Lifestyle Magazine

Taxi Man

By Bewilderedbug @bewilderedbug

Taxi ManFor this week’s Indie Ink Challenge I decided to change all the slang speech to proper english (sort of) to allow you to understand it, and to add a small glossary of sorts.  If you would like an explanation for anything else please let me know in the comments and I will do my best to explain it.

Dahl – yellow lentils – usually made similarly to lentil soup, but “chonkayed” with oil, burnt garlic and toasted cumin seeds (the oil is poured on top after boiling & smooshing the lentils.  Yes, my words.  I’ll put a recipe if you’re interested).

Steups – sucking teeth

Premium or Super – the options of unleaded gasoline for cars in Trinidad & Tobago – not 100% sure why so you’ll just have to accept it 

:P

Dwight Yorke – a Trinidadian soccer player who made it big playing for Manchester United (and who now coaches soccer in Trinidad as far as I know…)

Trinidadians & Tobagonians tend to repeat the same word more than once to emphasize it – e.g. “Real real good” means extremely good.

***************************************************************

She made up her face as the car pulled up – this was was the car they sent?  What type of tour company had her husband called?!

The metallic dhal-yellow piece of junk had ripped seats and stuffing flying all over the car.  It must be some sort of joke.

She was on holiday with her husband, visiting the island, one she had frequented often as a child but which seemed alien to her now.  This country had been frustrating her, and this seemed as if this was to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Her husband really wanted to go on this excursion though, so she sighed and accepted her fate.  She’d soon be back in her first-world luxury and not have to worry about the low standards these islands lived by….

They jumped into the strangely smelling car, deciding to make the best of the situation.

“Where we going?”  The driver asked in island slang, in an almost indiscernible accent.

“To the waterfalls” her husband said.

“Which one?”

“Um, I think they’re two right?  Whichever one or both?”

“They have more dan two.  You have …”  The driver counted on his fingers as he manoeuvred the car on the thin, curvy road at breakneck speed, almost crashing into a stray dog and some pedestrians.

He gave up his numerical exercise.  “They have plenty – which one you want?”

“Why don’t you decide?”

“Okay, we go go Argyle Falls…..that is the one most people like.  But is far though and it sorta late……” and his voice fazed out as he pondered if this truly was the best idea he had.

Memories of crowds at Dunns River Falls in Jamaica still haunted her.  She knew there were no waterfalls as big as that, in this country, but how popular was this place?  She hated crowds.  She felt so anti-social and apathetic recently that she was dreading this outing.

All she wanted to do was curl up in the large king sized bed in the resort with a cup of tea and a trashy magazine, hopefully with her husband out in the pool or somewhere where he could not bug her.

“We have to stop for gas”, the driver chattered, “ You have to pay something?”

“I’m sorry?”  she asked thinking he meant that they would have to pay for gas on top of the quoted price

“I said, you have to pay something….?”

“Um, okay….”, she looked at her husband, still confused.  ”What’s he talking about?!” she mouthed silently to him.

“The gentleman on the phone said we had to pay $400?”  her husband interjected

“$400?”  the driver said, taking his eyes off the road and staring at them momentarily while dodging the latest obstacle parked on the side of the road “Yeah, that good…the gas go have to come out of that.”

She looked at her husband with the same amount of doubt on her face as she saw on his.  Who was this man, what was he about and where was he taking them?

The driver pulled into the crowded gas station and shouted to a younger taxi driver, conversing with him in such a strong accent that even she was unable to understand a single word.  He pulled up to the pump and yelled at the lady pumping gas “Fill up, Super!”

“Premium or Super?”  she asked, in a strong accent, apparently not hearing his instruction.  She remembered when that accent made her giddy with happiness to the point of overflowing with tears.  A small gem in a sea of Canadianism.

“Like you don’t get me?  I say Super!….”

The lady pressed the “Super” button on the gas pump and filled the car, holding the nozzle with her right hand and taking the money he was holding out with her left, steupsing as she worked.

They were off again, swerving on the narrow road to avoid the potholes.

“That there is the stadium”, the driver pointed in an attempt to show the tourists in his car that he knew about his country, “ and after it is the medical center”.

