The journey continues to the airport with an odd taxi driver
I hail for a taxi outside the store. One pulls over quite quickly. It is a red vehicle with slightly tinted windows, taxi license number 413. The man, sorry, to my surprise, the woman sitting behind the wheel looks to be about 30, has long well-kept brown hair, glimmering hazel eyes, and a magnificent smile. I try the back door of the taxi and find myself unable to open it.
The window rolls down and the woman speaks, "You're gonna have to sit in front, honey. Backdoor's busted, both of them."
For some reason I feel somewhat leery about wanting to get into the cab now, may it be the manner of her speech, or the uncommon nature of a malfunctioning door, but I suspect she wants me close to her. However, as she sits there, leaning towards the passenger window, her lovely eyes burning a hole in me, I have no choice but to clamber on into the front of the taxi.
"Where ya headed?" It is apparent that she is trying hard to speak in a fake accent, difficult to even decipher which one. I sit and stare at her, obviously a little too long as she continues, "I said, where ya goin' honey?"
"Oh sorry," I reply apologetically, "I wish to go to the airport."
"Shit! This time of day, with this traffic, that could be over an hour to get there." I sense that her tone of voice isn't really disparaging, and I'm sure I detect a bit of excitement at the proposition.
Not really knowing what else to respond with, I mean, I need to get to the airport if I wish to travel to Whither, I almost inquisitively reply, "I guess it'll take that long then... I don't mind."
"Well sugar," her retort comes at the exact moment she shifts into gear and slams the accelerator down, giving a punctuated expressiveness to her comments, "off we go then!"
Before we even hit the first set of lights she opens her mouth again, "Where are ya headed?"
"The airport," I timidly reply beginning to suspect I may have gotten into a car with a lunatic.
"No silly," she subsides my initial fears, "I mean where ya takin' the plane to?"
"Oh, yes, of course. I am off to a place called Whither."
"What ya looking for there? Something a tad shy of the sunlight?"
I have no clue of what she has just asked me, so I search for clarification. "A tad shy of the what?"
"Tad shy of the sunlight. What, ya never hear that one before?"
"Can't say as though I have."
"Musta grown up in some sort of cellar of something."
I can't for the life of me recall at any point in my life somebody using that expression, not here, not anywhere. Who am I to protest, however, "I guess I did. What does it mean?"
"Whatzit mean? Well, err..." For some reason, she seems taken aback by such an innocent little comment. It is clear for me, at least for a moment, that the expression means nothing, but nobody has ever bothered to ask about it before. "It means that..."
Seeing her struggle to find the words I interject, "It doesn't mean anything does it?"
In apparent embarrassment, her eyes grow sullen, and her head drops. I'm not sure whether it's a genuine desire to cheer her up, to lessen the force with which I used my words, or as a solution to the fact that we're traveling over 80 down a crowded city street and she's not looking at the road, I reach out and pat her on the shoulder. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you, I was just curious."
Relieving my immediate concern of my own safety she lifts her head... oh my, she then turns and looks directly at me. "Can I share a secret with ya?"
"My god woman!" My desire for the preservation of my life feeling quite strong at this moment, "Yes, anything, but please, please, please, can you just keep your eyes on the road?!"
With a jolt, her form restores its upright position, the glimmer in her eyes returns, and she stares straight forward out of the cab. "Oh, my, terribly sorry, my mind wanders like that sometimes."
A sense of urgency comes over me that rekindles my previous fear of being in a car with a crazy person. It is somewhat calmed however by the pleasantness that has overtaken her voice.
"So, can I share the secret with you?"
"Have you not already begun to do so?"
"Why yes, I suppose I have already divulged a little of it."
Not wanting her to become defensive, or withdrawn again, I urge her to continue, "Please do tell me though."
With what appears to be a refound confidence in herself, and in a much improved vocal presence, she speaks, "I'm not really the person I'm pretending to be."
Completely under my breath, I mutter, "You don't say."
"I used to be a successful businesswoman. I owned several curiosity shops around the world. That was my specialty."
"I would get the most interesting items from the far reaches of the globe and offer them at attractive prices to those that were intrigued by the unknown."
It almost seemed like destiny that I should end up in a cab with her. Not until the words come out of my mouth am I able to decide what makes me more curious, why she is driving a taxi now and maintains a less refined persona, or if she might possibly know anything about my change purse.
"Have you ever seen anything like this before?" I extend the change bag towards her.
"Oh my," she looks somewhat startled, but fascinated nonetheless, "Is this a change bag?"
