I got into a cab on the upper west side settling in for a long ride home to the 718. There were no bumper stickers posted on the divider proclaiming love for America, or american flags, or even an air freshening tree. Just a cab driver who asked me how I was.
Tired. How are you?
Me - I am not tired. I am the only person I know -not tired! (I laughed) Where you from? He asks.
Virginia. I answered.
Oh. he says with a Middle Eastern accent. This is a very nice place. Virginia Beach! Why do you not go back there? Your family they want you come home. Here it is so dangerous.
Well, actually I say - I live pretty close to DC. It takes about 6 or 7 hours to get to Virginia Beach from where I live. Virginia is pretty big. So it's just as dangerous to be home right now. Where are you from? Do you want to move back there? I'm sure your family wants you to.
I am from a country you hate. My country, very bad bad country.
Well, now. I said. You don't sound like you're from Canada.
He said - you hate my country.
I said I can think of a couple people I hate, but I don't have the energy to hate a whole country. C'mon. Tell me.
He said Pakistan.
I said, now here I am all this time thinking you were from Afghanistan! Does your family want you to come back? Well I guess we are sort of in the same situation - although it's sure is a lot more dangerous in Pakistan than in Virginia.
He says I am the lowest sort of person, no one cares about me. My family, they do not want me to come back.
What are you saying? I don't think you are the lowest sort of person! That's ridiculous.
He laughs. Where were you on 9/11?
I tell him my story. At home there was strange little brown cloud with paper at the end of the block, thinking how unusual, rationalizing, getting on the subway going to my first day at a temp job, someone getting on the train saying that the tower had been hit by a plane, thinking what a terrible accident, or maybe that guy is crazy, the train not stopping downtown, getting to work, pandemonium, running to another floor to watch the horror unfold with a bunch of strangers.
Where were you? I ask.
Asleep. He says. My friend live on Canal Street. He leave his apartment walk to mine on 43rd and 10th. He ring my door bell. I am asleep! He say wake up and turn on the TV. And then, my eyes are open.
How do you want to die?
How do you want to die. He asks me. What do you want to die from?
Uh, old age? I said. Nervous now.
How old do you want to be?
Quickly! How old?
95! How old do you want to be?
60 to 70. I want to be able to walk and have no problems. I don't want to be sick. You understand? What time of day you want to die?
I want to die first thing in the morning. Before the sunrise. Where have you traveled to?
Well, Caracas, Canada, Mexico, Spain...
Why all these Spanish places? How come?
Well, my Dad is from Caracas.
Really? You Spanish? He turns on the light and turns around to look at me. All this time we talk - half an hour, and I have no idea what you look like. Is funny. Now I know. You are nice person.
I say, well, I take that as a compliment considering the amount of people you must meet everyday.
Yes. You rent apartment? He asks.
Now you must stop throw money on rent. You go buy good apartment. You smart. Why you throw the money?