I’m on time! I haven’t been on time for two weeks but I am today. This is the second story I wrote, as you can tell there was no real order originally but it slowly fell into place. I would love to hear your thoughts, if you have any, and the rest of the collection can be found here.
14th May 1998 -Hackney Road, Tower Hamlets, London
This car is my life. This car is my everything; it’s a sombre love affair especially when your wife is at home, if you can call it a home.
I work all over the city limiting my shifts for fourteen hours a day for ‘home’s sake’. ‘Home’ is a maisonette near Brick Lane. We’re up on the fifteenth floor, shared bathroom in an all Bangladeshi building. She doesn’t thank me, I spent all our credit on the car but at least the flat is rented. At least we can escape one day when I’ve paid off the car. In another eight years.
I couldn’t say no when he offered me the credit. My own Hackney and I’d be able to keep working. The share with Ray had run its course and I needed my own cab. Ray stunk anyway and left the car full of empty cans and dog hair.
“Do you use him? Ray? He’s ‘bout twenty-five stone, fifty-ish, completely bald.’
I ask questions so my fare doesn’t think I’m completely disinterested and ignoring them. The small shrivelled man only coughs politely and shuffles his enormous pile of leaflets.
I got her brand new though you wouldn’t know it now. I work the fourteen hours a day although I’d love to do more. It wouldn’t be fair on the wife I suppose. I work an eighty-four hour week to just about cover the payments and rent. She works down the launderette on Shoreditch High Street, doesn’t thank me.
I’ve been doing this job longer than I’ve been married and I’ll be married to this job long after she’s gone. I know she’ll leave eventually. How could I not pick the car? I’ve been doing this job for thirty five years, driving around my city and I wouldn’t give up my city for anything. You see things differently when you’ve seen them twenty thousand times: the world changes, people don’t. Cities evolve whilst people age and in her case, badly.
The old guy isn’t even listening; I can hear him humming tunelessly and starting desperately out of the window.
I haven’t given her a name as seems to be fashionable, all these kids with their ironically named Novas. It’s completely disrespectful to the vehicle. I save up all my tips each day so I can get her valeted and waxed monthly. Indulgence is everything for this temptress. She won’t travel gracefully unless I fill her with the highest quality petrol and she takes a lot of coaxing some mornings but I love her with all my heart. I trust her with my life and spend all my time with her. I cannot resist her I’ve tried but I get all itchy when I get back ‘home’. I force grey meat and grey spuds down my throat and wait desperately for the next shift.
“I spend my day off down the Carpenter’s you know on Cheshire Street? It’s my one indulgence…oh you’re a church man. Course you are – St. Leonard’s Church mate, eight fifty.”
The near invisible huffs and shakes a handful of coins at me, his starchy grey committee suit scraping across my beautifully kept upholstery. I thank him kindly and then I hear it, that clearing of the throat that belongs singularly to the righteously religious and he begins:
“I shall be leaving one of my leaflets with you if that’s acceptable. They’re very informative and many people find great strength in reading them. You’re welcome to one of my sessions, God is always listening even if you’re customers aren’t…”
It’s my turn to shut up and try not to grimace. I thank him again and he gets out, thank the Lord.
Shift over. 11pm and home time, she’ll be in bed thankfully. I’ll get to bed after bidding goodnight to my not-so-dirty not-so-secret, she who rules my world and completes me.