Taxi Ride chronicles what was a tense taxi ride home wherein the narrator feels uncomfortable and fearful for a young Jamaican teen who she feels in exhibiting effeminate traits. The boy seems oblivious to what may be the danger of being himself in public and this shows the fears of one passenger that the boy will be outed and hurt by the other passengers.
This short story (closer to flash fiction, it is under 1,000 words was written in 2015).
Happy Pride 2016 Jamaica.
One day, I hope will all be free to just be.
Taxi Ride by Chantel DaCosta
“Come een nuh brownin’.”
Squeezed in between two “Taxis will be towed and impounded” signs are two illegal public passenger carriers.
“Come nuh brownin” the loada man demands again.
“Da car yah ‘ave een people. You come jus two more and we leave out.”
“Move nuh driva mek she inna de car. Work wid me nuh man.” The loada man blasts the driver.
The driver in response shifts a little to the left and I see a slim figure in pink in the back seat of the faded mint coloured Toyota Corolla. I move towards the car, leaving the loada man and driver to argue about the slowness of early evening work in the summer.
As I open the door to the back to the taxi, the scent of artificial jasmine, vanilla and musk assault my nose. I sit beside the person in pink, I glance to my left and find a delicate looking man ―boy hurriedly replacing a bottle of purple liquid in his plaid knapsack.
“Good evening.” I greet him.
Lips thinned to nothing, a white person’s smile, revealed a crooked gapped grin. The boy carefully blots sweat and oil from his face. I smile in turn and note his damp underarms, turning the pink shirt to coral. The day is hot and I am sweating too.
“Your sinuses trouble?” he whispered, still beaming, he exchanged the rag for the bottle of purple liquid. Midnight in Paris.
The question surprised me. I look at him, really look at him this time. He is young. A child. A teenager perhaps with big dark brown orbs framed by long lashes, long lashes suited for girls, his under eyes are dark.
Is he wearing eyeliner?
I shake my head to loosen the negative thoughts, the cultural biases and bigotry that I must constantly fight against. I clear my throat before answering.
“No. But am feeling a little sick, a sore throat. Go ahead and spray.” I manage to stammer.
In that moment the Universe opens up in felicity of strangers connecting and we smile at each other. He excitedly sprays ―underarms, across his chest, his back and thighs ―cheap atomizer splashes scents that evaporate at first contact with the air and so he continues to spray, only stopping when passenger number three settles into the front seat.
Our new companion is a sprite of a blue black girl with sharp, pointy, tight features in all black (tank top, skinny jeans and gladiator sandals just a shade darker than herself) is topped by a long Brazilian or maybe Korean hair hat flowing to her tail bone.
The driver and the loada man left off their arguments when the potential fourth passenger approached the car. I scoot closer to the boy and a thought unsettles me:
Why am I sitting in the back?
I let it all go and accept that the reason is set and clear, this where I am and where I am to be.
Passenger four slumps into the seat beside me, he is a big man in a plaid short sleeved button down and rough work jeans. He is marked by an air of Jamaican machismo heterosexual sex for procreation and male satisfaction, a few thrust and pop man.
The car is loaded and we are off. Anxiously, I look at the boy again who appears oblivious to everything outside of himself, using his phone’s front camera he checks his face, no lingering oily spots, he smiles at himself. My heart rates kicks up. Added to the regular everyday anxiety of being on public transportation, the taxi is already weaving in and out of lanes, I am nervous for him.
I do not want the boy in pink to be noticed.
A fear is present, stamped into my nucleus amygdalae, imprinting a crease in my forehead where pain shoots from my throat to my ears and into my eyes. Layered is my doubt in myself because I do not know what my reaction or role will be should a verbal assault. Or worse. Should the driver, ghetto sprite or Jamaican man lash out, fish. batty man. sodomite, will I have the courage to stand with the boy? Can I defend him? I do not know.
Zipping in and out of slots in traffic that only motorcycles ride, the taxi exits the main thoroughfare. The boy dons sunglasses and puts away his phone and I relax a bit. On the back roads, twisting through interconnected B and C roads, left then right, keeping right to shoot across an intersection near Cassia Park, I notice a flash of green and yellow, the boy has a small tube in his hand. Lip balm, he runs it over his parted lips once, twice and a third time for good measure, I shift in my seat. Moving slightly forward with my back turned I shield him from the Jamaican man’s view. Silently, I implore the boy to put the lip balm away, he doesn’t comply, lip smacking he resumes eyeing himself.
The taxi exits the back roads and speeds onto to Red Hills Road, sailing past lines of traffic easing through amber-red traffic signals and I can see my stop ahead, I take a $100 note and tap the driver on his shoulders.
“Give me a stop up here.” I say as I pay the driver.
The car screeches and stops, he, the boy steps out to let me through ―standing, he is tall and ordinary looking―the pink shirt isn’t too tight and his pants is loose enough and with is scruffy canvas sneakers, he can blend in, I pray he gets to his destination.
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Thanks for reading and thanks for connecting.