On Monday, November 5, I stood shivering in the rain on the corner of 18th Street and Seventh Avenue. I'd had a hell of a time trying to get home. There was an issue at 34th Street, the one train service had stopped completely. I waited on a train platform for thirty minutes before calling it quits. The first Lyft I called drove off without me.
Finally a yellow cab picked me up. I told him where I was going, he turned on to the West Side Highway.
"All the trains are so bad when the weather is like this," he laughed. I'd just come from my first dinner with my writing group. We've been meeting for months in a therapy office in Flatiron, and someone suggested instead of meeting that we just get together. I was with a writing group in 2013, we had such magical chemistry that every meeting stretched for hours. There were the critiques, sure, but then we'd go out to dinner and drinks and march around the East Village in a gigantic, drunken group. I'm still friends with almost everyone I met there, and two of my closest friends: Philippa and Suni, I met in the group. There wasn't that same instant chemistry with the new group. Over dinner we laughed a bit, but there were big swaths of quiet time, and eventually, after eating and drinking at record speed someone said, "Should we get the check?"
After dinner I was ready to spend my ride home agonizing over every stupid thing I said. But my cab driver was a talker, somehow I get one of these twice a year. They always turn the meter off early since I was "such a good listener."
My cabbie had white hair, slim build, deep set eyes, an accent I couldn't place. He started telling me about his life. He had two kids, a boy and a girl. He lived in Ridgewood, he was a former pro boxer. He was interested in health, fitness, etc. He had a friend recently die, "...he didn't take care of himself!" he exclaimed. He eschewed consumerism, a trait common among talkative cabbies. Sometimes it feels like they are all optimists wearing shields. If they had pain, they'd never feel it. They're always looking to the sky.
"I give my money to my family because you can't take it with you when you die. What are you going to do, hold on to your money with your teeth and drag it up to the heavens?" I was envious of this attitude. If I took a hard look at myself in the mirror: I want everything. I'm the adult version of Veruca Salt. Of course, I didn't tell him that. I just did my nod and occasional, "Yes, you're totally right."
I asked him about his family. He lifted up his cell phone, his son was the photo on the lock screen: a seven-year-old boy, with a bowl-cut and a blue soccer jersey. He lit up talking about him. "All you need is family. All you need is kids to give love and receive love. The chain of love."
We turned down St. Nicholas and just as I suspected, he cut off the meter 10 blocks from my home.
"I don't need all this money," he said, "and you are so nice." We pulled up to my building and when I got out he turned round in his seat.
"Remember, Ariel, receive the chain of love."
I got to my apartment, slipped on my night clothes and opened my computer. I started a new document with the quote from him at the top of the page.
I went to sleep shortly after, but I woke up every hour and worried about missing my chance to vote. When my alarm finally went off at 6:30 I jumped out of bed, had a quick breakfast, and speed walked two avenue blocks to my polling place. I voted without incident and without waiting, then I walked proudly to the subway with my "I Voted" sticker on my bright blue coat. When my train rolled into Wall Street station, there was a man in his 40s or 50s watching me and eyeing my sticker. When I got off to go to the office he smiled. "Have a blessed day," he said.
Friday night I met Alistair at his apartment with a bottle of our favorite whiskey, Suntory Toki, tucked under my arm. Our two year anniversary was on Saturday (today!) and we'd planned on a low-key evening at Bemelman's Bar. After lunch today, my stomach was upset (I was diagnosed with a hiatus hernia when I was 23, so this is pretty common). I took some medicine and fell asleep around 6 pm. Bemelmans' would have to wait till Sunday.