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Someone once told me: ‘Live life like you’re late,’ which would basically be my worst nightmare. I hate being late. There’s something unbearable about knowing that someone is waiting on you or something is going to leave without you. I can’t even stand being honked at for being a slow driver, which happens to me a lot. If it were up to me the world would run in rigid 15 minute intervals so that no one would ever miss anything and everything wouldn’t be so damn crowded all the time. Is it really too much to ask to live in a society where people aren’t shoving you all the time?
I can’t help but dwell on big-picture issues as I lumber up four flights of grimy stairs, cursing the train that left me and the people lucky enough to still be aboard. I’m in the midst of a massive undulating blob of sad business people, struggling not to think of the girl and her luscious features. The smell of her freshly conditioned hair comes to mind. What were the odds she’d be heading to the same flight as me? One in a million, maybe. One in a billion. Yes, she was one in a billion and now she’s gone and I’m going to miss my flight and never see her again.
Not that I’m one to blow things out of proportion.
All at once everyone opens their umbrellas and I remember it’s raining outside. The sound of city traffic rushes over me with a chilling gust of air. The buildings tower nauseatingly overhead. The gutters are raging rivers descending from the highest peaks of town. A great clock rings half past the hour and I become reenergized. I’ll make it no matter what.
I’m already soaked, scanning up the length of the street. I need to hail a cab, but it’s a very competitive field. There’s already a line of humorless looking Suits with their hands in the air, shouting over one another. Taking advantage of my youth and dexterity, I sprint to the head of the line. Near the corner I zero in on an off-yellow car. The Cabby and I lock eyes while I raise my arm in slow motion. He gives me a slow motion nod and lights up his sign. I don’t look behind me, feeling the contempt of the business men glowering at my back.
The world returns to normal speed and I leap victoriously across the raging gutter to the street. But just as I land someone lands beside me, splashing mud on my jeans. It’s a girl in a bright green coat and a panda hat.
“No, no, no,” I say. “This is my cab. I made eye contact with this guy.”
“I saw that. We can split this one,” she smiles. “You’re going to the airport, right?”
“I could tell by the look of you, what with the side satchel bag and all. Plus you look like you’re in hurry. No one is ever in a hurry to get home. Come on, our driver is getting mad.”
Before I know it the door is closed and we’re inside, warm, quiet, and dry.
“SFO!” commands the girl.
“SFO,” nods the driver. She looks over at me. Her face is bright and slightly manic. She has a youthful energy, like you can tell she spends a lot of time reading blogs. Her eyes are like bright emeralds, ripping into me as if to say: “Oh hello.”
“Well, that was close,” she says. “Almost didn’t make it, did we?”
“Almost,” I agree. She slides from her side to the middle.
“I’m late too,” she says. “Well, I can tell that you’re late, but I’m saying I’m also late. Maybe later than you even. Well, since we’re both late maybe we’re late for the same thing, you know?”
“Are you going to-“
“London. I’m going to London. You too?”
Her eyes boil like a cauldron.
“Oh that’s wonderful!” she exclaims, lunging forward and hugging me. “I just knew I had a good feeling about you!”
“Great,” I say, prying her off of me like one might a giant sloth.
“So what are you going for?” she asks. “Actually its best if we don’t know, isn’t it? It’s more mysterious that way. We’ll be two people who shared a cab and fell in love.”
“Oh no, I haven’t told you my name yet, have I?” she squints hard as if to pull something from the depths of her mind, and then bursts like a bubble. “No I haven’t! Good! And you don’t tell me yours either okay?”
“Okay,” I say.
“Good,” she sighs, “It’ll be just like Last Tango in Paris. Have you ever made-out with someone in a cab before?” I can see the cab driver glance at his mirror.
“You mean like with a stranger?” I ask, feeling like I can’t get a word in. The way she speaks feels like a mild form of hypnosis. It’s almost as if I’m powerless to refuse.
“Yeah, like me and you right now. I just have all of this stress energy from being late. Wouldn’t it be a great release?”
I can’t say it wouldn’t. There’s something reckless about this girl, like she just want to rip me limb from limb.
“Yeah-” I try to say, but her tongue is already in my mouth and her hands are sliding past my belt loops. Everything is a whirlwind as I try to keep up, finding points of entry in her clothing. Somehow I manage to reach through the front of her jacket and the sleeve of her shirt. Outside it’s pouring harder than ever, and the windows are fogged up worse than that scene from Titanic.
Suddenly I’m struck with a feeling, like a crash of lightning. Surely this isn’t allowed. Why is no one trying to stop us? She’s sitting backward on top of me while we’re zooming down the highway in what might as well be a hurricane, and the cab driver doesn’t even seem to care. I pull my mouth away for just a second and she latches hers onto my neck. I look up and see a familiar set of eyes, locked with mine in the rear view mirror.
“Ah!” I shout in terror, throwing my hands over my head. The driver rips his eyes away and swerves in the road. The tires screech as the other cars swing wide to avoid us. Panda Hat Girl is thrown aside, back to her end of the car.
Everything stabilizes around my pounding heart. The soft rumble of the road sounds familiar and safe.
“What happened?” she asks.
“You should probably just buckle up,” I say. “We’re almost there.”
Next week – Enroute: Part Three
Darren Gelsi lives in Berkeley California, incessantly observing, writing, talking, listening and partaking in the splendor of The Bay Area. He believes in the awe and power of travel, that love and life might be around each corner,and that food tastes good. The world is full of mystery, and before it’s over he’d like to see every spec of it.
Image by Manny Hernandez. Manny attended California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. He currently works at Pixar Animation Studios.