The Pakistani
Taxi Driver
Finally, after what feels like forever, a taxi pulls up and I get inside. I am still a complete wreck, but I do not fail to notice that the driver is exquisitely, wrenchingly handsome, like a prince of Persian miniature painting, maybe, or a Bollywood matinee idol. He has a great luxurious pile of shiny black hair and aquiline nose and lustrous, unblemished skin. His huge dark-brown eyes shimmer. He is a person of rare and disarming beauty. He is a vision. I believe he is an angel sent from heaven by God himself. I tell him my address --- the tears and the snot have made it hard to enunciate, and I am sure I said theventeenth thtreet --- and he turns toward the bridge.

"Miss?" he asks tenderly. "You are crying. Miss?"

I sniffle and confirm that yeth, I am crying.

"What's wrong? What has made you sad?"

I have to think about that.

I could say too much booze, too much pot, not enough to eat, raging hormones, deep disappointment in myself and in some others, a powerful sense of personal failure, nagging troubles at home, at work, at that bar. It al seems too complicated to go into. "I don't know," I answer.

"Miss, what have you been doing this night?" he asks. Good question, what have I been doing?

"I have been drinking with men."

There is a long pause. I can tell that he is not sure what to do with this information.

"And I think I'm tired of it," I add. I am not certain that I mean it, but I cannot stand the silence. I want to hear him speak. I want to talk.

"You'll be okay, miss," he says soothingly.

"Yeah, I'll be fine." I laugh a little.

"See?! You're laughing! That means you'll be okay."

I can find no fault with his reasoning. My tears slow down, but my face is burning, stinging from all that salt. My breathing slows, too, and steadies; it had been labored and uneven while I wept. I roll down both of the back windows just a crack to let in some air, and sink deeper into the seat. The bridge is empty and slick, but I am comforted, not afraid. It feels like we are gliding across it, like we are gliding with easeful, effortless grace across the East River, away from Manhattan, away from the bar, away from my meltdown, away from everything I want to get far away from. Down below and off to the right, a thin but steady rain-dappled streak of cars on the stretch of the BQE under the Brooklyn Heights Promenade looks like the trail of a shooting star, until the express subway whooshes by and blocks my view. Then the Jehovah's Witness headquarters come into my line of vision. READ GOD'S WORD THE HOLY BIBLE DAILY, one of their buildings proclaims in giant block letters. Tried that, I think.

"Where are you from, miss?"

"Here," I tell him. "New York. Where are you from?"

"I am from Pakistan."

"Are you Pashtun?" I ask him, even though, drunk as I am, it registers that he is from Pakistan, not Afghanistan, and it is therefore unlikely that he is Pashtun, and, I know that I have asked a dumb and perhaps impertinent question.

"No, no, I am not Pashtun." He laughs again. Now I am convinced that he has the most wonderful, open, honest, laugh I ever heard. "Why do you ask?"

I explain to him that I have come up with a plan. I explain that I have figured out how to change my life, which is objectively not such a bad life at all, for I have not lost all perspective and I know at least that much, but with which I am nonetheless, at this time anyway, deeply unhappy.

"I have a book idea," I tell him. "I am going to move to Kabul, find an aging one-eye Pashtun warlord, and become his difficult Jewish wife from Brooklyn. Maybe his sixth or seventh wife. I don't care! I think it's a great idea." I slip into a brief silent reverie, imagining the crazy clash-of-cultures sitcom that might be based on it, an I Love Lucy for our anxious post-9/11 age.

He laughs some more. That laughter; I could listen to it forever. But then it stops. "It's a great idea," he concedes. "But there is a problem." His voice is deeper now, and serious.

"What's the problem?" I ask.

"Your one-eyed Pashtun husband will cut off your hands before you are able to write this book." He shakes his head, turns to glance at me through the cracked plastic partition, and smiles.

Now I am laughing, hard. We are breezing briskly down Brooklyn's Fourth Avenue, and we are both laughing. I ask him to take a left just after the underpass, please. He turns onto my street and comes to a stop, with great care, in front of my building. I pull a crumpled twenty-dollar bill and a few singles out of my bag, smooth them out a little, and hand him the money. He hands it back. "Please," I implore him, "take it." He refuses.

"No, no, no," he insists. "I am on my way home anyway."

"You sure?" He says he is sure. I thank him. He laughs some more, and so do I.

"See, you're still laughing. You'll be okay, miss," he tells me again, then pauses. "You'll find a better way to change your life."

He does not drive away until he has seen me walk up the stoop and unlock my front door. I wave good-bye. He waves good-bye. I could not be more grateful. I could not love him more.

--- From Drinking with Men, A Memoir
Rosie Schaap
© 2013 Riverhead Books
Go to a
of this book

Send us e-mail


Go Home

Go to the most recent RALPH