It was bound to happen. Considering that I spend almost a quarter of my life in taxis. I am constantly, directly or indirectly, in the company of taxi drivers of every shade, size and temperament. I have spent so many hours waiting for the taxi to get full that I now consider Joburg’s taxi ranks my second home. I have often joked to my friends that I speak four languages, including the very complicated and sometimes silly language of taxi signals. Yet, I never thought it would happen, least of all to me.
Fine I’m confessing. I have gone and done what is – in my world – the worst, craziest thing imaginable. I have fallen for a taxi driver.
In my defence, it happened at my most vulnerable time. It’s a Friday, in the middle of the Joburg summer. I am on my way back from work heading towards Randburg. For a change ended up in a taxi that didn’t not resemble a death trap. The sun is thinking of setting and the taxi is half empty. A quick glance around me confirms there are no crazy passengers. My window is open wide to let the breeze in. It’s moments like this when I remember how much I love Joburg. I lean back into my seat and slowly let my eyes close, thinking how nice all this is.
This is until I realise what I’m doing and my eyes pop open. And for the first time I take a real good look at the man behind the wheel, who made me feel so safe that my eyes abandoned their usual militant guard of the road.
Judging only from his profile, he is around 40 years old, with a luscious black beard, and is wearing a starched soft-grey shirt with hair combed to perfection. He looks like the kind of man they stopped making in the ’70s, I think with a smile. Like Marvin Gaye, if he had ever considered a career in public transportation. But it’s the look that gets me; a look I have only seen on men I find sexy. It’s like he is trying to remember whether he has R5-million or R7-million in the bank. Or perhaps, what he ate for lunch the day before yesterday. To me the looks say that it’s OK if he never remembers the specifics, what’s important is life is still good.
I see him again the next Friday, same time, same route. Only this time, I am miserable. To top it all off, my finger is bleeding after I almost sliced it off with a blade I was using to mount at work.
I’m rolling in misery; trying to spread it comfortably around myself and anyone else I might encounter. I am certainly in no mood for sexy.
The taxi is packed, so I’m forced to sit in the front seat. As soon as I get in, I roll the window all the way down to give my misery enough air to breathe. All the things that I thought were so charming about Joburg last week, I find simply annoying today. But I do notice how the setting sun makes the sky change into different shades of blue, and I also appreciate the cool air. We stop at a red robot on the corner of Oxford and Jellicoe. Using my left hand, I fight with my oversized bag trying to find R8 to pay for my ride.
“What is it that has you looking so miserable?” he asks in isiZulu, when I hand him the money.
I look up, then around even though I already know he is talking to me. How many other homicidal women could possibly be in the taxi with me? I’m so stunned that he is speaking to me that it takes me a moment to respond, even then I only manage to mumble something about work, life, whatever.
He doesn’t say anything just nods slowly, SAME LOOK! I am so embarrassed by my stupid ramblings that, for a moment, I forget about my bloody finger and dig with my right hand into my bag for my iPod earphones, causing myself considerable pain in the process. With the music blaring into my head, I try ignore him for the rest of the journey, praying he does the same. He does. When I get off at the Randburg taxi rank, my finger is still throbbing but now I feel the way I usually feel when I am in love – highly embarrassed, slightly stupid but euphoric. It has to be love.
Writer: Lebohang Thulo Photographer: Leeroy Jason