Friday, July 13, 2007

No.6: The Healing

The taxi is a private space, outside it is a makeshift display of driven people, silent in the noise and disarray, blurred on all sides, inside it is an invitation for a meaningful conversation. It is the driver’s office I step into each time, he permits me his company and the temporary comfort of his space in return for some respect for the hours he invests waiting endlessly, the intermittent meal he does not have time for and the threat of financial ruin with every traffic violation. Other cab drivers have reconciled the hardships with the benefit of seasonal work or the freedom office workers do not have. The sullen look on the face of this driver is borne out of none of these hardships, life has delivered him much more to reconcile.

There is no small talk. There is only restrained pain and anger in his voice as we begin with pleasantries. Unexpectedly, my “how are you?” presented him the ideal opportunity to reveal the reason for his distress. “My kidneys, I have a problem with my kidneys.” He continued, “It happened three years ago. I was in my cab with a passenger at night and we were slowing to a stop at an intersection. Something smashed on my windshield. My door opened. My head. My body. Then my passenger was dragged from the car. He was cut in the head. He is not the same. I visited him once and he is not the same, forever.” This story is familiar to me and I cannot remember how or why.

“They were teenagers, drunk from a party. They were having fun. I have lost everything because I was in the hospital and in therapy for a long time. It took me a long time to come out of the house after that.” He refuses to drive the night shift anymore. As he recalls this event and everything that followed, it is clear his terror has lost its edge but his body will never forget as it exhumes the pommeling of bat against bone whenever his driver’s seat prods his internal scars.

How does someone overcome fear of this kind, imagined because the same thing can never happen again and not imagined because in truth there is something to fear? “They should bring back the death penalty. These kids get away with this. They know they will not be punished. I get nothing. I am still tired.” There is no distinction between the past, present and future anymore, there is only the reality of the crashing in, the pain and the senselessness.

He was unable to leave the house well after his body had repaired. “How did you do that? Leave the house," I ask. “One day I set up a place in my house to pray. I prayed every day. I thanked God for my life, everyday. My family and relatives helped me.” It was a decision to leave a victim behind. “You have a family?” I continued. “A son.” He answers without hesitation, with only love and appreciation. I inquire further, “Your son, what does he do?” He says it as if he had just been rescued. “He is a police officer. He is a good boy." He remains unresolved but he has built a place to pray.

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