By Brett Butler
“No five,” the cabbie says to me. I am already in the front seat. He can’t be serious. It is three in the morning and raining out, he has a car and we do not, we are drunk and he is not.
This inhumanity will not stand. I know I can reason with this guy, that’s why I like to place myself in the front seat of a taxi.
There are splatters on the glove compartment.
The air is thick. I have to get my window down. The smell of this bog is tormenting my sinuses and squashing my buzz. I catch the driver looking at my fingers trying to work the window button. This bastard has them locked. The fare goes up as we sit in this cesspool. Does he think just one of us will leave?
His eyes reveal a night of hardship, the creases around them show more than that. I get the feeling he would prefer to break the law by killing one of us rather than driving the illegal five.
Still, I cannot stop myself. “What the fuck asshole? Just give us a fucking ride!”
I am a born leader and humanitarian.
“No five, against the law!”
There is a twinkle in his eye. I avert his stare and look directly down at the floor. Are those salt stains on the mat leftover from the winter or from his last passenger’s tears?
He is just a cab driver Harvey.
I take a deep breath and catch a whiff of all the degradation, humiliation, and aggression left in the air from the drunk undergrads, the cheating spouses, the asshole Bay Streeters, the racists and the cunts. It’s a stench far worse than the vomit fuel I expected. What will I leave behind?
I finally turn towards him, his red eyes stand out in the night like hemorrhoid induced blood spots on shit smeared toilet paper.
Those splatters! This is not just a taxi driver.
Why is his face so close to my face? Why is my face so close to his face? A portrait would reveal a vase. His coffee breath meets my beer exhaust and the two surging forces light up our faces and fills our vase with hate.
The bile pours out of both our mouths at once and he pushes hard on the accelerator.
I knew this was a man of reason. I had nothing to worry about. Relief, we are headed home.
What’s with the absence of applause and gratitude from the back seat for the negotiator? I look, there is no one there. We are two isolated men bathed in diarrhea hurtling down the slick moonlit pavement. Home is not on the itinerary.
Thanks for leaving me with this crazed psychopath friends. Or maybe they thought they were leaving him with one?
My ugliness caused this, my darkness shaded this picture. I probably have more in common with the man across from me than any of the people who slipped out of the back.
“You’re going to die!” The driver yells with sweat exploding from his volcanic head.
I have finally fucked with the wrong guy. Where is he taking me?
“I cut you into little pieces!”
Strike being used as ingredients in a Chinese food dish off the list.
The car slows for a turn. This is my only chance, I open the door and roll out. The applause I hoped for earlier now comes from three strangers standing at the corner. I am not sure how I am standing unscathed in front of them, but I think I need to give thanks to public school gym teachers for pushing the front roll so hard. I guess they know we will all have to eject ourselves from death’s door at some point in our lives.
The moon and street lights give the yellow taxi an orange hue as it darts into the night like a disappearing flame on a match head.
I find an awning to shield the rain. There are not many people out, just the lonely, homeless and fucked up. I fit into all these categories right now. My buzz turned to happiness turned to ugliness turned to hate turned to fear turned to adrenalin has now turned to remorse. Tomorrow; self-loathing.
“You want to smoke some hash?” a gentlemen about fifteen years my senior asks me.
Well hello Jesus Christ, yes I do.
There is a doorman at his building. I feel a little underdressed in my beaten up leather jacket with one button, frayed jeans and holy boots.
I shake the doorman’s hand, and from the look on his face I don’t think this is normal fare. You don’t shake a doorman’s hand Tiny Tim.
In the elevator, my savior hits the top-floor button. We are going to the penthouse suite. I hope my friends are enjoying their shitty apartments.
I am seated in front of a floor-to-ceiling window and Prince of Peace hands me an engraved wooden box with a lot of hash and some papers and a pipe. He heads to the kitchen. I start working to get the bequeathed medicine ready for ingestion, easy labour for this kind of living. The couch is an off-white, this is a man who knows how to keep his dirt tucked on the inside.
He arrives at the marshmallow sofa with an uncorked bottle of champagne and two flute glasses. I know the term for these glasses because I once worked at a bar.
I am smoothed out and warm from the dope and sparkling wine, I must remember this combo. I am revealing things to this guy I haven’t told my closest friends, those ones who left me to die, the ones that I need to apologize to tomorrow for turning a beautiful night into an ugly one. Or do I?
I feel righteous, my guilt has disappeared. The lights look like candles, they surround the main room. I get up and slide across the hardwood floor looking out over the dirty city below like a skier on fresh powder up in the mountains. I feel just as free.
I have to take a piss, JC shows me to the washroom. Everything shines in here. I imagine my shit would sparkle in this place. Before walking away, he points out the hot tub and says we should strip down and get in later. No one has moved from the ski-hill to the lodge quicker. While peeing, this seems like a good offer, my clothes are still a little damp.
There is a new bottle of champagne in the living room, and some music playing when I return. Sounds like smooth jazz. There is probably a brass section stuffed in a closet somewhere employed for these occasions. The host emerges from the bedroom in a silk robe.
“There is something I want to show you.” He beckons me towards him. I pick up the bottle of champagne, take a swig, and head on over. We walk into his bedroom. The bed could house a small village.
“If you get tired, you can see there is plenty of room.”
I take another swig. “Thanks.”
One guy wants to lay me down to rest, another wants to lay me down for anything but rest. The night has almost disappeared.
We finish off the next bottle of champagne watching the sun rise over Lake Ontario through his window. The view with this new light reveals a peace I rarely see in the city. I talk about poetry and literature. Why do I want this generous man to fall in love with me?
It is time to leave.
I walk by the doorman and he gives a look like this isn’t the first time a younger man has left this harbourfront penthouse at six-thirty on a Sunday morning. I hope he believes I was paid for.
I walk home, the sun is warming. I review my champagne breakfast in Heaven. I can’t recall a better date, I mean night.
I hope Jesus is jerking off right now.