One night I picked up a young man outside a local bar and took him the next town over. On the way to his house he spoke with a friend on his cell phone. He asked if it would be all right if we grabbed his friend and took them to the liquor store and then to his home. I let dispatch know that there would be multiple stops and was told that would be all right.
We got to his friend's house and they laughed, talked about girlfriends and sports and rap music. They were happy. I took them to the liquor store. They both went inside and came out five minutes later with a case of beer, a bottle in a bag and a carton of cigarettes.
I asked if they were ready to go home. They spoke to each other briefly in hushed whispers. They asked me if they could make one last stop on the way home before calling it a night. It would be to a house and only one would go inside. It would be a brief stop. I asked only the address.
The street we pulled on is in a neighborhood that has a reputation for drugs and crime. Their mood was tense. The friend we picked up went into a house and we waited on the street. Two minutes go by. My fare is looking nervous. Three minutes go by. I put the car in drive but have the brake applied.
"You can't leave my home boy behind, man!" He exclaimed.
"I'm not leaving yet. But I don't like this."
"I'm scared too, but you can't leave him."
"Son, it sounds like you need a wheelman or another home boy. I'm a cab driver. I have a daughter. I'm going home this morning. I go home every morning. Anyone comes out of that house that is not him, we leave and I radio for police."
"Okay. My girl's pregnant. I'm gonna be a dad."
"Act like a father."
His friend came out, got in the car and we drove off. His friend was back to happy. He got what he wanted. My fare was quiet. His friend asked him what was wrong.
"I was scared. Every time we hang I'm always scared. It was fun when we were in school, but we're not kids anymore. I'm a man."
"You're sounding like a pussy" his friend almost screamed.
"No. I sound like a father. Driver, take him home then take my stupid ass home."
There was no more discussion the rest of the ride until we got to his driveway.
"What's it like?" he asked me.
"What is what like?"
"Being a father, man. Is it hard?"
"It is. But it's worth it."
"I never met my dad. I want my kid to know me. I wanna tell my kid she's worth it."