I can't understand how the direction of questioning can so easily be reversed to myself, for my knowledge of the item was assuredly be the lesser of us, "that is what it was sold to me as. Is that good?"
"It isn't often you get to see one of these that is so new and vibrant."
"What is so special about it?" I am still quite perplexed, for, after all, it is just a change bag.
"It holds change."
"Yes, that's what a change bag would typically do."
"Oh my, do you know what it holds in it now?"
I can't help but feel kind of uneasy about this irregular line of questioning about something I see only as a change bag, or change purse as some would call it. "Yes, there is a note."
"Can I read it?"
"No!" My startling response is more of a further defense against her distraction from the road. "I mean, I don't think it would be appropriate to read while you're driving."
"Oh don't worry, I'm an excellent driver, I can read at the same time."
"Uh..." I try to raise my voice to interrupt, but she has already stuck her hand in the bag and withdrawn the note.
"Hmm, curious." She turns to me and gives me an incredibly bewildered, yet somewhat amused stare. I just sit there and stare back into her eyes wondering what it is she sees, or what the note could have possibly meant to her.
Our gaze draws our attention away from the road, and as I try to break it, I catch the reflection of a vehicle in the windshield that is rapidly approaching. "AH!" I scream and turn forwards. She quickly breaks her own gaze, whips her head around, and spins the wheel as to avoid the oncoming traffic.
"Whew!" She gives a quick wipe to her head with her arm.
"Whew!" With cause, I'm a little bit disturbed by what transpired, "that is all you can say after you just about smashed into that car."
"Well, yeah, besides, you were staring at me as well."
"I suppose I was, but..."
Lacking a legitimate response I abruptly turn the tables, "You're not even a real taxi driver!"
"Hey," without hesitation she saw the mark of my words and defended, "I am so a real taxi cab driver. I took several classes in eloquence, hygiene, and map-reading all so that I can know exactly what not to do as a driver."
"Then what is your story?"
"Oh, now you want to know." Obviously upset at something I said, she turns her face away from me slightly raising her nose. "Just several moments ago you were more interested in your change bag than were you in my successful career as an entrepreneur."
Knowing that what she said was accurate, I have no choice but to swallow and offer my apology, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make it seem that way, it's just that I just bought this bag and..."
"And what? You just met me as well."
Again she was correct, "I guess you're right. I'm terribly sorry." I'm not even sure why I'm sorry, I mean, she was correct, I did just meat her. Alas, I persist, "I do wish to hear the full story. What happened that made you become a taxi driver."
"I'm so happy that somebody really wants to know." It is easy to detect sarcasm as it echoes through the confined cab. "It was a mistake, I wasn't supposed to be intelligent and successful, let alone pretty."
I can't quite determine whether she is serious, or is in some fashion she is aggrandizing herself, maybe some sort of personal affirmation. "Uhuh."
"I know that you don't believe me, I wouldn't believe me either, but you have to trust me."
I was still uncertain of whether I should have gotten in the cab or not, and oft the thought of jumping out crosses my mind, that last thing I am going to do is trust her. "Okay, I trust you."
"I was about 27, and everything was going perfectly. My life was wonderful, I had a great boyfriend, the business was going well, everything was just perfect. Then one night I was told that it wasn't right, that I shouldn't be here, who I am."
"What do you mean? Who told you?"
"Destiny told me there had been a mistake and that I managed to take somebody else's position."
"So you realized that despite how great everything was that something was missing in your life and you came to seek that out?"
"No, I was told."
"What do you mean you were told? By whom?"
"Uh huh, and what exactly does destiny look like." Needing to draw out the explicit details of exactly how her life came apart I risk insulting her, "is it a large black man with wings?"
"No no no. He's a small fellow, not half the height of a normal man. Kind of impish in nature, his skin is purple, and he speaks in a very high pitch voice. Extremely funny when he gets irate, despite how much he tries to seem intimidating he just comes out sounding funny."
I sit in disbelief, waiting for laughter to be produced in the conclusion of what is obviously a joke.
"One night he showed up and explained the situation to me."
Still quite dumbfounded I manage to stammer out, "explain the situation?"
"Yes. You see, so Destiny told me, somewhere along the line I managed to take somebody else's destiny, seems I stepped out of the subway too early or something. Ever since the other lady has been quite bitter with her life, and Destiny finally realized what had happened, only 7 years later of course. He came to me one night and told me this, explained that I am living somebody else's life and that it has to come to an end, immediately.
"I asked what he meant, and he said that everything I knew was about to disappear and that I'd have to go seek out a new life. I asked further as to why this happened, and why I have to switch now. He said that I was accidentally assigned beauty and intelligence as gifts when I really should have been granted some gift about understanding and something else ethereal. He apologized profusely for the mix-up but said that it had to be resolved now so this other lady can get her life back."
