The wish thief

It's the middle of the afternoon on a sunny Sunday back in January and spring is trying to sneak into winter in Muelle Uno. It's also market day and we've had to park on the third level of the underground car park, which is so big you have to take a photo of the space to find your car again. There are queues, literally, single file, at the counters of the ice cream shops. Diners extend their long lunches, reluctant to leave the terraces. Others are browsing the stalls that sell practically everything.

We stroll among the people, as Nori, excited by the crowds, is keen to mark every palm tree, and we reach the strip of water that stretches out like a refreshing carpet from the door of the marine chapel. Visitors before us have turned this pool into their own wishing well and the metallic discs can be seen shining on the bottom.

Now, in full view of everyone, a young man is busy picking out the coins. I wouldn't dare describe him as a tramp. He's wearing New Balance trainers, jeans and a sweatshirt, with a small rucksack on his back. He calmly, effortlessly, with quick, stabbing movements, like an egret fishing in a backwater of the Guadalhorce, picks the loose change out of the water and holds it all, still wet, in his free hand.

Some passers-by look at him but don't see him; or maybe they see him but take no notice. After all, he's just someone picking change out of a pool of water. I look at him and I see him, and I immediately think that he's a wish thief, as that's why people throw coins into the fountain in Muelle Uno. I don't know whether their dreams came true; or whether they have suffered the collateral damage of longing for something they don't have. “When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers,” said Oscar Wilde.

What is certain is that the furtive collector of ambitions in the form of euro cents will have fulfilled his wish of having dinner that night. At least he would have had enough for a sandwich.