She stared out of the car at the empty Dwight Yorke Stadium and the bustling Medical Center next door to it.

“Dah dah dah dum de dum de dum dah…” the driver sang loudly as he drove.  The familiar extempo rhythm floated in the air momentarily before it was whipped out of the open windows by the cool coastal air that flew hurriedly into the car, investigated its every crevice and bustled away with out a trace, only to be replaced by even more ferocious gales.

“So ,where allyuh from?”  The driver asked.

“Oh, we’re from Toronto, but my family is Trinidadian.  I haven’t been to Tobago in about a decade though.”

“Ah…I know Trinidad well.  I used to work a boat and I always had cars so I used to drive all the way from Londonville to the other end all the time.”

Silence again as the country zoomed past, a small parlour blasting soca, a rough beach, colourful houses, children staring at the passing cars, dogs fighting…

“The sea does come up here, and flood the road, like in Trinidad by Mosquito Creek – you know if they fix that yet?  They ain’t fix this one yet.”

She was impressed that this Tobagonian even knew where Mosquito Creek was.  A lot of Northern Trinidadians had no clue.  They seemed to think South Trinidad was so far and confusing even though it was closer than Mississauga was from Scarborough in Toronto.

“I from Castara”  the driver said, continuing to converse with no one in particular “That is the other side of the island.  The North Side.”

“Oh, that’s nice”, she said, feeling obligated to reply to the driver, but not sure what to say.  “Is that far?”

“Yeah, it real far…”  the driver said glancing back at her and narrowly missing a pedestrian, “It real, real far!  We going near there.”

She nodded, not sure if he was looking at her or not, just wanting to reach the waterfall if just to not hear anything else about this man’s life.

“Yeah, it go take us a long time to get there.  We should go down that way…or maybe…..”  the driver spoke as he decided upon his route.

” What have I gotten myself into?” She thought.

Her husband was already nodding off, she did not know where she was or how she would get back to the resort if something happened and she had no clue where this “Argyle Falls” was.

Why hadn’t they just stayed at the resort and lay in the sun by the pool?

“I never been to Canada”, the driver blurted out disturbing her thoughts, “but I travel all over the USA”

“Oh really?”  she figured that she may as well keep him happy while her husband slept drooling on her shoulder.

“Yeah, I does go all over, I been to Conneticut, to Boston, to Pennsylvania, to Philadelphia….but I does go mostly to New York.”  He replied, “I have a sista there.  She living in Brooklyn”

“Okay, I have a few cousins who live in Brooklyn”

“Yeah I went up there and she beg me to stay for the Thanksgiving so I say okay and I stay…”

“Oh, was this recently?  This year?”

“No no….Two thousand aaaaannnd….”  His face contorted in the most fascinating way as he thought, “ Two thousand and eight”.  He looked satisfied that he was able to remember exactly which year he had traveled.

“Oh, okay then….” she said wondering why he was regalling this tale to her.

“Yeah, I stay by my sista but she didn’t have no time for me.  She there be working and lef’t me home by myself.  It was just me and the cat in the house, all day!  So I walk – I walk down by King Plaza.  It easy there, with all the road sign and house number and thing.”

“I guess it would be…New York is very well sign-posted”

“Yeah and she was real worried because she kept calling the house, calling the house and I wasn’t answering.  So when I reach home and hear the phone I answer it and she was vexed”

She laughed.  This unusual character was starting to amuse her.

“…And the day after, I take the bus down down down the street, all the way to Williams….William….the bridge nah.”

“Williamsburg?”

“Yeah, yeah, de Williamsburg Bridge, and then I take it all the way back and she was shocked.  Then she ask me to stay for the Christmas so I say okay and I stay….”

She laughed, “…and then she asked you to stay for New Years’ too?”

The driver laughed as well, “yeah, I stay for Christmas and the New Year…but then she ask me to stay again…and I tell she haul she ass!!”  He guffawed.  ”It was too cold man, you go outside and it feel like it cutting your skin!!”

He guffawed some more, swerving the car dangerously in his jest.

“I know the feeling!”

“I don’t think you could get used to that type of cold!”  He said, turning to look at her again.

