TaxiRain dappled pavement, my face pressed against memories.
The cab driver asked if I’d mind a second passenger.
“No, that’s fine.”
In the dim light of a pale late December evening, a woman slid in next to me. “Oh, I’m sorry.” She tapped the cushion in front of her. “Should I wait and let you drop this gentleman off first?”
“If it’s okay with you, he’s agreed to share the ride.”
She turned to me, and from my corner, my face remained sheltered in the shade. “I hope I’m not an inconvenience?”
Her voice, something faint, a memory. I recalled the address. “Denise, it’d be my pleasure to ride with you.”
“I’m sorry, do I know you?”
I brought my features into the cast of light between us. “Do you?”
“Oh my God, John?”
“I assume you are visiting your parents and not still living there?”
Her lips turned up. “Just visiting.”
I leaned back as the cab pulled away from the curb and returned to the view of my hometown. A view I hadn’t taken in for over twenty years.
“Still an enigma I see.”
I smiled. “No, just weathered, tired I guess.”
“I haven’t seen you around, where have you been?”
“Never came back after my mother died.”
“I’m sorry to hear about your mom’s death. Was that recent?”
Any pretense we were close ended when I offered, “Twenty years ago.”
“Oh, I didn’t know.”
“No, Denise, I wouldn’t suspect you would.” I turned in my seat and engaged her. “What about you, what have you been up to?”
Her shoulders released, and a resigned posture melted next to me. “Married a few times, a couple of kids, now I’m single and trying to make a living.” Her pitch raised as though she realized she wasn’t defeated.
“Nice, what do you do?”
“Hold your hand out.”
Her expression waited on me. I slid my hand out of a glove and extended it. She pulled it close and turned it up. With a small flashlight she studied the lines of my palm. “You have a long life line.”
“Well, I would hope so, I’m already old.”
“Your prosperity line is strong.”
“I think that’s just a cut.”
“You’re going to experience love.”
Love is nebulous. I had experienced it on the front end of most miseries. They don’t tell you about that part of love, that it’s fleeting. “Going to?”
She whispered, “Yes.”
“So you are a palm reader?”
“And an astrologer.”
“I see.”
“John, you’re open minded aren’t you? I mean, you aren’t one of those who can’t believe in astrology because of a religion are you?”
“No.” I had half the mind to tell her that I thought both Astrology and religion were bullshit, but getting into some existential argument when all I wanted to do was go to my hotel and sleep didn’t seem practical.
“Good.” She fidgeted like a schoolgirl. “So what do you do?”
“I practice the art of make-believe.”
She shrugged. “What does that mean?”
I shrugged back. “I’m a writer.”
“Anything I’ve read?”
“Well, since you didn’t know I was a writer, chances are no.”
She still had my hand in hers, trying to distill the lines of my life. “Does it give you a decent life?”
Odd question. I knew what she meant, ‘did it earn a good income,’ but I couldn’t help but consider the emotional toll writing had on my life, on my synapses, on the entire recounting of my life. “It gives me a unique perspective.”
“I’ve always wanted to write.”
Somehow being a palm reader, like the preachers I’d met over the years, yeah, I am sure she wanted to write, act, pretend, because that was something preachers and astrologers were all good at doing. “Yeah?”
She positioned herself to lay into why her life had a story to it when the cab driver interrupted. “Sir, we are at your hotel.”
I don’t know if I was saved or not. I’d come for a funeral, and the day had been a fucked up mess, and on any other day, listening to someone tell me something I heard a million times before would have been unbearable, but Denise’s vulnerability touched me. I’d come home to a dead-end town in the middle of nowhere, and all around me were ‘what could have been’ stories, including the friend I’d helped carry to his final resting spot. “Thanks, what do I owe?”
He gave me the final tally.
I offered, “Here, this should cover my fare, her fare, and a good tip.”
Denise, tugged on my hand. “You know this hotel has a nice lounge?”
“And I was wondering if you’d like to have a drink with me?”
“What’s my hand say?”
She traced a line. “It says you are going to experience love.”