I mean, think about it. I never even make the papers when I get married - you know how they does put “the lovely bride and groom will honeymoon in Barbados” - except we didn’t have money for honeymoon, we make we own and that was just fine by me and she. Is three children and two grandchildren we have and everybody doing good.
Well, this is how it happen.
Was a regular Friday, I sitting in the car waiting by Port Gate for passengers and listening to the twelve o’clock news. Regular news - nothing nobody ent already know. A man was held in connection with the murder of a prominent lawyer; the underwater volcano up the islands ceased activity and polling agents have been sworn in for the next general elections. After the weather, “Generally fair with a few scattered showers”, I turn off the radio and put on some Al Green. Radio is only talk these days - plenty experts with nothing to say.
Hundreds of people per minute passing in front of me coming from south or east or central in bus and taxi and heading into town. I working the Delmonte route these days, unless I get a trip for San Juan.
A young lady cross the road from Port Gate bend down she head to the car window and say, “Hospital?” I nod my head and she jump in the front seat and buckle the seatbelt. I was glad she do that because I tired tell people, I can’t afford to pay no $5,000 for them not wanting to mess up they clothes or they feel the seatbelt choking them. She was dress nice, skinny pants and ruffled blouse with them sandals with a thousand straps, I don’t know how they does get they foot in it. She was holding a sling purse and a small carry-on bag so it look like she taking some things for some relative staying in the hospital. I see plenty of them everyday.
Then quick, quick a next two jump in - two office workers - a young man with a blue shirt and dark blue tie with yellow smiley faces and he cell phone jam up to he ear. He come in the car and leave the car and that phone ent move yet. Only he mouth was moving, “Just tell them there was a delay.” “Ask Mr Sammy about that.” “That is not our Department.” And so on. The next one was a oldish lady in a brown skirt suit, holding a big envelope tight, tight against she handbag and she face pucker up like she vex with the world.
I decide to pull out one time because I sure I getting one more up Harris Street - is lunchtime and plenty people going to the hospital to see the sick. As I put in the gear, I hear a tinny voice say, “Circular” I look up and see a skinny redskin girl with a neat Rasta hairstyle and holding a knapsack - I sure she going by the Drama Workshop because she look like one of them arty type and the voice had a kinda foreign highfalutin ring to it. You could tell.
So I pull out and I tell you I swear, if I didn’t have to earn a dollar doing this work I would walk half the places them people paying to reach and get there faster. Traffic in this town is a mess. Is not just the traffic. Is people from all over the place walking in front the car, selling on the pavement and in the road, pushing trolley with bedsheets or flowers or perfume sets - all kinda things. And I not just talking people here in this country. Is Nigeria, China, Venezuela and from Haiti right down the islands to Guyana, everybody coming here and is in the city they looking for work. This place could give the United Nations a run for they money.
Well the two office people drop out on Harris Street self - they could have walk and reach in half the time - the young boy drop out by Young Street and the lady in the skirt suit by the block with all the lawyer offices. I hope she sort out whatever was in that envelope.
I head to the hospital which is right on the Circular so is a straight run and back by Port Gate for a next trip.
I pull up outside the hospital gate and the young lady hand me the four dollars, unbuckle the seatbelt, put the strap of the carry on over she shoulder, open the door and step out. Then I hear “Nobody getting out here.”
In two twos flat the girl jump back in, close the door, buckle she seatbelt and I hear the back door open and slam in one move.
Was a young man in a blue and black track suit and a short Rasta hairstyle and he sit down and say, “I ain’t go hurt nobody. Just drive.”
Now, I not working taxi for more than thirty years without knowing how to handle myself when my life under threat by a fella with a gun or a knife. Is not the first time and I sure is not the last. The only thing to do is send a prayer up to God, stay calm , try not to catch they eye and do as they tell you.
I turn off Al Green and glance in the rear view mirror to pull out. I notice the arty girl mouth open like she want to say something and I pray to God she ent put down some set of dramatics and end up dead in my car. The young girl in the front seat shaking a little bit and holding on the carry on strap so tight like the knuckles going to burst out she skin.
So I pull out and I driving normal speed, which is slow in this city. I glance in the mirror. He couldn’t have been more than twenty -something - he mammy milk ent too long leave he cheeks and he had them big puppy dog eyes. Cut the hair and put him in a tie and he is your regular, friendly bank clerk. He pull out a cell phone and I hear, “ Babes, where you is?” Then, “Hurry.”