“You definitely do not!  I have been there for 14 years and I am not used to it – I know born and bred Canadians and they’re not used to it!”

“Eh heh, see?  I telling you….”

Silence again.  “Da da da dum dee dum dee da dum…”

She looked out the window and noticed the poverty and simplicity of life surrounding her, yet the contentment and happiness in each person they passed.

“Eh Eh, but what is this?!”  the driver exclaimed. “Is a funeral or something?  Somebody dead?!”

The long winding country road ahead of them was cut into half the width due to cars parked on either side of the road around a blind corner.  Pedestrians in black were walking up and down in front of a small house just off of the road.

The taxi driver did not slow down but swung around the blind corner as if by some fate of God, he knew that no one was coming from the other side.

“We coming to a real nice beach, eh, but you can’t swim there.”

Slightly confused she asked, “Okay, so people surf there?”  Why else would it be a nice beach if you could not use it?

“Yeah, you could surf there, it rough rough, so you can’t swim there.  About eight….no, ten people die there already.  The last one was two girls.  One notice de other one was way out way out.  She try to get the girl but she didn’t realize that once you stand on that sand, it does just wash away wash away.  It keep moving nah, so she gone too.”

“Oh wow, was that recently?”

“Nah nah, like ten years ago or so?”

“Oh….”  It was strange to her that something that happened so long ago was still so fresh in her mind.

“Another one of them was a lady from Trinidad.  She get pull out too.  Look that is the beach.” He pointed at a large bay with rough waves and craggy rocks struggling to be seen above the thrashing water.  “It low now and calm now but does get plenty worse.”

It looked pretty bad to her already – the sea foam crashing against the ragged black rocks, debris floating in the water attempting to stay afloat, the dangerous feel of the solitude of the beach calling unsuspecting swimmers to their impending doom.

“They have another beach down there that you could swim…”

He zoomed past the dreary coast where so many had lost their lives and around another blind corner to reveal yet another cove, almost as rough as the previous one.  “This one not so bad…”

Her husband gave a short, impertinent snore, repositioned himself and drifted back into his slumber.

“That is one thing I can’t take, Death.  You see that?!  I can’t take it.”

“But that’s one thing you can’t avoid though…”

“Yeah, you can’t get away, you can’t pay nobody to give you an extra day or an extra month or anything….when is time to go is your time…you have to live for death”

He stayed quiet for a moment as he waited for a farmer with his goats to pass by.  She pondered what he meant – wouldn’t it be better to live until you died rather than fearing death your entire life?  This was not an argument she wanted to get into with this man.

“ I don’t have no parents.  They both dead….” he suddenly announced.

“Oh was that recently?”  she asked feeling like an idiot for not knowing what else to say or ask.

“Nah nah, my father he die in…..eighty three…..and my mother…um….ninety….ninety four I think…”

“Oh, she took a long time to go after your father…”

“Yeah, it was a long time.”  He said, “ My father was a big man eh, a real big man.  But he was a nice fellow…”

He sat smiling, remembering times he had with his father.  “I remember once, I take this white couple to my house in Castara….and the lady didn’t know my father was in the room, so when he open the door and come out she scream….”

He laughed at the memory, “ and when she calm sheself, she say to her husband…..That man REAL big boy…”  He put on a falsetto voice imitating his former guest.  Then he let out a large, hearty laugh.

She shared a laugh with this intriguing driver as he let her a bit more into his world.

“I have all kind of girl want to marry me, eh…” the driver conversed, “ all over the world.  I have a Italian one who does come here to visit, one a them in New York, two a them down here….but when I was young I didn’t get married, so why I should when I get old now?  Now I could go where I want, do what I want, when I want….I don’t have to worry about going home and telling anyone where I was, who I was with, when I was coming home….I happy like this…”

“Um…okay…”  She felt a bit awkward in this conversation.  It still seemed a bit too personal for their newfound relationship.

“Yeah, the one in New York, she real real young.  I older than she father eh…”

Ew.  She thought.

“But she catch up on me, I don’t know why….but I can’t marry she…”

He kept rambling about his various girlfriends not caring whether she was interested in hearing these stories, seemingly more as background noise than anything else.  She noticed that the background had become a lush rainforest with an infrequent small hut interspersed among the trees.  She loved this landscape – it reminded her of the long drives to Maracas Bay when she was a child, or the steep, threatening way to Asa Wright.  How she had loved that time….

