Slice of Life.
It is still twilight when I pick up a banana and cup of coffee from the hotel breakfast buffet. My reserved Carmel Car drives up as I exit the lobby. I drop my bag onto the floorboard and slide into the back seat of the dark sedan, confirming my destination. The ride usually takes thirty minutes, so I am looking forward to think-time for the day ahead.
The driver asks if I need anything. I assure him I’m good and casually remark, “Looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day.” He quickly agrees and makes a comment about the previous day’s weather. We exchange a few more morning words as he whisks us into the morning traffic. I relax into my seat, finish my banana, and sip my coffee.
He breaks the silence to tell me that we are going a different way to avoid a traffic jam. He assures me he has his GPS. I smile and nod at his reflection in the rear-view mirror and open my maps app to watch our little blue dot progress through the maize of streets.
I am surprised and then amused as my driver suddenly launches into a tale. He says,
My friend, you know… (looking into the rear-view mirror in my direction)
He live in Cleveland.
A few years ago, He call me and say he’s in Jersey and coming to see me. He ask me where I was. He want to know what my address was.
I told him, “Just stay where you are and I come get you.”
“No,” my friend say, “I come to you.”
“You don’t know this place. It is very hard to find,” I told him, but he insists. I hear a voice and ask him who was with him. He wasn’t married. I did not think he have girlfriend. I have no idea who might be coming with him.
He say, “It’s my girlfriend.”
“Your girlfriend? I didn’t know you had a girlfriend. Let me come get you.”
“No,” my friend say, “I will come to you. My girlfriend knows the way.”
“What? How can she know the way? She’s from Cleveland!” I say.
He is skillfully weaving us in and out of traffic, and I’m listening, smiling at this surreal moment — the foreignness of this stranger’s voice, the seeming pointlessness of his story, the snarling traffic, the skyline of Manhattan painted gold by the rising sun, and my thoughts of my family still asleep about 3,000 miles away.
It wasn’t long and my friend arrive at my house. He got out of his car. I ask, “Where’s your girlfriend?”
“Oh, she’s visiting her family.”
“Well, you must get her and bring her to meet us.”
“No, I can’t do that. You know, we are Muslim, and her family won’t like that. You know.”
After a few days, my friend, he finally tells me: his girlfriend is his GPS.
I took my eyes from the Manhattan landscape to look at my driver’s reflection in the rear-view mirror and chuckled, “So, did you get yourself a girlfriend?”
“Oh, yes. And she always with me when I drive.” My driver pulls up to my destination; I thank him, and wishing him a good day, I shoulder my bag, slide out of his car, and step onto the curb.
I stand there for a moment, smiling as I watch him melt into the traffic.