by Pnina Moed Kass
Don’t move my taxi driver shouts to me from the middle lane of Ibn Gvirol Street.
Oblivious to the car horns, the buses and the curses directed at him he pulls right up to the curb of the forbidden-to-stop sidewalk. And with even more disregard he gets out – is all of this yours he asks pointing to the teetering cartons on the sidewalk stuffed with books and my clothes. Pooh, poohing my help he balances my life’s accessories on his shoulders, badly taped shoeboxes under his arms, lifts and squeezes everything into the taxi trunk. And all along giving the drivers cursing him a lifetime guarantee where they’ll end up. I collapse myself into the back seat dragging behind me a string of overflowing shopping bags. When he slams down the trunk and gets in he asks what are you doing writing a story about the homeless? No, moving. Oh so will I see you? How could I not see you? I’ll just be fifteen minutes away from the old apartment but still. . . Still part of your life, like you change your address, you change your life. You’re so right and I choke out excuse me if I get sentimental but you always understand how I’m feeling and then spill out – I think I want to leave writing. I stop. Keep going I’m listening to every word this traffic doesn’t spoil my hearing. My life. I stop, wait for him to pick up my hint like I always urge him to tell me his stories. He doesn’t answer, doesn’t look up at the rearview mirror.
Two or three minutes pass and I start to feel uncomfortable as if I’d crossed that line between the back seat and the meter area. Then I realize something – in this taxi he’s the one who tells the story, me, I’m the listener. He knows me, I know him, we have our roles and in that one phrase I’d uttered I’d pushed him out of the driver’s seat. The taxi had become foreign, like a cab I picked up outside an airport. He’s driving, moving past streets and traffic lights without a single word. Driving and looking straight ahead, not up at the rearview mirror. I’m going to need your help to get upstairs to the new place I tossed out into the cavern that had become the taxi. Now he lifts his head, with no more than a split second look at the rearview mirror. He makes me wait a minute before he says okay. That’s his acceptance of my pitiful try to return to where we always are. After his “okay” he pauses like a chef considering how hot to make the oven and says in that voice I recognize – but I’ll tell you that a hundred percent you won’t believe what I wanted to be.
What? I ask fitting myself back into our routine. A racing car driver, he says, you know one of those guys in the silk jump suits with their bodies crouched like lions and helmets hiding their faces and champagne poured over them at the end of the race. When he looks up at the rearview mirror he says I see it on your face I surprised you right. Absolutely, if I didn’t hear it coming out of your mouth I never would have believed it. Well come on it’s not that unbelievable. His voice is just around the corner from being insulted so I try to pour the racing champagne back in the bottle and cork it. Nothing’s unbelievable I say but. . . But what? he asks. But it’s just that of all the taxis I’ve ever been in and all the drivers you’ve got to be one of the slowest. And did I ever ask you why you’re not Hemingway? No, but writing and driving aren’t . . . and stuttered into silence. An ambulance sirened past and stopped dead ahead of us. No way to get past it. Stuck. Not moving. Both of us statue silent. Now, fix it, I urged myself. I came up with – whatever – writer or driver each one needs his fuel to move – and waited. He shrugged his shoulders.
You know he said it’s a good thing you’re young, because a good writer takes longer than a good driver and in a sharp swerve passed the ambulance and turned into my street.
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