Wednesday, February 11, 2004

This Cabride Day!

"Now what?"

"Fuck if I know," she says.

Ten blocks pass. Uptown. Everything's just lights and concrete trying to smash through nighttime. The right passenger side window is open by your head. Hers is closed shut. It's quiet on her side.

"Where we headed kids?"

You say, "No stops."

The cabdriver wants that repeated, but he keeps quiet. He got a look at her in the rearview mirror.

Ten blocks pass before the cabdriver turns east at the top of the park. You're going to head into downtown on the east side tonight. It's going to be colder on the east side, it always is. But you won't roll up your window.

"I don't need you, you know."

"I know it," you say.

"You could leave tonight and never come back and I'd be just fine."

"I believe it," you say.

"Wouldn't miss a beat. I'd be a lot better off. Everybody says so."

"I'm gonna need twenty bucks."

You raise your eyebrows in the rear view mirror.

"I got no problem being a part of this. But the meter's already at 15. I'm gonna need twenty bucks up front to keep going."

You slide two twenties into the cabdriver's hand through the partition. Like you paid to be rid of it, 50 blocks of East Side are obliterated in one grey blur. No words until downtown. "I'm not holding a gun in my hand on Sundays."

She says, "It's a flaw that keeps me in your bed on Sundays. It's something that's wrong with me that I wish I could correct. I'm not happy there."

"Take us over the Williamsburg Bridge."

"You think I'm happy there? You think a drunk is happy when he gets his drink? He's not happy. He just gets his drink."

In the middle of the bridge you think about how boring it would be to jump. As boring as it is to stay alive, to stay in this cab. No more, no less. You tell her, "I think we're the best there is."

"Take us to Queens now," she says when the cab hits Williamsburg. "Take surface streets only. When you get to Queens, head back into Manhattan. Surface streets only. Do you need more money?" That's all she says because, though it was harsh, she knows you're right. You're the best there is.

"Not just yet," the cabdriver says. "My wife was a cagey one for a long, long time."

"What was she afraid of?" she asks.

"Me. The last word I spoke. Whatever I was about to say."

On Williamsburg streets newspapers fly everywhere. You're almost through it.

"What made her come around?" you ask.

He shrugs, "No choice I guess."

"Maybe she just settled for you," she says.

The cabdriver says, "We're not gonna live that long. Gotta settle for somethin'," because cabdrivers are wise.

Queens windows are dark and people on the streets are alert, alone, and walk with a purpose, even at 2 AM. You always thought Queens would've been a great place to go to elementary school.

"Hey," she says, banging on the partition. "Hey." You forgot how drunk she was when you got her to leave the bar.

"Hey what? Quit bangin'."

"What'd you settle for then?"

"You ain't got enough twenties darlin'."

She leans back into her seat.

"I ain't gotta make a left turn you know. I can keep going, take you right to Kennedy and you can get yourself on a plane back to Michigan or wherever you came from."

You say, "She grew up in Maryland."

"Nice down there."

She's looking out the window and shaking her head. You're looking at her thighs poking out from her skirt. You want your hands on her thighs, pressing hard like you're trying to rub the blood out of her veins. She'd just let you go ahead, like she does. You'd slide both hands up under her panties and let your fingers clasp in her bush. You'd open up her pussy with a thumb. She'd lift her arms up and put her hands on the rear window like she does. You'd kiss her breast through her blouse, then slide her collar down with your chin and stretch your tongue down underneath her bra cup to wet a nipple. You'd kiss her neck then. Then her mouth. Her white neck. Then her mouth. Then you'd be home.

"That's the first red light I hit all night."

It's an intersection and it's three cars deep at every end. People cross the street in drunken bunches. Teens slap at the hood of the cab in front of yours. There's a cop car on your right with two bored policemen inside.

"What about you?"

You look away from the policeman who just looked over at you. You meet her eyes.

"What are you settling for?"

She wants to draw you into battle. You open your mouth to speak and say nothing. She shakes her head to the street outside the window again. It's like pointing a rifle at a kitten that just sniffs around the barrel.

The light turns green and you head for Manhattan. In the middle of the East River, the cabdriver says, "I need some more money." You give him ten more dollars and your address.

She doesn't object. It's already Sunday. She moves across the seat and leans into you, giving the top of her head to your mouth. She hasn't softened, she just got sleepy. You kiss the part of her hair a hundred times.

At the curb, you owe ten more dollars for a tip. "This is the stop?"


"Roll up the windows for me. I'm gonna close shop for a while."

"No more fares?" you ask. You're leaning inside the doorframe. She's waiting on the curb.

"Not like you two. The game's coming on again in a little while. Don't get freaked out if you look out your window and see me here because I'm just gonna park here and listen to the game."

You say okay. Upstairs, when you're waiting for her to get out of the bathroom and come to bed, you look out the window and discover that your windows face out of the wrong side of the building. You can't see the cab from there.

Happy This Cabride Day!