ALL OF THESE FLAGS I wrap tight around my self-esteem on a blindingly bright and freezing cold Saturday morning standing on upper Broadway. Standing away from the shuttle stop where inexplicably there is this enormous grouping of pretty hipster spinsters glaring at me standing aloof outside the Prius dealership.
It’s just so fucking bright and the corona of our planet’s local star is creating that weird particulate light wash that kills my eyes which in turn hurts my head that sucked in too much mixed alcohol again last night and all I want is to find a sliver of shade to keep the sun out of my eyes. And this lazy squalor of the spirit, the keys to an anti-social, self-deprecating hell are all mine, complete with the drawing of blood from the insides’ of my cheeks due to the grinding of my neurotic teeth.
And then in a flash of an instant, my flight instinct kicks in with a rush and a start, but I’m not fast enough to process or react to this sudden violation of my space boundaries right in front of me: a yellow cab screeches his passenger window to a perfect stop less than a foot in front of my barely able to see and surely bloodshot eyes.
The driver is me in 15 years or my father ten years ago. Either way, I’m looking into the eyes of a man every bit as familiar as myself with the boundary between resin and wood at the bottom of a pot pipe.
“You called for a Yellow?”
“You’re not goin’ to West O?”
Furrowed perplexion fills in his brow as if this was a possibility he hadn’t considered.
“You got another cab comin?”
No, I’m waiting for my wife.
Finally he gets it, and then throws back his head and breaks out one of those real, genuine, belly laughs I wish I could have even once a week.
“Oh shit, you got a wife? That’s a fuck of a lot better than having a cab!” And then he hits the gas and he’s gone.
Not ten seconds later my wife pulls up and I have the déjà vu of remembering that cab drivers really should be in charge of this world.
And suddenly it’s not so bad being a hack. And I’ve got my ride. And the sun is out of my eyes. And I look around to see if I can still see the yellow cab or the pretty hipster spinsters are still around, and unable to see either, I begin to wonder if the last five minutes was even real.
• (originally appeared as a poem in Shoots and Vines, December 2008)
Under the Table:
by James Claffey
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