“Are you sure?” the man called to the woman standing on the sidewalk in front of Junior’s Pizzera.
He was in the street, holding open the rear door of my taxi with one hand, while signaling her to get in with the other. In both his tone and his waving motion, he was the picture of an exasperated farmer attempting to cajole a recalcitrant Holstein into the barn. If I’m that woman, I thought, this is not an appealing courtship technique.
“It’s still a ‘no,’” the woman replied, chuckling. “Look, Jay — I told you from the start I wasn’t coming home with you. See you around.”
With that stiff brush-off, she turned and sauntered up the street with a couple of friends. Crestfallen, my customer reluctantly closed the door he was holding and got in the front with me. “Do you know where Clay Point Road is?” he asked dejectedly.
“I sure do,” I replied, shifting back into drive and taking off. “It’s off Chimney Corners, on the road to Camp Kiniya.”
“Well, that was freaking brutal,” Jay shared without any prompting on my part. “I really felt we had something strong between us. I can’t believe she left me standing there. Up until that last moment, I was sure it was a done deal. She just severed my heart, man.”
When it comes to my late-night jilted swains, I much prefer the simple horndog variety. “Well, that sucked. I really thought I was gonna get laid tonight” is easier to deal with than “We had a true connection, man. I’m really hurting.” But I’ll take ’em as they come. I see lending an ear to the lovelorn as part of the job. Anyway, I shouldn’t be so insensitive; like most men, I’ve been there myself.
“So, you’ve been seeing this girl for a while? You seem pretty broke up.”
“No, that’s the thing — I just met her tonight at the bar. I can’t explain it. I just felt something deep. The crazy thing was, she was 40, about 10 years older than me. But, like I told her, she was a young soul. The girl was gorgeous, inside and out.”
“Are you from up here, man?” I asked, changing the subject. The guy’s pronounced mourning over the demise of his three-hour relationship was a bit much, even for a veteran cabbie.
“No, I’m living in Poughkeepsie. Me and eight friends rented this big old house for the weekend, right on the lake. Most of us went to school up here together.”
It was well past last call for alcohol; this trip would probably be my final fare of the night. Realizing that, I disengaged from my default hyperfocused work mode and settled in with the guy. I had the feeling there was much more the dude cared to download.
“I know my problem,” he continued. “I still haven’t gotten over my last serious relationship. I was going out with this girl who had been my best friend for years. As soon as we hooked up and began seeing each other, she became someone I barely knew. But I loved her so much, and I’m still hurting.”
“How long ago did that end?” I asked. Like a good wannabe shrink, I was assembling all the pertinent facts before rendering my judgment. Or maybe shrinks aren’t supposed to be judgmental? I couldn’t remember.
“It’s been about five years,” he replied. “A few years after that, I was seeing this totally hot Panamanian girl who was much younger than me. For months, she was hanging around this Poughkeepsie bar that I used to go to all the time. One by one, just about every dude in the bar made an approach, but she was having none of it. I think I just wore her down with my persistence. But at that point, she had only a month left on her work visa, so that relationship was doomed from the start. I still miss her, though. We emailed and texted for a while, but you know how it is.”
“Hey, at least you’re out there trying. I’m sure you’ll meet the right woman when the timing is right.”
“Well, I have been seeing this other girl for about a year. We have this open relationship, though I’m pretty sure she would want us to be exclusive. I love everything about this girl. She’s attractive, and she’s a Wiccan and into Reiki. You know what that is?”
“I think so. It’s some kinda healing technique, like with energy or something?”
“Yeah. I’m a second-degree Reiki practitioner, myself.”
“Is that what you do for a living, give Reiki treatments?”
“I do some, but mostly I’m an insurance adjuster.”
I can’t keep up with this new world; I really can’t. Everyone, it seems, is into everything. I still hold to a world view defined by a culture and counterculture. In that apparently bygone era, insurance adjusters were not Reiki practitioners; a job like that was reserved for the crunchy granola set. Nowadays, bankers are yogis, and hippies are running multimillion-dollar Internet companies. It’s mind-boggling.
“So, what’s stopping you from making a commitment to this Wiccan girl?”
“It’s simple: I don’t feel the deep soul connection. She’s a great girl, but I just don’t feel it. And that’s something I need to fully commit to a woman. That’s what I thought I felt with the girl in the bar tonight. I mean, we were sharing, like, so deeply. She was telling me about her two kids, and they sounded great.”
Ah-ha, I thought. There it is.
“Well, there you go,” I announced. “It’s a whole other ball of wax when you’re dealing with a mom. No wonder she didn’t go back with you tonight. When they have kids, women are much, much more careful about hooking up. There’s way more at stake for them.”
I was so proud of myself. Sigmund Freud himself couldn’t have analyzed the situation better.
Jay let out a deep sigh and said, “Yeah, I suppose you’re right, man.”
“I know I’m right. So, just shake it off. You’ll feel better about it in the morning.”
“Yeah, I think so,” he said, and he seemed to straighten in his seat. My work here is done, I thought to myself as we turned onto Clay Point Road, now in the home stretch.
“But I really thought we had something. She severed my heart, man.”
At that point, I felt like saying Jay, if you don’t man up and quit your whining, I am going to sever your fucking heart right here, in the shotgun seat.