The Other Thing
They both were stunningly beautiful and fresh. One was black-haired like a raven and the other was a strawberry blonde with a genuine smile just for me. They slid into their seats and she asked me to take them to the Upper West Side. There was a whiff of Tabu.
I exhaled. My eyes were lit up. I felt slightly crazy and lightheaded from it.
“Where are you from?” I asked the blonde.
“Switzerland!” she beamed at me in the mirror.
“Ai yi yii!” I exclaimed, rubbing my hands together and laughing. “Switzerland! O my God…”
I told her I would drive her to Switzerland by way of Alaska if she would pay for gas.
She laughed at my raw admiration and honest desire. She was delighted. She said something in Swiss to the other and they laughed and she settled back in the seat and smiled at my reflection in the mirror, as I steadily made my way up Eighth Avenue, slipping in and out of the iron streams of cars and weaving gently past the others until I held the lead with the lights. I felt her watching my face and kept my eyes on the problems of driving.
I must have sighed. There is something about European women that American women just don’t have for me.
We had pleasant conversation about her lovely country. Did she like New York? Oh yes she loved New York. They both loved New York. They had a place here. New York was a wonderful place. And Switzerland was also a wonderful place, and they were happy to live there but they loved New York very much.
I told her I knew a Swedish woman once who was the most-remarkable woman I had ever met. She was appreciative and I saw that she understood more than I had said. It might have been my tone as I described a woman who spoke five languages with fluency and the other things about her. I was brief but thorough.
I couldn’t see the other who was directly behind me and she didn’t say anything to me or in English to the other. I tried not to look at her too often but each time I did she was looking back at me frankly in the mirror, her eyes wide interested friendly and smiling. She was about 30 I think. The other was younger.
They give you their full attention, that’s what it is. They are really there, these European women. They aren’t somewhere else when talking with me. They treat me with respect and no condescension without giving up an inch of their freedom status or femininity. There isn’t a hint of competition, patronizing, challenge, domination, subjugation, inequality, fear, or age-ism. They seem to have nothing to prove, nothing to fear, nothing to hide, and no one to confront; but they will take you on intellectually, with equality, confidence, and generosity in argument. I never met one who wanted to cut off my balls but I knew one who meant to teach me a lesson and did.
Every one I have met has been something else again. They share and they are interested in what I have to share. There seems to be no class-ism or class-consciousness among them, and that is the most-remarkable thing besides their great looks, which they know they have but handle casually; and they must have other things too that keep them alert, smiling, confident, and healthy. Like money education security and the other thing.
I talk to them about books of authors from their countries which I have read. I tell them what I have read and sometimes they have read the same thing and sometimes they are surprised that I had read that. I tell them I know nothing of modern authors from their countries and sometimes they tell me names of present ones, but usually I am driving and forget to write them down.
The rides never last long-enough.
I let them off on West 60th and she tipped me well and smiled. I could have kissed her face it was so close in the window when she paid, and I would have if I could have. Then she and the other laughed gaily and ran across the street to their building.
They looked in love and held hands as they ran lightly like otherworldly creatures from some rare and exquisite place. Their laughter was melodic like their speech, almost a song. It was all very fine. Everything had been fine. The ride was perfect except that it was over and she was gone but it had been fine.
I drove all night in the rain that came later and couldn’t get her out of my mind. Then after I turned in the cab and drove my own car home in the rain the others started coming back from the closed-up place, where I keep them so I can’t think about them too much or about the other things.