Twitchie fellow (TF): "I just got out of jail man, I just got out of jail."
Me: "Really. That must have been terrible."
TF: "No, no. Definitely it was not terrible. Most definitely not. It was very nice. Very very nice. These policemen of France are very pleasant people."
Me: "Uh, wow. I'm glad you enjoyed prison."
TF: "You know I just come from Sri Lanka. Look, look at me, just look!"
I look over and see his arms covered in what look like deep knife slash wounds.
Me: "What happened to your arms?"
TF: "I was the prisoner. The Sri Lankans... You know Sri Lanka, you know them? I was in prison for two years, two years, can you believe it, two years..."
Me: "Are you a Tamil?"
Me: "Is it bad over there? Is the war really over?"
TF: "Yes, yes. Very bad. It is very very bad. Look at me, I was in prison for two years. Look what they did to me. Are you Sikh? You look Sikh? Do you speak the Sikh language?"
Me: "Yes. I speak Punjabi."
TF: "You know Sikhs, you Sikhs, you are very good peoples, you are very very good peoples. You'll help me. I know today is my lucky day. This is my most lucky day, my most lucky day. I have met you. You are very good person. You know I have been sleeping in this park for 5 days. 5 days, can you believe it? It is a nice park, I like France, they are nice people. These France police were very nice people. I need stamp fical. You know stamp fical, you know?"
Me: "No. I don't know what a stamp fical is. What is it?"
TF: "I came on a boat, you know I came on a boat just 10 days back. I came very long journey, very long, very very long. So much ocean. So much water. So much."
Me: "How did you get out of prison, did you escape?"
TF nervously looks over his shoulder, then he looks up at the sweeping tree canopy hovering over us, then back over his shoulder, than at me.
TF: "Yes I escaped. I escaped. I ran away. I found the boat. Today you have helped me so much. I am so happy today. Today is the very best day. My best day. You have made me very happy today. Very very happy. Come, lets go."
TF: "You come with me, we get stamp fical. Come lets go, you'll help me. Lets hurry. Come."
Me: "But I don't understand. What is a stamp fical?"
TF: "Yes yes. I know what is stamp fical. I know what it is. Today is the best day. You are very good man."
Me: "I'm afraid I can't help you if you don't tell me what stamp fical is."
TF: "You are very good good man. I know what is stamp fical. We go now."
After going around in circles for some time on the stamp fical issue, I stand up and slowly start walking away.
Me: "Its been a pleasure meeting you. I have to go now. Good luck getting your stamp fical."
TF looks defeated, and walks away slowly, as I call out to my kids.
Addendum: So for those of you wondering what a stamp fical is, I don't really know, but I have a theory. After writing this post, I started searching around. I think TF perhaps meant to stay "stamp fiscal" or "fiscal stamp" which might refer to a fee for an EU asylum application.