My Brothers

January 7th, 2010

I do not believe that a taxi driver has made an appearance in this blog. Alas, just as in any lane of traffic, he has forced himself into this one.

It was Christmas Eve, and I was on my way to the village. Luckily it wasn’t raining in the way that flips your umbrella into a large spasming tulip, but it was still an early dark evening with heavy holiday traffic, and I was burdened with several different-sized bags whose handles laced through my fingers or bottoms rested on top of other bags. I and another woman hailed down every taxi that drove by; in turn, we shouted our destinations, which happened to be close in proximity. Yet, taxi after taxi rejected us until finally one hit the breaks in the middle of traffic and gruffly gestured us in.

The regular indiscriminate act of hailing any taxi and getting in will never be so regular and indiscriminate again.

“Sir, I have a lot of bags…could you please pull over to the side?”

The walrus driving the taxi did not reply. Standing outside of the car, leaning closer in, I tried again. Perhaps he didn’t hear. I wouldn’t know, because after raising my voice, he still did not reply. I sighed and began putting my bags into the front seat, one by one, and then my leg…

“Leave them outside and I’ll put them in the trunk,” he finally spoke, meanwhile not budging.

We were still in the middle of the street. Okkkkay, I thought. So, I pulled my leg back out of the car and began to pull my bags out as well, but I mentioned that I didn’t understand exactly what he wanted.

PUT THEM OUTSIDE AND I’LL PUT THEM IN THE TRUNK!!!!! He bellowed.

I quickly grabbed my bags and snapped, “I am not going anywhere with you!” and pushed the rusty door shut with my foot and swore his sister’s genitalia (my least favorite and most politically incorrect swear word/phrase, but the first I can find as I don’t usually swear in Arabic).

I fumbled back to my original hail-down corner in a huff to await another taxi. I was setting my bags down, my vision blurry with exasperation, when a tall African man suddenly appeared and asked shoo saar (what happened)? I remember seeing him out of the corner of my eye standing against the wall of the pharmacy; he must have smelled trouble. My tongue coiled because when I looked up, I saw the walrus swimming toward us.

The African man began hailing a taxi for me – COLA! – referring to the bus station (which is near an old Coca Cola factory, hence the name). When luckily a taxi stopped, he quickly grabbed all of my bags, placing them in the trunk. The walrus was now on the other side of the African man, my defender, who stood between us.

“Sharmuta! (Slut!),” he spat. “You don’t swear at me!”

And on and on, his eyes dripping an oily hate as he grabbed for me to, presumably, beat me in the middle of the street. “Ma3laysh, ma3laysh,” my defender told him as he leaned over him, blocking his way to me. Apparently, altercations with taxi drivers have been common as of late. Is it road rage? The traffic has become thicker. And a nightmare for the nerves. The streets a battle field of metal and angry faces.

Fine, I shouldn’t have sworn at the guy – I was contributing to the road rage, which led to an attempted attack in the middle of the street. But, I had the bittersweet chance of witnessing a most humane act from a member of a cadre of people who spend their lives treated as slaves primarily, humans rarely. It was the lowest man in the pecking order, the African domestic worker, who actively saved me a beating from my fellow Lebanese. He was so intuitive and quick-witted. How had he known what needed to be done so quickly? And what made him care enough to put himself in the middle?

As I sat safely in the new getaway taxi, I rolled the window down to wave thank you to this man who dashed to save me without a thought of his own safety. Without asking for anything in return, in any way. But he stood with one foot back up against the wall of the pharmacy, sunken into the shadows of his own thoughts. He had silently slipped back into his place, his job done.

In the foreground, just a few feet from the taxi I sat in, was my Lebanese brother, who prepared the most insulting trifling act and launched with all his heart – I ducked and his spittle splashed the window.

New Year’s Resolutions

#58: Find that African man and give him a long-armed hug.

#59: Learn less dangerous flagrancies.

#60: To care more often to put myself in the middle.

4 Responses to “My Brothers”

  1. Miro says:

    Give him a hug from me too :-)

  2. Gare says:

    When will you ever learn that there are times when you should just zip that lip. But then, if you did, we wouldn’t recognize you.

  3. George says:

    Call me naive, but I am thinking the African Man was/is your Guardian angel. Think about it!!

  4. Simon says:

    that was really a touching humane story. a sweet act of kindness and care between human brothers so well told.
    i also noticed and appreciated that lovely touch of humor scattered here and there, slipping even in the ‘darkest’ moments, like: “I saw the walrus swimming toward us.” that is very funny.
    or “Alas, just as in any lane of traffic, he (taxi driver) has forced himself into this one (blog).” :D

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