You can also hear me read this story on:
Episode #15 of The Word Count podcast.
The prompt was: “A Taxi ride late one night in the city turns strange, when…”
This story was inspired by the writings of Les Floyd, an exceptional man whom I met on Twitter. I’d highly encourage you to follow his blog, and on Twitter as @Lesism. He is an incredible writer.
Mike was leaving for another one of his so-called business trips. For some time now, I had suspected him of having an affair, and his latest vague explanation to head to Chicago—yet again, was just another chapter in the ongoing deception.
He had tried to sneak out early this morning, and despite having taken a sleeping pill only hours earlier, I woke up. “What time is it?” I asked, my throat dry and scratchy.
He strode over from where he was getting dressed and gave me a peck on the forehead.
“It’s five-thirty, gotta to leave in twenty minutes. Sorry to wake you, I was just going to leave you a note.”
Sighing heavily, I propped myself up against a couple of pillows. “Another partners meeting?”
“Yeah, damn meetings,” he said as he walked back toward the closet to find a tie.
“Three weekends in a row?”
“Sorry, babe, I’ll make it up to you, we’ll do dinner when I get back in a couple of days.”
I cringed as he splashed on the cologne I had bought him for his birthday. “How many meetings does it take for a bunch of lawyers to make a decision?”
“Honey, I’m not happy about it either, but you know I’m in line to take over once Ben retires, and I want this.”
And on and on he went, blathering in that awful corporate-speak that he knew I hated—throwing in bullshit lingo to silence me. I was silenced, all right, not by his brilliance, but by my own apathy. I had protested just enough to confirm that my husband was a bald-faced liar. Like an amateur poker player, he had a tell. He slurred his syllables when he lied, as if he were in a hurry, and couldn’t stick around to chat. The worst of it was I didn’t care anymore. I had all the proof I needed of his affair, and yet, I had let him continue to get away with it.
After Mike left, I got up and took a long shower and cried. I sobbed, actually, like I hadn’t sobbed in years. Poetic, in a way, that I could only cry in the shower, as if the very thought of feeling my tears roll down my cheeks was a sign of weakness. As I sat in the stall, hugging my knees to my chest and letting the powerful jets beat down on me, my crying suddenly changed to hysterical laughter. Roaring like a wild woman, I decided what I had to do.
* * * *
“You’re going to the airport?” he asked, as he met me at the front of the apartment building.
“Yes, La Guardia.”
“Nope, just me.”
The cabbie furrowed his brow in surprise and opened the car door for me.
Normally, it was a forty-minute ride to the airport if the traffic was clear, but it was rarely clear in New York City, no matter the time of day. It was a warm spring night, and the city would be coming back to life in the next few months. Too bad I’d miss it.
“What time is your flight?” he asked as he turned down the volume of the radio.
I looked at him in the rear view mirror and saw dark eyes staring back at me. “I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out when I get there.”
“You don’t have a reservation?”
“Nope, I’m going to buy a first class ticket to somewhere, just not sure where yet.”
“You don’t look crazy, Ma’am, but that’s just daft!”
I laughed aloud at his bluntness. He was cute, thirtyish, and had a playful charm about him. “You’re English. I thought I detected an accent. How long have you been here?’
He chuckled. “Long enough, it seems. I never thought I’d be driving a cab when I came here three years ago, but life’s funny.”
“Yes, it sure is.” I stared out into the blackness of the lit-up city, remembering the moment it occurred to me what I had to do. It was perfect, but a part of me wanted to share my plans with someone, anyone. My English cabbie seemed like an empathetic soul, and when I looked into the mirror, I noticed he was staring back at me. It gave me the courage I needed. “I’d like to tell you something that I haven’t told anyone,” I said.
I took a deep breath before starting. “I had an epiphany this morning as I took my shower. I realized I live in a beautiful, expensive condo, and yet, it’s never felt like home. I have my own thriving PR company, but the work is no longer my passion. The worst part? I’m married to a man whom I’ve come to detest because he’s been having an affair for the last six months. I knew that if I didn’t make a change, I’d be lost.”
“So you’re running away?” he asked.
“No. Quite the opposite. I’ve been shackled by all the things in life that people deem important. A house, a job, a marriage. I thought all these things defined me, but they don’t. They’re merely things, and they no longer make me happy. That’s why I’m leaving them behind.”
He was silent, and for a moment, I thought I had made a huge mistake by telling him my story.
“It’s a brave move,” he said finally as he made a turn onto the highway, picking up speed. “Very few people in life would be able to do what you’re doing. Some days, I think of going to India, experiencing the culture my ancestors played a part in, but…”
“So why don’t you go?” I asked.
He let out a raucous laugh. “What? And leave all this behind.”
“No wife and kids?”
“No, haven’t found the right woman yet.”
My mind went into overdrive as we neared the airport. Soon, I’d have decisions to make, but now I had one more question. “How’d you like to come to India with me?”
“What? You can’t be serious?” He craned his neck to try and look at me.
“Hey! Keep your eye on the road!” I said, tickled by his exuberance. “And yes, I am serious. I’m a strong believer that if you pay attention, you’ll make the right choices.”
He pulled into a spot by the departures area, put the taxi in park, and turned to look at me. “And you think I’m part of those right choices? You don’t know me.”
I stared into his eyes and saw someone of gentle spirit. “I haven’t taken many chances in my life, and I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal. We may be strangers, but I think we can become fast friends. I’ve been paralyzed to make any important decisions for a long time, but in this short cab ride, I’ve made a decision to go to India, and to invite you to come along. I can’t tell you how good that feels.”
“8M27, 8M27, where are you?” came the call over the taxi dispatch.
He picked up the radio. “This is 8M27, I’m here at La Guardia.”
“What’s taking you so long? A Mr. Thompson is waiting for you at Arrivals.”
His eyes twinkled as he gave me a smile. I smiled back and nodded. “I won’t be picking up a Mr. Thompson,” he said, “and you’d better get someone down here to pick up this cab as well.”
“Have you lost your mind? What the hell do you think you’re doing?” said the voice over the radio.
I giggled to myself as I heard my Englishman say, “I’m leaving for India, boss, I’m leaving for India.”