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Dreamscapes Fiction

Garden Variety Sunday Rains and Taxi Cab Confessions
Smitha Parigi

She lived alone in a loft in New York City with 6000 books. She had read them all.

It was raining that Sunday afternoon. She stepped out in the light drizzle and crossed to across the street and walked two blocks west. The homeless man seeking change was wearing a plastic bag over his head. He smiled through his beard. She smiled back but gave no change.

"Bitch" he cursed. "Bitch yourself" she smiled back. She pulled open the door of a pizza parlor with a sign across the window that read ‘New York’s Best Pizza’. Behind the cash counter was a wide poster of the twin towers that announced, 'we love new York even more'. A teenaged Latino boy was serving a young blonde obese girl in a tight tee shirt that read 'I love Brooklyn'. While she waited for her pizza to bake she read a latest best seller from Stephen King. She collected her plastic tray with a large coke, juggled it with her open Stephen King and moved away to a seat by the window.

“Next in line please”, the boy smiled through his blond flicks mussed over his forehead.
“One regular slice, one Coke, Diet. To stay”, and she handed over some single dollar bills to him.

She waited for her pizza and scanned the menu painted on the wall over the giant ovens. She was going through the salad menu, when her phone rang from inside her jeans. The ring getting louder with each pulse. She dug her phone out from her pocket and flipped it to see the display. She recognized the number, and put the phone back in her jeans. She looked out of the window as though trying to focus on the drops of rain falling against the parlor window. The ring from the cell phone coming from her jeans was now at it’s loudest. The boy looked at her amused and smiled in a sense of conspiracy known only to the young. She looked back at him and she smiled back at him rather gingerly. The phone stopped ringing and fell into a loud silence. He handed her a paper plate with her pizza rested precariously, dripping its cheese onto the sides. She dashed for a red tray and filled it with napkins and her Coke. She walked to the other side of the parlor and sat down by the tall window.

The blonde was at the other side of the room along the corner of the window. Apart from the rain, the girl’s furious munching could be heard across the room with a random turn of Stephen King pages. The rain had got heavier and kept to a beat in a steady thick drum. She picked at her pizza. She sipped her diet coke. The pizza boy tuned his on radio to a rock music station. Her phone rang again. She bought her phone out of her pocket and saw the caller ID. She put down the phone again and went back to her pizza. The pizza boy looked at her and winked this time. The blonde girl glared at her suspiciously, pulled out her own glossy phone from her miniscule purse and looked at it. Nothing there. She went back to her Stephen king. The phone continued its obstinate ring. A few seconds later it fell silent. And this time the message beep went on. She hit a button to listen to her message and held the phone up to her ear. The music on the radio turned into a traffic report. There was a twenty-minute delay at the Brooklyn Bridge going into Brooklyn. The River Side Drive was backed up with about a ten-minute delay in traffic, a husky voice said. She listened to her message on the phone, now cranked up at her shoulder while she continued eating the last few bites of her pizza. Her face showed no expression as she listened into the phone. She heard her message and put the phone back into her jeans. She crumpled her paper plate on to the tray and sipped the last of her coke. She rose up and walked towards the trash bin while Bon Jovi played songs of Freedom and Love.

She cleared her tray, smiled at the boy’s “Have a good day Senorita” and walked out of the parlor. She stood at the door of the building and watched as the rain came down. People were gathered by the side of stores. Some smoking their cigarettes carefully so as to not let truant little drops of rain wet their cigarettes. Some were talking on their phones.
She seemed to evaluate the density of rain and after a seconds thought she dashed into the sidewalk and sprinted to the corner of the block. A yellow cab slowed to her wave. She jumped right in and searched for the cab driver in his rear view mirror. A pair of dark eyes met hers.
“Yo?”
“13th and Broadway” she said to her own reflection and settled into a warm corner of the black leather passenger seat.
She ran her fingers through her hair and shook out the rain and wiped away the wetness from her face. She put her feet up, snuggled near the window and looked out. Past the rain stained windows, the city was drenched. The sidewalks were bare, people were brushed towards the stores and building with entrances. Black umbrellas spotted the metallic gray of the sidewalks. New York, she remembered, looks best in the glow of the rains.
There were more cars on the streets than she could remember. The traffic seemed to have increased in the last half hour. Why do people always have to hurry out when it rains? Inching down Park Avenue, she looked to check the streets. 58th. A long way down to 13th.

