the end of the ride
“Omigawd! I’m broke!” she said. “We have to find an ATM.”
“No problem. Which way?”
Turn off here.
Uhm, that way?
Make it my other right. Sorry. Can you make a U?
I see it.
She got out. Wobbling on her heels. Not as tall and gawky as I’d thought. Now she seemed fragile, vulnerable to the forces of darkness. Her light was low. Scattered by the shards of crashed memories perhaps.
She floundered at the machine. Seemed to be inserting new cards or the same one over and over again.
Any luck? I shouted.
I’m so sorry. Her shoulders slumping. I’ve been denied access.
C’mere. I said. Siddown.
I reached around and flipped the door open to her.
You have to pay. So let’s make a plan.
I’m so sorry. My husband and I broke up. Maybe he took all the money. Denied access? How does that happen? My jacket is calf skin. It’s worth way more than the ride.
The meter was over 30 already. And ticking.
No. I said. Too much trouble. They’ll hold it for 30 days and give it to some hooker. Or you’ll have to go down to the produce district, and pay the fare to get your jacket back. Either way they’ll tell me you claimed it. Whatever story they’ll think up leaves me out or costs you extra.
Write me a poem. I blurted. Do that conscientiously. And true. I will take you straight home --meter off.
I can’t, she cried.
You have to and you can. Everyone’s a poet. [That’s why they’re so poor. I thought.]
I handed her My clipboard from My back pack. Fresh white blank sheets; a blue pen.
Go! I said.
I got out of the taxi, taking the keys. I locked the doors. The street was shimmery from the rain like a black and white movie.
Coffee? I gestured at a café half a block back.
She bent over the paper. She started writing. When I returned the poem was on the front seat with the lights off. She was in the back, naked, lying across the seat like a page to be written upon. She was one of those women who looked better with her clothes off. In the street light... I read her poem.
Here is what she wrote:
“i am skin
i have no heart
no eyes no taste no thoughts no brain
my muscle is the kind they allow
japanese-massaged beef to have
if anyone wanted to eat me
I would taste
I’m not able to do a thing--I cannot act think care
yet my bones are perfect
they set the stage for my surface picture of skin and hair and nose
cheek bones high--admirably amiable cheekbones
how deep is that?
I am skin A tight wrap
My skin is a highway to nowhere
You can lick me kick me stick me trick me prick me dick me:
leave no marks please
I am my skin as shallow as that
But my skin is holy. It is the pinnacle of god’s creation. I devote myself to its
maintenance and preservation.
My skin shields me from feeling.
My skin is waterproof and keeps my guts from spilling when I cry.
My skin is emotionless. Kiss me there.
My skin is alive–everything it hides and contains works well,
but is dead.
My soul is back down this dark road someplace.
My displaced angel replaced it with tears
that will run off someone else’s newly handy hopeful skin
and drip off My chin into this poem.
Oh grrrl...where are you?
When I finished reading I turned around and stared at her, soaking up her mute message, recording her skin in the My docs of My brain–she was like a long, cool drink on Mars, a vanilla ice smoothie in the squalid Sahel refugee camp I kept in My Taxi-mind to keep me moving relentlessly like a shark. I re-read the poem. Looked at her again. Felt for her story: another no fault dirty rotten divorce. So a lie lived out as living proof of lies. Me having lived a few myself.
So fear of future failing. Our grand epidemic.
Not that I had this new indelible memory: a slice of art immortalizing her lost spirit for a mere practicality: a retrun to her broken home.
Pragmatically, I turned the key on. The meter off. And asked her my favorite question, Where to?
Are you going to drive me naked? She answered.
We’re all naked out here, I said.
Everyone’s searching for something that fits.
Nothing fits forever.
Things wear out, she said.
It’s been my pleasure to serve you, I told her.
She began to dress in my mirror.
This time/it’s your gift/you wear it well, I thought.
Before I could put it in gear, a tear broke loose and ran down my cheek. It dropped off My chin into her poem before I could catch it.
I watched her run to her house, no longer a home, not looking back.
--End of the ride--