The Cab Driver's Daughter
Updated: Jun 19, 2022
My father started driving a cab in the 1970s, 10 or so years before I was born. He learned the city like the back of his hand, knowing the ins and outs, the back roads, the shortcuts. He watched it grow and watched it change. Watched its inhabitants do the same. He’d take random strangers into his cab to pay the bills and eventually take care of my mom and us, once we became an occurrence. He’d work often at night. My mother said she’d oftentimes have trouble sleeping because she’d worry that he wouldn’t come back. Not voluntarily, of course; my father would have never abandoned us physically. But she feared the bodies who would get in and out of his taxi. Never knowing their intentions. If they’d harm him. It frightened her. I remember his cab well, a diamond was displayed atop of it that would light up when he was working. The sun visor he’d flip down when he’d be driving me somewhere read “OFF DUTY”.
When I was in middle school, my sister worked for the cab company as some kind of administrative assistant. I overheard her telling my mom about Tonya, the woman who worked the phones. “Oh she’s such a personality,” she said, “Ex-prostitute, ex-stripper, ex-heroin addict.” I was instantly fascinated. My sister said Tonya liked her a lot because she listened to her, but my sister found her intimidating, nonetheless.
I remember Tonya sitting behind a desk, in this small but busy cab company. The building was old, it was nothing fancy, the air was masculine, blue collar masculine. Tonya could handle it though, I could tell. She was tall and sturdy and blonde, which was stunning to me, and she told me I looked like my sister. I remember at one point she put her leg up on the desk in front of her to show us something. She was wearing a skirt so her leg was bare and on her foot was a platform shoe. I had with me my bottle of medicine that had been recently prescribed to me for Crohn’s. She looked at the label and read it. “Sulfasalizane,” she said, “That’s what they give me when I have a bladder infection.” I wanted to watch her all day in absolute silence and study her. I wanted to be that confident. To have such a hard shell that nothing could touch me.