The cabbie hits reverse before I finish latching my seat belt, and screeches out of my neighborhood at 50 miles an hour. He’s up to 90 by the time we hit the highway but I don’t say anything because the cab driver is softly but rapidly muttering about how little sleep he got last night and how little sleep he’s gotten since he got fired from his other job in the orchestra two weeks ago over a stupid argument where Cabbie said some stuff that his boss knew damn well he wouldn’t act on—things were heated, y’know—but that bastard had wanted to get rid of him since day one because Cabbie doesn’t kiss up to him like the rest of the brass section. And Cabbie was already having a bad time because his girlfriend dumped him less than a week before that, and she said it was because of his drinking but Cabbie knew it was really because she was cheating on him because she’s done that shit before but it still hurts because he thought everything was fine, and am I seeing anybody?
I panic inside because I usually ditch creepers with imaginary boyfriends or fiancés who love me to pieces. But we’re pushing 100 miles an hour now, and Cabbie is zipping across lanes like he gets a point for each swerve, and a happy relationship might make him press the gas even harder. So I tell Cabbie about the engagement I just ended because my faux fiancé kept taking my money and hitting on my friends, and even with all that I still loved him but he dumped me after I lost my job and couldn’t pay his bills anymore. And I’m thinking, maybe Cabbie won’t hit on me if I sound like I’m full of baggage. But what if he thinks I’m too broken and we’re both hopeless and crashing into the next overpass will solve both our problems and stop talking you fucking idiot and oh God what’s that grinding sound under the car?
But Cabbie doesn’t court me or kill me. He says he knows what I’m going through and it sucks and am I looking for another job? Before I have to invent an answer, Cabbie says he knows how much job hunting sucks and it’s especially bad for him because his former orchestra boss talked shit about him to all the other local musicians and now Cabbie’s blackballed from any other paying gig unless he moves out of the city, which he can’t do because he’s broke. And he hates being a driver because most of his fares are fucking annoying—not me, of course—but he doesn’t have time to look for another job right now because traffic classes are eating up most of his time, and he hopes I won’t take this the wrong way but he has to take traffic classes because his regular driver’s license was suspended for a while because he got too many speeding tickets so now he has to take this goddamn class to get out of restricted status and at least his boss—his taxi boss, not the orchestra dick—doesn’t know about it.
And I tell him it’s fine—shit happens, everyone makes mistakes—while I keep my poker face on and grip the door handle like I’m trying to choke it to death because if I let go or show fear, the cab will spin out and roll over a dozen times and explode like an action movie. And mom will spend my funeral telling everyone she can how she begged me to let her drive me to the airport but I said no because I was stubborn and wasteful with money, and now look what happened. And as I burn to death in the twisted wreckage, Cabbie won’t stop talking. The last thing I’ll hear in life will be Cabbie rattling off his fuckup inventory like an auctioneer…
I pitch forward. The cab is slowing down. We’re not dead and there are no cop lights in the rearview window. We’re at the airport. Then Departures.
It takes more effort than it should to unlock my fingers from the door handle, but I finally manage it and leave the terror taxi. Cabbie walks to the trunk and pulls out my suitcase. He’s pasted a Ken doll smile on his face, but his jaw is clenched and his eyes are dead. And now that he’s not risking my life, I feel sorry for him. He looks like a kicked puppy. Granted, a lot of it seemed to be the result of hanging a “kick me” sign around his own neck and being surprised when the universe took him up on it. But that doesn’t make him less of a puppy. I say, “I hope things get better for you,” as I hand him his fare, because I really do.
Cabbie says, “They won’t,” and his face doesn’t change a bit—dead eyes and a Ken doll smile.
He gets in his cab and speeds off. I reach for my phone to report him to the cab company, but can’t bring myself to make the call. Enough people obliged Cabbie’s “kick me” sign, I don’t need to be one of them. Also, this bastard knows where I live.
Zane Andrea is a current attorney, former engineer, and always writer from Southeast Michigan. Specifically, she lives near Detroit and loves the city with all her heart, but refuses to be one of those hipsters who claims to be 'from Detroit' despite not actually living within its majestic borders. She has amazing siblings, a cat, and too many degrees.