“Yes. I do that sometimes, I’m sorry.”
“No. Don’t apologize. I like talking to my passengers when they ride in my taxi. The stories I have heard are enough for me to write a book. The most special ones are the passengers that I pick up from the airport. They talk about problems, sadness, joy, relief, and anything that they want to talk about after visiting the airport. But this was my first time to talk to a sleeping passenger.”
A taxi driver writing about his passengers. The idea struck me as cool, but I absolutely didn’t want him to be writing about me or the things I said when I was asleep.
He looked at me through the rear-view mirror and asked, “How do you think is she feeling right now?”
“Pretty sad I’m sure, or I guess, but that’s not exactly the question. It’s not as simple as that. Some questions are asked the same way but are answered differently depending on what you want to find out, and what I want to find out is something deeper than what is going on in her heart and mind right now.”
“Yes. I understand it is far more complicated than that. Some questions are so deep that it can’t be answered in just one sitting or after a pack of cigarettes. But you want to know if the stalker stole something from her too? That’s another question that was as complicated as the previous one. Can’t be resolved by a simple phone call I think.”
Did I give him this much information while I was asleep? And how could a taxi driver be this smart, trying to go into the human thought processes and plan to write a book? Anyway this was not new to me. I have been surprised by a lot by people who looked completely mediocre but as I discovered were capable of sweeping me off my feet on highly intellectual conversations on very complicated topics. Just like disguised geniuses, who could be driving your cab, vacuuming the carpet floors of your office building, serving your food in a restaurant, or selling some cigarettes and candies on every corner of the city without us knowing they were also scheming on how to rule the world.
I seriously don’t want to talk to him about the stalker. That stalker is for me to reveal. So what I did was I went back to watching the city from the taxi’s window. We were just twenty-five minutes away from home. I could already see familiar faces and structures. He also stopped talking and just went back to whistling—this time, a tune from a different but familiar old song. The traffic was not that heavy that day. Maybe people didn’t want to go out because of the heat. We were moving at a steady phase, so steady I felt like our taxi was just a ghost in the road, passing unnoticed through every vehicle that came between us and our destination. The driver stopped whistling and turned the car radio on. The Door’s “Alabama” song was playing, and it made me feel so sad that I wanted to jump off the taxi right that moment. It was not the usual song one heard over the radio. I guess someone as sad as I requested it and he was probably alone in his room drinking Tanduay rum on the rocks on a hot Thursday afternoon. I was hanging on to every part of the song and then suddenly I started talking. Maybe I just felt too sad and I couldn’t hold on anymore to what I felt might be dangerous to keep. Or maybe I had the sense of urgency because in a couple of minutes I would be getting off the taxi, saying goodbye to the driver who heard me sleep talk and who was somehow capable of understanding how I felt.
“I don’t know how to say this, but I felt like I just lost a very important part of me as I left the airport. I felt like my girlfriend was not the only one who left me in this city. There’s something more. I know you could say that this is just normal, but it’s not. I have a pretty clear sense of what’s normal and not, but this one I could say falls in the category of the latter. Every sensation that I feel within this city has changed, like some dark entity is covering me to make me numb. I love her, I truly love her. She’s everything I like about in a woman; all the qualities infused into one serum and then injected in a human body. It’s as if she was taking this performance-enhancing drug to make me fall deeper into love for her each day. But now she’s not with me anymore. She is already in that place where the days are long. Where she wakes up the moment I fall asleep. Where there are things that could make her forget about me—the snowflakes that would fall off her hair during winter and the new beautiful faces that she would meet. What I’m feeling right now is not quite well organized, but I’m sure it’s not something I would want to carry with me until our paths cross again. It’s not her, but I think that something tore a part of my soul away. This might be selfish but I’m secretly hoping right now that she is also feeling the same way. Is she feeling the same way? How could I tell? To hear her crying is still not enough to know if her soul is still intact in one piece. I want the stalker to visit me and tell me what he took, and if he took something from her too. In that way I could know which things I could work on until I could feel complete again.”
I took a deep breath. To my surprise the taxi driver had no reaction to what he just heard. His eyes focused on the road, deep in thought. I realized that we were already near the subdivision where I lived. In a few moments we would be passing over a steel bridge and I would be doing the usual ritual of telling him to go right or left.
Something struck me after I signalled my hand to turn left.
“I didn’t tell you where I was heading, I didn’t tell you where I was living when I boarded your cab. How . . .” I stopped. Things came rushing to my mind. Is it possible that the taxi driver is the stalker? Can he give answers to my questions right now if I press him?
“I asked you when you were asleep.” He said and that statement immediately put off the questions in my head. I signalled my hand to the left again, so that he would know where to turn. What was ahead of us was a straight road heading to our house. “Imagine blurry photographs, blurry but not to the point that you can’t make anything out of them. Blurry photographs that could make you guess and use your imagination. You can make any story about the people and the place that they are in, but you can never be too sure if your imagination has worked perfectly for you. The fact is that you can never be too sure; no description can be too exact. The deeper you think about it, the more you make out of it. Pain and longing can never be understood completely. You could break them apart, dissect them, and put them back together only to discover that it became much more complicated than it was before.”
“Stop here,” I said in a calm voice. He stopped the cab, and turned off the radio. I handed him a 500 peso bill and he gave me my change.
“I got a lot.”
I stepped out of the taxi without looking at him.
The taxi drove straight and then turned right at the next corner. I was standing in front of our house. I took out a cigarette from my pocket and lit it with a match. My first puff of smoke floated up to the sky, like it was a child whose mother was the thin cloud above. I just stood there enjoying the killing stick that was again filling my every nerve with pleasure.
Andrew Dedal is out of school, doing odd jobs like selling clothes to old American people. He is a big fan of the weird and the unconventional.