Here's part one. This story, btw, is a total cannibalization of a story I wrote years ago, with an old woman in Tu's place.
Tu leaned his forehead against the cab door’s window. He watched the city slide past as if it were a film strip, the segmented sidewalk a series of frames. This shot: piles of garbage bags awaiting pickup. This shot: a naked tree scratching at the sky. This shot: a homeless woman curled into a fetal position on top of a subway grate. A cross street, a break in the film.
Everything was laced in pale orange. Everything glistened.
The cab had gone five blocks. The cab stopped. The cabbie swiveled around to look at Tu, and Tu looked at him. The cabbie’s windshield was wet and glowing a bright, fragmented red from the traffic light.
“I gotta let you out soon, kid.”
“Then tell me where you want to go.”
Tu considered, again, the possibilities. The great Center, to admire the lights and wander anonymously in the crowds of anonymous tourists? The piers? “I want to go where you want to go.”
“Where I want to go. Kid. You need to get home. Where the fuck do you live?”
“Take me where you want to go. Seems fair. You spend all your time driving assholes around who could care less. So. Go. Where do you want to be right now?”
Behind the cabbie, the windshield became a textured green lawn.
“Light’s green,” Tu informed the cabbie.
“Gonna be honest, kid. It’s been a helluva night. Consider yourself lucky.” He turned back to the steering wheel, shifted the cab to drive, and accelerated slightly. “Until I get a fare.”
“Until you get a fare,” Tu said, “or until you get a destination.”
“There ain’t no destinations, kid. There’s just a series of departures, far as I’m concerned.” The driver turned off the avenue onto a cross street.
Tu recognized the street. He used to walk with Joseph, admiring the townhouses nestled tightly together like baby birds in a nest, their pointed facades like beaks reaching up for nourishment. “We’ll live here one day,” Joseph told Tu many times, making a grand gesture. “Tu Erikson,” adopting the voice of a gameshow announcer, “one of these houses could be yours!”
“Your kid,” Tu said. “My age. Boy or girl?”
“Boy,” the cabbie answered. “He’s home. In bed. Sober.”
“You love him?”
“He love you?”
“Yeah, kid. He loves me.”
“But does he appreciate you?”
The cabbie didn’t answer. He’d reached an intersection, turned onto another avenue, continued heading south.
Frames of the filmstrip flipped past again. A dog without a collar. Another homeless woman. More garbage bags.
Then: “No. He doesn’t.”
Tu thought. Said, “Tell him I think you’re a great guy.”
“I’m a lot of things. I ain’t great.”
“Oh. Man. Everyone is great. Even assholes are great. I’m great. You know that? I’m great too.”
The windshield was red again. It looked like a the center of a geode. The cabbie turned, again. He looked through the plexiglass, and he looked for a long time. The windshield turned green, then amber, then red again. The cabbie said nothing. Green. They remained still. Amber. Tu felt the machinery of the cab in his spine. He lifted his head from the window and stared back at the cabbie.
“What is it, kid. Girls? You have a bad night?”
“Too?” Tu asked.
“Fine, you got me. I had a bad night.”
“This is why I stick to the day shift,” the cabbie told himself. “You got any idea how fucked up people are when the sun goes down.”
Tu nodded. “During the day they keep it together because... I’m gonna throw up now.”
The cabbie slammed the gearshift to park. “Open the door.”
“I’m trying.” Tu reached out to search for the handle. His fingers brushed against it several times.
“Open the goddamn door kid. It’s rude as hell if you puke in my cab.”
“Urrgh,” Tu said. Scraped at the door. Closed on the handle.
“Goddammit kid.” The cabbie opened his own door, got out, and rushed around the back of the cab, cursing as he went. The cabbie opened Tu’s door and leapt back as Tu shot forward from the waist and strained out the multitude of purple liquid he’d consumed at Cora’s apartment. The liquid shot from his mouth at the speed of sound and smashed into the asphalt.
When Tu had finished, the cabbie whistled respectfully. “Damn kid. You should hire your stomach out as a reservoir for the Department of Water Supply.”
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