The Taxi Driver

It could be argued that the worst part of this story is not the fact that he committed suicide. It is the fact that I do not remember his name. It has slipped between the floorboards of my memory, like some abstract algebra equation.

I remember everything else about him. He was not much older then me. At a guess I would say twenty five.

We met through his father, a fellow taxi driver by the name of Ernest. Ernest picked us up outside a club at 2 in the morning in a rough part of town after our original taxi driver bailed. In any normal country this would not have been a big deal. But in South Africa (especially the places we went to) if you were without transportation things could turn bad very, very quickly.

You see Durban is a place where you don’t stop for anything at night. Stop lights lose their meaning to some deep rooted survival instinct that tells you that you are not safe here. You become suspicious of new people. So when Ernest pulled up we were thankful. It wasn’t so much that we trusted him right away. It was simply the fact that in his car there were two of us to his one. The odds would weigh in our favor should the unspeakable happen.

Nothing bad happened that night. Ernest turned out to be a respectable, polite and safe driver. From then on he became our driver. Our go to guy whenever we were in Durban. We would pay him for the whole day and he would sit in his taxi reading the paper or smoking while we were out drinking or shopping. One day he mentioned how his son was getting into the taxi business and since he was closer in age we might prefer to drive with him. We accepted this.

His son was lean and tall. Slightly to tall for his taxi. Driving it he would hunch forward over the steering wheel. He spoke less then his father. As if each word were precious and to waste them on idle chit chat would somehow be cheating. Because of this silence when he did speak he riveted our attention. His soft voice surrounding us mixing with the smoke from his “bush-weed” until we were inhaling his words rather then hearing them. He began to open up to us. To tell us stories of the area. He knew each street, each building and spoke of them as if they were living. He would sometimes make tangental detours, driving way out just to show us a building or place that was centre to his story.

We didn’t mind.

One night we were coming out drunk from a bar. He was waiting as always. Hat pulled low over his eyes. Cigarette hanging from his lips. Starting the car he began to talk. He talked about race. An issue that, until that night had remained strictly off topic. You see in South Africa race is still something to be judged by. He began telling us of the viscous gangs that ruled over the slums. His voice quickened with hatred for these men. He explained that he was not worried though and that we should not be worried if we are with him because he had protection. On questioned on what he meant by that he simply leaned over and opened the glove box.

Inside was a revolver. It lay quiet and still, like a snake. Quiet and still and ready to strike at any moment. He closed the glove box.

“Protection”  he said. “Those niggers out there are dangerous. But they won’t get us.”

He lit up another cigarette. He seemed different now. It was as if the gun had aged him. He did not speak again until we were back at the port. He asked when we were going to be back again. We told him two weeks. We would be in touch when we got back. That said, we paid him and told him to stay safe.

“Don’t you worry boys.” He said. “No-ones going to get me.”

He stayed watching us until we were safely through the security. And then he was gone. Running all the red lights back to the city centre.

Two weeks later we were back.And he would not answer his phone. I tried three times but to no avail. I called Ernest. He picked up.

“Don’t you know what day it is today?” He said in a horse angry whisper.

As I tried to respond he cut me off. “Don’t ever call this number again.”

With that the line went dead.

We called another taxi driver that someone had used once before. Not as good and slightly more expensive, but trustworthy none the less. We asked about Ernest’s anger and his sons reluctance to pick up the phone.

“No-ones told you.” He said.

“Told us what?”

He clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. Shaking his head gently.

“Told us what?” I repeated.

“Ernest’s son, he shot himself.”

“What?”

“He’s dead. The funeral was an hour ago.”

A silence descended upon the taxi. I couldn’t get the image of that revolver out of my head. I imagined him, sat in his taxi alone somewhere. Smoking a cigarette and reasoning it out to himself. I wondered if he would hear the shot. Feel the bullet gliding through his skull.

“Don’t you worry boys.” He said. “No-ones going to get me.”

He was right.

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4 Responses to The Taxi Driver

  1. Chantal says:

    That was really heart breaking.

    Really good post.

  2. claribel12012 says:

    I felt shocked after reading.
    Loving your writing.

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