———-“It must be so easy to be a chef around here! There’s markets at every corner.” I rolled my eyes and scoffed; does this man really think his taxi driver wants to make conversation at 2 am? ———-

The once bustling vibrant city is now barren. A few unfortunates riddled arounds the streets, no doubt drunk, passed out, and choking on their own vomit. This city never gave me joy. Even after college when I was supposed to be living my career dreams. School glorified all of it. My professors told me a degree in communications was a solid bet to place on myself and there would be an endless job market waiting for me once I got out. Complete BS. I wonder when I write home if my mother rushes to read the letters of what’s happening with my life of hugely successful cab driving.

My brother got me through college. He picked me up when I was down, and quite literally offered a shoulder to cry on. He was a truly sparkling pure soul. When I barely grazed by and graduated he got me the gig at the taxi service. Sometimes when I rev up my engine the smell brings me back to the days he would giggle in my passenger seat. He would imitate passenger stories I recalled. There were so many giggles exchanged in those days. Ironic how one of the most loved times of my life was so brutally ripped from my soul the day we were wheeled off from a drive in stretchers.

I make a point never to work past 1 am. The type of rich priss trust fund baby that always leaves bars around 2 always gives me trouble. They’re probably the only type who can regularly afford the taxi fares around here. From the way their eyes flutter and the loose glistening dust flecks on their upper lips that they must race for a high in those back rooms of the clubs I pick them up from. This subset of passengers has always been aggressive and rude towards me, hence why I don’t do after 1 am trips, regardless of the loss of business.

This guy I picked really did seem desperate though, and I hate to say no to people who walk alone. He was plump and jolly looking enough to not invoke my “big bad scary looking man” response. He seemed quite young, most likely a similar age to I, yet he carried seasoned years in his eyes. He talked far too much. I myself prefer life to be gone about singularly without the attention craving from others. He was quite the opposite.

He blankly conversed with me for what definitely seemed like hours but were most likely simple minutes of storytelling and unshared laughter. He went on about his life’s story and about how he grew up on the East End with his aunt. From the way he made it sound she was some sort of designer. I’m not sure, that’s all I could make out from his incessant need to get as close to the divider as possible and practically breathe down my neck. “Where did you grow up?” I never had a problem with passengers ignoring my social cues of non-interest, but this guy was insistent. ‘’Round here.” I said. He leaned back giving me momentary relief from his humid hummus breath infiltrating my hair and onto my neck. His chest raised and he bellowed “Sweetheart, please give me something to go off of here.” At this point I recognised this simply as a drunk stupid man. An inexcusable breach of social culture and hierarchy, but harmless for the moment. He breached the gap between us again and whispered an inaudible sentence, but before he finished I pressed the button to the dividing window. It screeched closed as I attempted to keep my bloodshot, overworked eyes on the road. I glanced up expecting his demeanor to be angered, yet he sat back and giggled something of a nicker.

Seconds of empty silence morphed to minutes and soon the lump in my throat grew. For there was no indication of movement. No car door slam. Nothing. I had been at his stop for 7 minutes. I centralized my hectic thoughts and mouthed, “in three minutes, I’ll put the dividing window down, check he’s gone, and then leave.” The fractaling ricocheting thoughts of panic returned when the time elapsed. How could this man stay in the back seat with his dignity? Did he expect me to stay here all night? Was he asleep back there?

I clutched my mace with my left hand, prepared for the worst. I reluctantly let the divider sink. The depth of the darkness scared me more than an axe-weilding murderer could have that night. He was not there. Suddenly my brain snapped and my once collected self defense mode had turned into fully fledged fight or flight. My brain exploded with fear and uncertainty, and then…it all went black. My brain did gasp for one single instant, a final moment of consciousness. His voice echoed “I said I missed you sis…”