Tuesday, February 15, 2011
At seven-thirty, he called me at work to ask what time I would be coming home. I was distracted, trying to decipher notes on a layout, laboring to make the sentences effortless. The story was supposed to ship to the printer in the morning. Don't know, I said, not quite paying attention. Oh, he said. Well, call me when you're on your way. And then I remembered it was Valentine's Day. He cooks a special dinner for us on Valentine's Day. Oh, right, you're cooking, I said. I'll be out of here soon.
I left shortly after that and caught a cab. I asked the cab driver to stop at Whole Foods where I thought I might find some of those impossibly red tulips my daughter and I brought home last year. And maybe a cake. The cab driver started telling me about the mother of his children. He was Indian, she was Puerto Rican, and all his friends warned him she was crazy. But he wasn't prejudiced, he said. He had two children with her. And then she turned against him. I used to be rich, he said. I had a deli and drove a Mercedes, and she made me go to court so I could see my children. Seven years I paid lawyers so I could see my children. Seven years she fought me. At the end they said I could visit three days a week. And now we are both poor. She ruined my children's lives. Now I drive a cab all night and it is so cold tonight.
He was a small man, barely higher than the steering wheel. He listened when I called my daughter to check how far along in the dinner prep her dad was so I could gauge how much time I had. After I was done, the cab driver said, I'm going to call my daughter too. And he did. He said, It is cold tonight, baby. Stay inside. Your daddy loves you.
He waited for me while I went into Whole Foods. The tulips were a little less glorious than I remembered, but they were richly red all the same, and the cab was waiting so I bought them. And I chose a passion fruit mousse cake to go with them. Outside the wind whipped the night furiously. When I got back to the cab, the driver said, This is the night for lovers. You are a lucky woman. You have a man who is cooking for you. And I am out here driving a cab on a cold night.
I wished him a happy Valentine's Day as I got out the cab and wondered if it was unkind to do so. His words were in my head as I opened the door to my apartment. My husband was in the kitchen making grilled swordfish steaks and baked potatoes and fresh mozzarella with tomato and basil in a dark vinaigrette. My daughter was at the table, brow scrunched over math problems, her Facebook page open on her laptop beside her.
I hugged them and kissed them and they felt warm and easy and happy and I held up the flowers and the passion fruit cake and when I went into the bedroom to put down my stuff there was a heart shaped box of chocolates on my pillow and I thought that the cab driver was right, at least in what he said about me.