It’s six o’clock. The cab was supposed to be here at six o’clock. I call.
“This is Ellen Prewitt? Y’all were sending a cab?”
“You’re in Harbor Town, right?”
“We’ve got someone coming.”
I stuff the phone in my back pocket.
Two seconds later the phone rings. “I’m coming to get you. You’re in Harbor Town, right? I’m on Park. I’ll be there in six minutes.”
Park is a long way from where I live.
I gather my bags, huddle at the front door. It’s black as pitch outside. The train leaves at 6:50. My ticket says: arrive thirty minutes early, or the train will leave your ass.
In a minute, the phone rings again.
“I’m on Fern Bend.”
I pause. “I don’t know that name.”
Across the harbor, speeding along the tracks, the train whistles by. The train I’m supposed to be on. Headed toward the station. Where I’m supposed to board.
“You’re off Island Place, right? Harbor Isle Circle East? You go around a curve?”
I consider. I’m terrible with street names, but something rings a bell. “I think Island Place is two neighborhoods down. Is it a big wide street? I’m in Harbor Town.”
“Oh, I know where you are. You’re in Harbor Town. My girlfriend, she has my GPS—she’s a contract driver with the company. That’s why I’m asking you where you are. I’ll be there in two minutes.”
I hang up.
I drag my bags outside, lock the door behind me.
Something rustles beneath the maple tree. It’s a woman walking her dog, at this time of the morning. She glances up, startled to see me standing on the walkway. I think her dog pooped and she didn’t scoop it up.
I stand in the dark. I’m glad I didn’t tell the cabbie my porch light would be on because, of course, I’ve had to turn it off. Getting ready to leave. Whenever the cab arrives.
Headlights tear down my street. The cab—one of those van-like things—bounces to a halt. I sling in my bags.
“I knew I would find you,” he says. “If you were in a hole, I’d find you. Then I’d sling a rope down that hole, and I’d pull you out. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone that before.”
I go through my wallet, hunting the money for the fare.
“Don’t nobody in dispatch help you. I’ve been driving a cab eleven years. They’re supposed to help you. ‘You supposed to know where the street is.’ Well, I’m supposed to know where the street is before I get in the cab. You can’t know where every street is. Sometimes GPS is wrong, sometimes the map is wrong. It’d work better if dispatch and the driver worked together. Only one person in dispatch would stand on their head for me. Don’t nobody help. ”
We’re tooling along. We hit a red light. We wait.
Then he tells a story. It’s a funny story. The story involves Eades and a long drive into the country and million-dollar houses, eight concrete steps to get into the house, a brass handle on the door, drunk-as-skunk millionaires partying in the house. “I’m afraid to go in the house,” he says, “poor Black guy out in the country with nothing but million-dollar houses.”
I want to reach out and touch him on the shoulder, tell him I know we can’t go any faster if he quits talking, but I need for him to quit talking. I refrain. He takes a left down G.E. Patterson. Some cabs I’ve been in, they circle around, trying to find the entrance to the station, confused by the one-way streets. He’s headed straight there.
His dispatch calls. He says, “Yeah, I got her. It don’t leave until 6:50. We got plenty of time.”
When we glide into the station, traverse the parking lot, ease beside the long platform that leads to the train, there is no train.
Has it left already?
“See there,” he says. “The train is late. It was late yesterday morning, too.”
I give him a $3 tip on a $11 fare. My bags and I head to check-in.
He comes trotting after me.
“That was your cellphone I was calling, right? When you on your way back, call me and I’ll come pick you up.”
When I get on the train, I retrieve his number from my phone. I write it down. The man knew what he was doing, GPS or no. I liked him, I liked his story. But most of all, I liked his attitude. I need someone to drive me around, telling me every waking minute of every day: relax, we got plenty of time.