The rain made the traffic lights gleam seductively. The reds and the greens became sharper and could be seen blocks away. The rain kept falling down steadily. She could hear the hard pelts of rain bounce off the roof of the cab. The drone along the windows and the slow traffic seemed to be traveling through a veil of oil to reach her. She lowered her window and almost immediately the some stray drops of rain hit her face.
“Ouch”, she winced and rolled up the window again.
“I wouldn’t do that if were you” she heard the cabdriver say.
He was already looking at her from his mirror. She saw his eyes and spoke to them.
“ I know it but I still don’t get it. Its almost like…almost as if….”, she trailed off. Her hand went back to the window as it traced a rivulet run down the glass.
He watched her as she crinkled her eyebrows in concentration. Her slender fingers tipped with healthy clear nails, tracing down the rain to a distant Stravinsky. Her fingers stretched tight yet suspended in a graceful and limpid arc playing to the dictates of water.
He stepped up the gas pedal and almost came to a stop at the Red just a block after. He looked back at her. She had stopped now tracing the rain. She just looked out at the streets, her face registering nothing.
“Almost like what..?” he asked.
She pulled away from the world outside and turned to the rear view mirror.
“Sorry. What was that?”
“Almost like what…you were saying, about the rains….what about it?”
A nervous smile grew from her eyes and spread to her face, “oh yes, the rains. Its almost like, …uh, like when you…umm, do you know when you get that feeling…?”
He nodded into the mirror, “Tell me” and smiled.
That’s when she saw his face. Dark brown with a face that she could best describe as clear. A face that said everything. Everything about him, about his life, who he was when the lights were turned off, what he did on his Sundays, that he went to the sea whenever he could, that he sang when he was happy, that he worried for the old people because his parents had died, that he understood silence, that he was the stranger you could smile at. She saw his face and turned to glance at his name printed behind his seat on the other side of the cab.
“Ranjit”, he said.
“I’m, sorry. I don’t mean to seem rude. I was just looking for…”
“That’s fine. Don’t apologize. It happens quite often. I guess in New York when a cabbie talks more than he should, you wanna know his name.” He smiled.
“I’m sorry”
He looked back at her and then again checked the traffic light in front of him as it turned green. He moved up the block and drove on. She moved her gaze to the street as he drove straight on. She started, “ I was gonna say…”. Her phone rang. She stopped. She slipped into her pocket and pulled her phone out. She looked at Ranjit apologetically. He shrugged back with a polite nonchalance.
She hesitated a moment and then answered her phone.
“Hey……I miss you too…..No don’t say that……Of course I’m coming……I’m on my way…..traffics been bad…….no I got your message…..was doing something then…..no I want to, really…..gimme 20 minutes….I should be there……I’ll be there….see ya”. She hung up and meticulously put the phone back into her jeans. Once assured that it was out of her sight she looked in the mirror for Ranjit. He was already looking up at her.
Almost defensively he said, “I’m doing my best to get you there.”
She looked out. 37th street.
“No don’t worry about it. You're doing good. Its my boyfriend. His new book is just out and there is a party at his place. I have to be there.”
“Hmm, that sounds good. What’s the book about?”
“I haven’t read it so far but I think I know. Its about…I think…love. Love and the many ways to love. It’s about him and me. And I feel like…”
“Like what?”
She pinches her lips and lets out a small sigh. She looks tired. “I don’t know” she says.
“Do you like it? You must be flattered”
She looks back at him in the mirror, “No, I’m not. Actually I think I loathe it.”
“Why?”, he asked with no surprise in his face.
Almost immediately she answers, “Its like…this rain...I was telling you about. It’s beautiful. You could look at it for hours. Feel it on your skin. Feel every drop on your palms. You could walk in the rain with music in your head. But sometimes it’s not always this kind. Some days it runs down your skin and it makes you heavy. Its adding memories. It washes away old ones and adds new ones.”
“So what is wrong with that?”, Ranjit asked into the mirror.
“ With him, I don’t want new memories. Or even old ones. My life is about a few thingsand I want to keep it that way. I don’t want his book on my fireplace coz I don’t want a frigging fireplace.”
“Do you want a beer?”
“Yes”
“Can you wait for it? Two hours?”
“I have to see him”
“Do you really?”
She didn’t say anything. She looked out, away from his face. His face knew her better than a book about her. More rains. More traffic. More Black umbrellas. It was 13th and Broadway.
He pulled to a stop. She got off and handed him his fare. Within just a few seconds her face was wet and her hair dripped with rain water.
“Will you see me at 6? At that bar straight ahead on 12th?”
She stood by his door and looked at him.
“Yes” she smiled.
“Will you really?”
“6 o clock. I’ll see you.” She smiled back.
“Later then” and he pulled away.
She watched him turn the corner. She looked around. To one block east was her boyfriend’s apartment. One block south was the Strands bookstore. She grinned as she ran towards it, avoiding the rain puddles. When she walked out of Strands with two bags of books, it was 7:15. She hailed a cab and went home.
It had stopped raining by then. The windows opened to let in cool air and the neighbor’s ginger cat and the old man's Bach. A hot shower later she crept into her bed. She read until midnight and fell asleep. The rains gathered in another city over an unsuspecting couple with a new fireplace.

© smitha parigi May 2003
parigi_s@yahoo.com

A documentary film maker from India who work in New York City.

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