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December 03 2010

in a cab

On the radio, there’s some talk show banter going on. A new study says men who kiss their wives every morning live five years longer than the ones who don’t.

The driver says to me, “I’d kiss my wife every morning if she’d let me!” He’s got a sweet laugh. A small guy, bundled against the cold. He touches his chin. “In fact this morning I told her this was her last chance to kiss my smooth cheek until summer. I’m gonna grow a beard to keep warm. Never had a beard before but I gotta do something, I freeze in these cars.”

“Did she kiss you?”

“Yeah, she’s a good girl, my wife. We couldn’t be more different. She reads books all the time, I don’t touch the stuff. I never even went to high school, but somehow we get along real good.”

We’re driving along the river, the traffic is slow. I’m watching his pitted face, his shy smile. “I met her in the car. A customer. I picked her up by the hospital and we talked so much I forgot where I was supposed to be driving her! She said that was alright. We had breakfast the next couple mornings and then she moved in. Eight years.”

He’s on a roll now, and I’ve no inclination to stop him. He’s telling the kind of stories I always think the cabbies might be making up. The kind that are a little too cute. But I believe him.

“I grew up over there,” he says, pointing across the river to a row of project towers. “I started dealing drugs when I was 12. I tell you, drugs gave me a good life. I had money, I went all over the world. I went places I don’t remember going but people tell me I was there.”

“Then I had to get cleaned up. My clock ran down. So here I am. I’m doing ok. I work, people work.”

This looks bitter on the page but he’s not. He is laughing his sweet laugh. He is, I find out later, dying slowly of the things you would expect. His liver, he says, but not his heart.


November 06 2009

on the subway


On this line, you never get that chipper automated voice announcing the stops, and on this particular morning, it’s my favorite conductor. The one who sounds as smooth and easy as a 70s radio DJ, or rather, a teenager impersonating one. His voice isn’t quite deep enough. He speaks as though it were not only his duty to inform you of your location under the grid of the city, but also to ease your hard journey through the tunnels, and by consequence through your life.

Today he says, “Good morning, and welcome to day number four of the work, school, and play week. A big congratulations goes out to the NY Yankees.” And then his voice breaks character and squeaks, as though in parentheses, “Yay!”

We’re rushing into a station, he goes on. He knows exactly how much time he’s got until the doors open. “Don’t forget there’s a tickertape parade tomorrow, everyone come out and cheer. It’s nine am exactly. Have a good one out there.”

Next to me, a woman gasps. “Shit,” she says. “I’m so late.”

Tags: drivers
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