"So some other woman is living your former life now." I must admit despite how fantastic this sounds, I feel she has somehow been done unjustly to.
"Yes. And the worst of it is that Destiny went and explained, either through intelligent conversation, brainwashing, or otherwise, that this was the case and that this new girl was taking my place. So afterward, anybody I approached didn't want to speak with me, they treated me like strangers."
"So what then?" I ask.
"I pleaded with Destiny to give me my life back, but he said he couldn't. So I asked him if he could give me an equally decent life. He said that all the positions for intelligent, attractive people were full and that I should have never been that way in the first place."
"It was full?" Very curious, if not imaginative.
"Yes. It seems that certain types of success have limited quotas that are quite strictly enforced. In my case, it was simply a mistake for me to be in this women's shoes, but I got to talking with Destiny, and he told me all sorts of stories about how the quotas work."
"Such as..." I lead her on.
"A girl, Janet, she was a promising actress, she might have been one of the best there ever was. After many years of struggling she finally got her big break, a chance to be in a top-notch movie along with many other A-rated actors. Then Destiny shows up, saying that the quota for successful actresses is way past full. Janet was in tears, all she ever wanted to do was act. Destiny said he was sorry, but she couldn't be a successful actress, and that she should find another quota to fill. She continued to cry, asking what she was supposed to do. Destiny told her that she could be a cab driver..."
"A cab driver?"
"Yes, apparently they are nowhere near their quota for success, that or as he put it, you could get an English degree instead..."
"...knowing that you could never be a success with an English degree..."
"Exactly. So, yes, Janet. So then Janet proposes a question to Destiny. She wanted to know if she could remain an actress as long as she wasn't successful. Destiny was confused but agreed to such a statement. So Janet accepted the role in the movie, Destiny was outraged, going on and on about what a mess she had created. But Janet replied that all the money was going to a charity, and since she made no money she couldn't possibly be deemed successful."
"How does she make money then?"
"Drives a cab, but that's not the point, the point is she managed to do what she dreamed of without giving in to Destiny."
"Quite intriguing I must say." And say I do indeed.
"Yes, the story has a happy ending as well. She eventually got Destiny to put her on the waiting list for successful actresses, normally you can't go back on the waiting list. And several years later, 8 or so, she was allowed to be a successful actress. Now she is one of the most popular actresses of all times."
"You don't mean Janet Rider do you?" I suspect that I should know the name of the most famous actress of all time.
"Yes, indeed, that is her. She was allowed back in when another actress mysteriously disappeared, and thus a slot opened up for her."
"That is quite interesting, I never knew anything about this destiny quota thing."
"Not many people do."
"Oh," I relax and sit back in my seat as if thinking I now understand something new about life. "So what about you then?"
"Ah yes," she resumes her own story, "I eventually gave up pleading with Destiny and said okay, I'll go do something else. As sort of a consolation I was able to keep my beauty and my intelligence, Destiny kind of felt bad."
"So that is when you became a taxi driver?"
"Yes, in a summed out sort of fashion." I am wondering why she doesn't want to give more details considering how much she has shared with me already. It became quickly apparent however as we pulled up beside the airport terminal. "Anyways, I believe this is your stop."
"Thank you," I'm not sure what else to say, I'll likely never see her again, and I still can't decide whether or not she is a lunatic.
As I walk towards the terminal, I hear her say something.
"Yes, on the back of the note, you won't find Whither Street in Whither, only Hither Street, to find Whither go to Hither."
"What was that?" I can't quite follow her.
"Here," she reaches into the glove compartment to grab some paper. Before she closes it, I catch a glimpse of a small box that appears to be emitting some sort of white glow. She writes something down on a piece of paper and hands it to me. I look at it, it's the directions to the address I'm seeking, and it is in the city of Hither.
"Thank you so very much, uh..." I try to recall her name, but I'm not sure if she told me or not.
"It's Animya, and you?"
"It's Trey, Trey Lodus, pleasure having met you."
"Well, I'm just Animya, nothing more nothing less."
"Not a problem, I understand," something surfaced in my mind, and I suddenly recall to ask, "when you read that note I had you just looked at me. What does it mean?"
A big grin surfaces on her face, and she replies, "You're the one who wrote it, how should I know?" With that, she starts to accelerate away...
"Wait, " I try to follow beside the vehicle, "what do you mean I wrote it."
Her last words before departing are, "I'm sure you'll find that item deep within in and then understand what it means."