I hear the sirens before I see the two police jeeps coming down the road and cars pulling as best they could to the side to let them pass. I pull to the left and stop and I see the boy bend down he head low low behind me. They pass we straight and I see him pull back up and look over he shoulder. I ent say a thing. I pull back on the road and keep driving.
By this time we approaching the Drama Workshop and I could see the arty girl looking out the window as if she deciding if to open the car door and jump or stay put. But if any of we did planning to jump out the boy make all of we stay put. He say, “I real sorry I doing this to you, I real apologize. But is the system we fighting.”
Well. Is the first time I hear a hijacker/robber/rapist/murderer apologize in front before he do whatever he was planning to do.
I see Arty Girl glance at him, turn she head to the window fast and just keep on staring out. Ruffled blouse in front let go the carry on strap and let it rest on the bag. The boy put the cell phone to he ear and then is like he remember something. He say in a mannish voice: “Turn off allyuh cellphone!” Like he ent accustom doing this thing because the first thing any seasoned thief does do is say, “Gimme allyuh cellphone,”
So I relax. I could handle this. I see the arty girl dig in she pocket and ruffled blouse open she purse and I just reach on the dashboard. All phones off.
The boy was on he phone again. “How far you reach?” “OK”.
Next thing I see a $100 bill crossing my shoulder and the boy say. “Drive, I want to come out on Norjean Street.” I put the hundred in my shirt pocket and start to think.
Now, from what I seeing, if it had a robbery in the area the whole of Belmont go be covered with police and if they see the boy in my car anything could happen and the next thing is a shoot out and blood or worse. I seeing the headline already, “Taxi driver with two female accomplices drove the getaway car.”
So I talk straight. “Delmonte go be covered with police. I sure they setting up roadblock. “
I see him looking back again.
“And stop looking back. You looking suspicious. Keep yuh head straight.”
The boy sit back and pull out the cell phone again.
“Babes, listen. When you reach, stay there. I will call you.”
Then he say, “Drive, what you think I should do?”
Well, I never hear anyone of them ever ask me that and I sure it will never happen again. That is what they does call on them lawyer shows, “aiding and abetting” but the only thing I was thinking of was how I aiding myself and them two girls to get out of this safe and I betting we chances better downtown where it have thousands of people and he could just jump out and lose heself.
So I tell him, “I go drop you downtown. And listen to me. When allyuh doing allyuh thing you should have a getaway car, yuh hear. “
The boy say, “Well, we did have one but….’ And he stop. I ent get to know what happen and I didn’t want to know. If I get involve with police the less I know the better.
Well, is now Arty girl decide to open she mouth. She say, “Excuse me, but could I drop out here. I have an audition.” The boy look at she, raise up he head and look back at she. “That is like a interview?”
She say, “Yes. I am hoping to get the part.” Well, the way she say it was like the two of them was having a nice conversation in the back all the time and everything was normal. If she was acting, she could real act.
The boy stay silent a minute and then he say, “Drive, drop them out.”
Well, I pull on the side and ruffled shirt looking like she can’t move so I tell she, “You could come out.” Arty girl did done fling open the door before the car completely stop but Ruffles now start to fiddle with the seatbelt and I had to help she unlock it. She jump out and start to walk back to the hospital side fast, fast. She ent even close the door. As I look in the rear view mirror to pull out I see Arty girl running up the road. I hope she get whatever part it is.
So is just me and youth man now. All I wanted to do was to get him out my car so I ent doing nothing to make anybody notice we. Regular drive - stop by the traffic lights, drive as fast as the traffic could carry we and when a few people try to flag me down but I raise mih hand to say I ent working.
The boy say, “You could drop me by the Square?”
I say, “That is no problem.” Well, is now I start to breathe because he ent say, take me some far place in east, or south or central. In fact, it make everything easy. If I drop him off by the Square is just a turn to the right and I back by Port Gate.
So down Charley Street we gone and just as we approaching the Square he say, “Thanks, eh Drive. I real sorry.”
I say, “Boy, if God was ready for you, you wouldn’t have jumped in my car.”
I stop by the first gate to the Square and he jump out. As I pulling out into the traffic, I see him walking down the path, the trees in the square waving shadow over him and before I blink, he disappear behind the fountain.
I head back to Port Gate, the $100 bill still in my pocket. Well, he didn’t ask for change.
By the way. I figure is Arty Girl call the papers and tell them everything. She look like she real like drama, boy.