This Sunday was a particularly bitter cold Chicago February night. No one was out. It was after midnight. I drove by the train station since there was a train coming in. There were a total of 8 taxis from three different companies out there. I took one look at the line of taxis and kept moving on to the casino less than a mile away.
There were two taxis from different companies in the valet area. I pulled up behind them and got prepped to wait. I was behind a cab driven by a guy named Orlando. He and I often battled for flags and I am ashamed to admit the little thief was damn good at it. He recognized me and turned his head around to smile, wave and flip me the bird.
I got out of my taxi and opened the hood pretending to check my fluids quickly. I owed him one, so I bent down as if to tie my shoes and placed a bumper sticker on his taxi that said "Don't like my driving? Call 1-800-EAT-SHIT" on his bumper (It was a vinyl easy remove one, I am a bastard, but not a vandal). I kept it in my bag for the next time I saw him. I shut my hood and got back inside my warm taxi.
About 20 minutes later we were still sitting there and behind me two of the taxis from the train station pulled in. Just past the lobby of the casino is a 24 hour Starbucks. I went inside to buy a quick cup of coffee. While in line a woman about my age with red hair smiled at me and said hi. I politely said hi back, paid for my coffee and went back to my taxi.
On my way back Orlando smiled and flipped me off again. I nodded, toasted him with my coffee and went back in my cab.
I was about to turn on my radio and listen to the Sunday night jazz transfusion on my favorite station and I heard the music from the casino. In the valet area, the music playing in the casino is on loudspeakers outside as well. It was "Heart and Soul" by T'pau. It is one of my favorite songs to this day. I am a huge fan. Every cd released and even some demo cuts that came from a release that came with a documentary DVD are in my iPod classic.
Anyway, when I heard it coming through their sound system I rolled down my driver side window despite the cold and just lost myself in the song. Like any fool going back to their youth in a song I found myself singing along and emoting lacking only a hairbraush as a mic. I opted to keep a beat with my hands on the steering wheel instead. I was fully lost in the song when I heard a tapping at my window. I looked and it was the woman from the coffee line laughing. I rolled down the window and she said, "Can you take me home to Shorewood."
"Of course," I said as I unlocked the door and started the motor. As she got in she was singing along to the song as well and asked that we not move till the song was over. I rolled down her window and at the last bar of the song we were on our way.
"Oh thank you," she said. "I just love that song. Been so long since I heard it, I wish I could hear it again." It was only then that I noticed her east end accent.
"Wanna hear it again?" I asked as I held up my ipod and plugged it into my dock.
"Yes! Brilliant!" She exclaimed.
I played the song for her and this time neither of us sang along, but there may have been some lip synch going on. After the song was over she told me something.
"I chose your taxi because you were having fun, so you must be my taxi."
"I am, in fact, your taxi for the next 6 miles!"
"So you like T'pau?" She asked.
"I love them, but I also love music of all genres, but I have a soft spot for them."
"Me too," she said. "I was 14 when Bridge of Spies came out."
"You're a kid, my dear. I was 17."
"Now don't be cheeky." she grinned.
"Moi?" I said innocently.
"I permed my hair and dyed my hair red because of her." she said.
"Well, looks like you are still rocking the ginger."
"Yeah, but now it is all about the straightener. I miss copious amounts of hairspray sometimes."
"Me too. So how long have you been in the states?"
"Since I was 20. I'm sort of a runaway rector's daughter."
"Ohhh. Here we call you a PK."
"Pastor's Kid, I know it." she said. "We still don't speak. He's conservative even for an Anglican. He would be right at home in some of the mega churches here, except for the music."
"I was in a conservative church in my teens." I said. "As a matter of fact, T'Pau was one of my secret cassettes. Secular music was the devil's music, so I had my private stash for my walkman."
She laughed. "And now?"
"Well, I was a minister for a spell and then quit. This pays about the same and is more honest."
She laughed again. "So what does the off pitch lover of good music hack believe now."
"I don't." I said simply.
"You went atheist?" There was a long pause. "Good for you, mate! Me too!"
From that moment on the conversation deepened. She spoke about the abuse by her father. It was physical and emotional. She had to uphold an image in the public face and he was always pushing to make Bishop. She told me about the education in religious schools and though the science was better taught than parochial schools here, there was other indoctrination and she always lived under that shadow of being Father Michael's daughter. She told me how she once showed a teacher at the school the bruises on her torso and told her she could not take it anymore. The instructor told her simply to cover up and never speak of this again and think of her father's vocation. Then she closed with confessing that she never speaks about her atheism in the US. Everyone either looks at her like she eats babies, evangelize her or tell her that because her dad was cruel is not a reason to hate god.
"My father's abuse has nothing to do with my atheism. There not being a god is what that is about. My dad's abuse to me and my mum is why I hate the church. I hate the church, but I don't hate god. There would have to be something to hate. There isn't." She paused. "Patrick. have you noticed how amazing the stars are and sunrises are when you know why they really exist?"
"Yeah. I do."
We pulled up to her small townhouse and she paid me.
"Patrick." She said."Do you have Only a Heartbeat on that iPod?"
"May I sit up front and listen to it?"
"Sure." She sat upfront and I played the song. I really like the song. You could tell, that for her, it took her someplace else. Perhaps it was a young lady leaving her country to start a new life. Maybe it was something else. I did not ask. I just sat in silence as the tears welled up in her eyes.
When the song ended she grabbed my hand, kissed me on the cheek, looked at me for a moment, started to say something, stopped and left the cab to go inside.