Sunday, April 2, 2017

Things We Do In The Back of Taxis

At 11:15pm I am in the back of a taxicab and I am thinking about all the things I have done in the back of a taxicab. I have argued with people and I have yelled on the phone, I have kissed men, I have gossiped, I have eaten granola bars, I have fallen asleep, I have texted and sent emails though I can’t really do that too much because reading or typing in a car makes me feel nauseous. I have also cried.

It’s a strange thing to do all of these things in the presence of another person you don’t know, but somehow we feel in New York like the, yes, transparent glass is enough to separate us, to create a barrier between ourselves and the person driving. They’re not looking, we think to ourselves. They can’t see. 

But they do see. It’s part of their job to look in the rearview mirror to see what’s going on in traffic behind them, and in the process they will the passenger in the backseat. The one who is sitting quietly next to the right side of the car, orange light streaming onto her hands and face, illuminating the droplets that have been continually trickling out of her eyes for the last 10 minutes. 

“How is your night, miss?” the cab driver asks me. 
“Not great,” I say, my voice with the slight tremble of a person whose day was not as good as “not great.”
“What did you do tonight?” the cabbie asks me again. 
“I drank tea,” I say, with a slight shortness this time, with less of a tremble. I don’t feel like talking and I hope I can make it known without being rude. I appreciate his effort to relieve me of the weight on my brain, but sometimes the weight can only be moved by oneself and tonight is one of those times. 

There’s something cathartic about being in a taxicab by yourself, like it’s a space you can release all of your negative emotions into that will just disappear when you’re done. In the history of your life as a New Yorker, you may never see that cab, that driver again. You can take a moment to be your worst self, to be ugly and too sensitive and too emotional and just too…too in ways that most people never see you. Because soon the one person who has seen it will ride off into the night and perhaps pick up someone else just like you, or a drunk girl who forgets her heels on the curb and makes them go back for the shoes only for her to then throw up in their car, and they’ll forget all about you. As transient as we may feel our lives are as New Yorkers, it’s possibly even more transient (no pun intended) for taxi drivers, the way they see the breadth and depth of human experience from the front seat while we only experience our own lives in the back.

Lights of Park Avenue whiz past as we head to my home, getting periodically caught in traffic on the way, because it’s New York and of course that happens and has now happened more times than I can count. At this point, it more amuses me than annoys me (though it does definitely annoy me), because how wonderful is it that even when the rest of the country is going to bed our little island is so busy there’s actually traffic? That’s something I find healing this evening, yet another evening where I feel the city understands and complements me, complements all of us, in ways we need it to when we need it to. 

I notice the cab driver periodically looking back at me and I don’t care. I continue to weep openly yet quietly in the back, my face convulsing in sadness. I am definitely what is known as an “ugly crier.” Not like the time I had food poisoning and was yelping and crying in pain, so much that the cab driver asked if he should take me to the emergency room. Not like the time I yelled through tears on the phone, stressed out about being stuck in traffic and not being able to get work done on time. I cry with sadness and fear. And as sad as I am, it feels good to release the energy into the cab. 

We pull up to my apartment building. 

“Life is sometimes good and life is sometimes bad,” the cab driver says to me. “But it is life. Everything will turn out for the best, you will see.”

“I hope so,” I say, sniffling and full of doubt but wishing to believe. 

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