“Here we are…” he announced as he turned into a teak lined trace.  The bottom of each teak tree was painted white, similar to formal avenues she had grown up with, except that some of these had blue exes painted onto their trunks.

“Why did they paint these trees?”

“Oh they moving them…”

“Moving?”

“Yeah, they mark for cutting down.  Probably widening this road.”

Indeed the dirt “road” could only fit a car and not even a hair extra, but it seemed such a shame to cut these teak trees that seemed to be older than time themselves just to widen a driveway.  What was happening to the natural beauty of this place?  Man was still invading, centuries after their original invasion, in the name of progress.  This wanton destruction of everything that made this country desirable would soon be gone.

“That there is the pigeon pea…”

She wished her husband were awake – he would find this interesting.  She had grown up running through a pigeon pea patch with her neighbour, throwing pods at each other, picking the yellow flowers.  She loved seeing pigeon pea trees.

“Yeah, you does cook that.  It make a nice soup.”

“I like to put them in curry pork actually…but he doesn’t eat pork, so I don’t make it often”

“Yeah, yeah, but that does be good,” the driver said, “ like you does cook plenty?”

“Not plenty but I do cook”, she said trying to remember the last time she actually cooked a full meal rather than ordered take out from a nearby restaurant.

The driver turned into a parking lot and parked the car.

“This is it.” He announced, “this is where the magic happens.  You does just go up there and pay the entrance and you can go down to the waterfall.”

A small concrete building with what seemed like a local parlour sat in front of the car.

She walked up to the building, following her bleary husband who bought a bottle of water, a Lucozade and some potato chips.  Then they headed through the small gate to catch up with “Tony” who was one of the guides that would take them to the waterfall.

The path was unpaved and natural, with stones poking up at her feet through her crocs and weeds scraping at her freshly shaven legs.  Tony was only a short way away with a couple from Colorado who were friendly but quiet.

As they trudged up the very natural path, they were shown various fauna and flora in the surrounding rainforest.  This tree leaf could be used dry to make a tea for upset stomachs, this stem, when stripped, used to be used as cigarette filters in the old days but not anymore, that’s a bird in the bamboo, yes a member of the Kingfisher family, a Blue Haired Mot Mot, the bamboo grows six to eight inches every day, those small frogs make lots of noise, just like birds, look there’s a small cayman!

All these things she had known once upon a time came flooding back to her so that she started chiming in with the guide, giving the American couple their money’s worth.

That’s a dasheen plant, if you know taro or poi it’s the same plant?  It’s all edible, the root is dasheen or taro, used to make poi in Hawaii….the leaves can make greens, similar to spinach or soup….

Yes, they “buss bamboo”, they’re cutting them in long strips and will drill a hole down the length, fill one of the segments with gasoline, light it on fire, blow on it and “BOOM”, a really loud noise.  They do it for New Years, or in Trinidad they used to do it at Divali time.  Yes, a lot of people get burnt doing it, it’s really dangerous, maybe why it doesn’t happen very often anymore.

Then they were all quiet because the precarious nature of the path forced them to concentrate on their footholds rather than the lush forests around them.  The climbed over wet, muddy rocks, around bamboo patches, and at one point hung onto tree roots for stability when walking along a thin stone ledge that overlooked the rushing rivulet next to them.

Then, like a mirage, it was there.  The waterfall.  As tall as the eye could see, white water rushing down over the rocks, drenching everything in its path.  Young boys testing each others’ bravado, jumping off the ledges into the deep pool below.  The murky water filled with happy laughter of light hearts frolicking in the cool water, only known to those who dared to enter the lush sanctuary that surrounded it.

She took a deep breath and absorbed the natural beauty around her.  She had forgotten the simplicity and beauty of nature.

The taxi man had been correct, indeed.

This, here, in this small chunk of paradise, this was where the magic was and where it had always been.

*****************************************************************

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Tara Roberts challenged me with “This is where the magic happens!” and I challenged joe sanders with “Tulips, teapots and tantrums”.


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