“I always get caught,” I said, “whenever I do something illegal. I swear, you don’t want me with you unless you want to spend the night in the slammer.” I’d been off drugs for a while and the last thing I needed was to spend the night with a drunk looking for a prostitute. Not that I’d lost the desire to always be high. I still wanted to live in a place where the fairies came out at night and I could laugh at their antics till morning. I’d just woken too often to find that the fairytale had come to an end, leaving me to fend for myself when the sun came out, and there was no avoiding the sun, so I was taking classes when I could and trying to figure out how to function when confronted by the light of the day.
He sat back and spread his wings across the back seat. For a moment he was a mile away. “So you never take any risks,” he said. “I guess that’s why you drive a cab.”
“I guess so.”
He sat up again and hung his whiskey bottle in front of me. “Here, have a sip, you need this more than I do.”
“I can’t. Like I said, I get caught at everything. The last thing I need is to lose this job for drinking. I guess taking risks has been beaten out of me.”
“By who, you’re old man? He the one who beat you?”
“No, no,” I said. “I was speaking metaphorically.”
He sat back again. “I see…metaphorically. You don’t live around here, do you?”
“I do now.”
“You’re too clean, metaphorically I mean. You go to college?”
“How’d you end up here? You wanted to see how the other half lived?”
“Something like that.”
He waited for me to elaborate. I didn’t want to explain it and end up in a longer conversation.
When we stopped at a light I could hear him breathing. Traffic was light; I was thankful when a car came up and idled beside us, an SUV with shaded windows. The man’s silence unnerved me. The light changed and we started up again.
“Life seems more real here,” I said. “It’s raw, people are people without the games.”
“People are people,” he repeated. Then he sat up close again. “Let me tell you something, it’s all games here, too. You want raw? Give up your cab and your income and live on the streets. Or move to a third world country, see if you can survive in the middle of a war, or find some bush people to live with in Africa. You’re a long ways from raw.” He sat back again.
“I suppose,” I said.
“No, no, no,” he said, interrupting, coming close to me again. “On second thought, you’d never make it in those places on your own. You know what a guy like you should do?”
“Join the Peace Corp. You’d get raw, but you’d have the security you need.”
“Sounds like too much work to me. I’m comfortable in my cab.”
He collapsed back. “Too much work,” he repeated, and then he almost shouted. “No women, no whiskey, no Peace Corp, just a comfortable cab man.”
“Works for me.”
“Wow, we need to get you laid.”