The damn summertime in Detroit is the worst time to be outside . . .
The black folks in raggedy cars fry under the sun and watch pretty white asses cross
the street or maybe something else. One man sits in one particular cab. His name is Hector
Valdez and he is an immigrant from Mexico listening to the sounds of Mrs. Celia Cruz.
The sun that will silently destroy his brown face is captured by the softness that keeps
him calm and will slowly melt away. His car is a faded piss-color that reflects off the sunlight
near the crack house on Watson Street. He looks in the mirror; a black girl is crossing the street,
her nappy curls break from the yank of her pimp’s hand. Hector turns away, a green light urging him
forward and he is gone. Still stuck under that streetlight, the black girl reminds him of a stolen book bag,
a faded memory of a bygone era of beat boxes, Adidas shoes and typewriter bracelets.
Hector cannot stop for her; the next cab ride is his last but that will not come for a few minutes.
He glances up; he cannot see a thing. His eyes twinkle as ghetto children will make wishes upon false stars.
Perhaps he’ll play the lottery. He glances at his watch: It is almost evening. It is 6:33, a strange time indeed.
He turns on the radio but it is about death. He shoots past another flicking light and pass wilted bouquets and moldy teddy bears.
A woman is standing on the corner, her thumb stuck out, her dark sunglasses rotting beneath cakes of makeup beneath a battle-scarred
face but what is pleasure? A romantic twelve-gauge shot that lands with delicate care onto dangerous, fake faces whose eyes will widen
when they realize how strange it is to see the smiling sun in close range. The shape of hands, the ammunition of a thousand armies and
his visor drops in deluded fright as his car slams on the brakes to avoid twelve angry pigeons, one of whom is lying lame and dreamy
under the blood-red evening sun. The woman opens the door and climbs in. Her lips caress words with ease and he pinches the meter in sight.
He closes the door and speeds off into the evening night. Hector side-steps the birds and flicks a dozen gray hairs of his in different directions.
“I’m thinking of playing the lottery. Got any numbers you can suggest, honey?” Hector asks but it is more of a statement than a question.
“Yeah, none. Now, I’m going to 1212 Penrod St. and please hurry,” she says, looking down at her watch, “I haven’t got much time.”
Hector arrives at another red light. Homeless men are putting on a late-night play. The streetlights hide their faces but
he can see them carrying one off down the street. Maybe someone is on a cross and has earned the right to be carried by the
other men. He looks in the mirror. His own cross is hanging from the shadows, which gives Hector a shadow as well.
He realizes that he needs to shave but then Hector hears a noise and his eyes focus on the woman sitting behind him.
He begins to notice some strange things about her. For one, she has black leather gloves on her hands. They move up the unusually hairy arms.
Two, she has a moustache, struggling not to fall limp, hiding behind a contempt for kindness that the lovely transvestite prostitutes on the
corner willingly embrace.
“What’s the gun for, man? Are you going to rob me?” Hector asks.
He is taken aback for a moment but then calmly replies, “No. But I’ll pay you. To forget that we ever met.”
The man throws a ten dollar bill into the air. It lands on the plush vinyl of the passenger seat.
Hector realizes where he has seen the man before. It is today when he is at his mother’s house. It is during lunch but before her soap operas come on.
The newscaster speaks for exactly two minutes or one hundred and twenty seconds. A child is crossing the street and is hit by a drunk driver.
The drunk driver is arrested. The blood alcohol level is .012, above the legal limit but the jury has mercy on him, compassion and gives him a year of probation.
It is June and this happens last June . . .
Hector cannot remember the headline because it reads in the newspaper like this: EGAPMAR NO SEOG NAM. But he feels the man’s pain enough to understand the intimacy
this man finds with destruction. Hector ponders then if he should call someone? But at his own home, Hector has a wife, four children, his parents, his three brothers
and their two wives that depend on him, his shared contribution. His stomach churns as the two of them sit in silence. He tries to make conversation, to try to
understand the man, to change his mind.
“You’re my last customer, you know? Yep, that’s right. Last one for the evening. Was thinkin’ about maybe going over to Baker’s on Eight Mile. I know it’s kind
of far away but they’ve got great jazz music.”
“I don’t listen to that shit or anything else. I hate music.”
Hector smells cigarette smoke coming from the backseat. The man rolls down his window.
“Bummer. Hey, you know, man. I like to watch a lot of television. It’s nothing like what I see out here in the streets but its close. Hey, which do you think is
more exciting? The life of a cab driver or the life of a newscaster?” he asks.
"I don’t know,” was the reply.
A cabdriver, you know why?” Hector says.
“Watch the road, you stupid fuck.”
Hector winces at first but then realizes that the man is talking to an old, blind, deaf and dumb black man who almost steps from the curb and almost runs into his cab.
He narrowly misses hitting him and pulls onto a side street. He drives a block and pull in front of a Tudor-style house. The man thanks Hector through the window and tips
him two single dollar bills. Hector begins to listen to the sound of the doorbell. A light comes on in the house. One life for another. He could call 9-1-1 but then what?
Does he want to be on the news tomorrow? Hector shakes his head no. Then, he remembers that the Coney Island is open all night. Hector drives a bit and then sees a familiar face.
A transvestite named Dorothy Gale, who is known for her red slippers and rescuing dogs off the street. But when Hector examines her, she’s actually wearing brown shoes and ugly ones
but she is still lovely. She is a vision of mercy and redemption before the twilight evening begins. But then, a stroke of genius hits Hector. He’ll ask her for her favorite number
and play it tomorrow in the lottery, after work, after the news and after he buys a new pair of dark, shaded sunglasses.