It was one of those nights, when you’re out late, chasing ghosts all over The City, even though the streets are as empty as the backseat of your cab, and there’s nothing left to do but follow the faint glow of your headlights and hope for the best, despite knowing you should just head to the yard, pay your gate and call it a night, because at 3:30 a.m., if your luck hasn’t changed for the better, it probably never will…
After one last circle through Union Square, I take Mason down to Market. Waiting for the light at Fifth Street, two Yellow cabs blow past me, toplights blazing. I hit my turn indicator. At least Soma is one neighborhood closer to the Bayview.
Like an apparition, she appears from behind a plume of steam billowing from the grates in the middle of the street. She walks straight towards me.
“You available?” she asks through the half-cracked window.
“Yeah.” I quickly unlock the doors.
“I was going to call an Uber,” she says, once inside. “But… you probably don’t want to hear about that.”
“Where you heading?”
“Redwood City. I’ll have the address for you in a second.”
I hit the meter and head towards the freeway. Guess I was wrong about that whole luck thing.
“Can we stop by a Wells Fargo along the way?” she asks. “If it’s a problem, no big deal.”
“There’s one a few blocks from here.”
Ah, so that’s why she didn’t call an Uber. While she’s using the ATM at Fourth and Brannan, I can’t help by wonder if she’s going to ditch me now that she had funds in her account. But my concerns are for naught once she’s back in the cab and we’re racing towards the freeway.
“How was your night?” I ask.
“Crappy. Like every other night. Because, you know, life sucks.”
“Yeah, and everyone is full of shit,” I deadpan.
She laughs. “Finally, someone who shares my outlook on things.”
“Were you out partying tonight or working?” I inquire.
“Hey, I’m not a prostitute.”
“What? No! That’s not what I…” Flummoxed, I can only stammer. “I just, uhhh…”
“It’s alright,” she says. “I work out of a hotel room, but I’m no streetwalker.”
I never would have made that assumption, but keep my mouth shut anyway.
A few minutes later, she breaks the silence. “This guy is already texting me. Wants to know how long until we arrive. 20 minutes?”
“More like 25,” I say, getting on Hwy 101 south.
“These guys are so overbearing, always needing updates.”
“It’s not exactly rocket science,” I say. “Meeting up with someone.”
“Right? And it’s 4 a.m. Why I going out this late?”
“Same reason I’m out this late, probably.”
“Money. But I’m so tired I’ll probably just fall asleep on his couch.” She chuckles.
As we race down the Peninsula, she goes on to tell me about this guy who took her to Calistoga last weekend. While up there, he plied her with psychedelics. First molly. Then mushrooms, which she’d never done before and she ended up having a bad trip.
“Granted, I probably shouldn’t have taken the second dose, but now the guy emails me and says I have a drug problem. Hell yeah, I have a drug problem. I’m just so sick of doing them. I’ve tried everything to fill the massive existential void inside me, but nothing helps. Not drugs. Not sex. Not love…I don’t know. Maybe I should try jogging.”
“Uhm.” I clear my throat. “You could take up knitting. You know, like crochet. Needlepoint.”
After 30 seconds, she laughs. “You’re a funny guy.”
Once we reach the guy’s building, I offer to wait in front of the lobby until the guy comes downstairs.
“You’re going to be alright?” I ask.
“And you can take an Uber back to The City?”
“Unless you want to give me your card?”
“Well, I’m about to turn in,” I say. “And I can’t really work outside San Francisco…”
“You know what?” she smiles. “I’m going to make HIM order me an Uber.”
“That’s a good idea.”
Just then, a guy appears in the lobby.
“So what do I owe you?” she asks.
I point to the meter, which is up to $76.10.
She lays five $20 bills on the console before getting out. “That’s all you, my friend. Good luck with everything.”
As she enters the building, the guy puts his arm around her shoulder and leads her away. I turn off the overhead and slowly head back to the freeway.
Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. His zine, “Behind the Wheel,” is available at bookstores throughout The City. Write to Kelly at piltdownlad@gmail.OVERSET FOLLOWS:com or visit his blog at www.idrivesf.com.
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