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Rear View Mirror: Love and pain

Taxi driver Tony Schumacher gets all the best jobs

Published on December 2nd 2010.


Rear View Mirror: Love and pain

SHE darted out from the side of the house, a pyjama-clad wisp flitting through the sodium-lit night throwing furtive glances back at the darkened windows of the sleeping place she called home.

“What’s the maddest thing anyone ever told you?”

“I had some thick bird in who told me she was going out with some lad who had battered her dad, that was pretty mad.”

I watched as she reached the garden gate and carefully closed it behind her, making no sound.

She climbed into the back seat and quickly gave me her destination, and as we pulled away she craned her neck to look out of the back window like an actor in a sixties spy B movie.

“Aren’t you a bit old to be running away from home?” I asked when she finally let out a huge sigh and settled back into the seat.

“I need a bank on the way,” was all she said by way of reply.

We drove to Old Swan and I sat and waited as she used the cash point. Mine was the only car in sight: silent, early morning streets are the luxury of the cab driver and the urban fox, both living off kebabs and fretful daytime snatched snoozes.

I rubbed my eyes and listened to the bleeps of the cash machine, like the fox my ears twitched waiting for the reassuring sound of the money slot. It paid out and I relaxed a bit, no awkward conversations about funds when she got back in.

The back door opened and closed and we set off again, no sigh this time.

“God... this is mad,” she muttered to herself. I could see that distance from the house had relaxed her stretched nerves and now when I glanced at her she was calmer, head rested back onto the seat.

“What’s going on? I felt like Michael Caine in the Ipcress file when I pulled up then!”

My mention of old films and older actors made little impact, she looked about 25 and she puzzled at my reflected eyes and tilted her head, confused.

I’m down with the kids me.

“I’m going me fella's. Can I smoke in here?”

“No, smoking is both bad for you and bad for my bank account. How come you are going your fella's now? It’s quarter to four in the morning.”

“Me mum doesn’t know I’m seeing him, I had to sneak out.”

“Sneak out? You’re a big girl; you shouldn’t be sneaking at your age.”

“I’m not that old! I'm 17. She’d batter me if she knew.”

It was my turn to look puzzled in the mirror, I studied her. Dyed blond hair held up tight by an elastic band, stretching her face. She wore no makeup and the only colour on her papery skin was the two grey blotches under her eyes. She wasn’t pretty, but she could have been, in another life.

“Can you turn up the heater? I’m freezing.”

I turned up the heater and she shivered theatrically and pulled her stick thin arms across herself to keep warm.

“So what makes him so bad your mum doesn’t want you seeing him?”

“He’s been in prison.”

“Oh dear, a bad lad eh?”

“Me mum hates him, really proper hates him.”

“I know I am starting to sound like your old fella, but maybe your mum

has a point”

She wasn’t cold any more but she kept her arms pulled around her. I had a feeling it was the closest thing she had to a hug.

“I’ve been with him for four years, I can't just blow him out.”

“How long was he down for?”

“He got two years, but he only did one.”

“Do you mind me asking what he did?”

“He battered me dad, he ended up with metal plates in his face.”

I looked at her long and hard in the mirror and she shrugged back, both of us knew what the other was thinking.

“A bad lad indeed,” I said to no one in particular.

She looked away from the mirror and studied her phone screen and we drove on in silence for a while. I cast the odd glance at her handset-illuminated face. She wasn’t texting, just reading something. I wondered if it was a text declaring love from her angry young man. She glanced up at me.

“You must hear all sorts in this car, people must tell you everything.”

“People find the back of my head very soothing, it’s either that or the honesty scented magic tree hanging in the boot.”

“What’s the maddest thing anyone ever told you?”

“I had some thick bird in who told me she was going out with some lad who had battered her dad, that was pretty mad.”

She laughed and said: “I’m not thick! You cheeky bastard!”

I pulled a “not quite sure I believe you” face and she suddenly leant forward in between the front seats and nudged my shoulder.

“Ee-ar look at that. ” She proffered her skinny arm and pulled up the sleeve of her pyjamas. I looked at the tattoo that ran up her inner forearm. It looked fairly new, and was written in the kind of swirly hand writing a Victorian might anoint a watercolour picture in a botany book.

“Love and pain,” she declared as I read it silently.

“Love and pain,” I replied.

She sat back in the seat proudly, like a little girl who has just told you she is four and three quarters. Proud as punch.

“There’s no love without pain,” she said with a certainty that made me sad.

“There is love without pain,” I said, in a not-so-confident voice. “Isn’t there?”

“No. People always let you down, or go away or tell a lie or fuck things up. Always, it’s just what people do.”

I thought about arguing the point with her, but I found her conviction disconcerting; now it was my turn to not know what to say: a 17- year-old girl had just taught me a life lesson.

We pulled into her boyfriend’s street. It was a cul-de-sac of terraced two up two downs, yellow bricked and steel shuttered, the majority empty, waiting for a demolition firing squad to exact the planner’s verdict: death on a winter’s morn.Her boyfriend sat on his front step smoking a joint. He scowled at me through the smoke.

“You didn’t tell me you were going out with George Clooney,” I said as I scowled back.

She laughed and paid me, and got out without saying goodbye. I watched as she walked around the car to George, who didn’t take his eyes off me: one of those tough guys I keep hearing about.

He didn’t stand and give her that embrace; he didn’t kiss her or hold her hands and ask her how her day had been. He didn’t even look at her.

Love and pain eh?

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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

famafNovember 30th 2010.

Amazing..love these pieces, full of pathos.
The best insight into the city going.
Keep up the good work!

disco65November 30th 2010.

Brilliant, the scary thing is there are so many girls living like this......

saladdazeDecember 1st 2010.

Thanks, Tony. Your pieces are a combination of Bob Dylan's radio shows and Julius Knipfl. http://www.katchor.com/Kniplpage.html
Keep it up. You and that Fat Git and the lad last week who had climbed Tryfan five times make it a pleasure to ride with Liverpool's finest.

DarthFormbyDecember 1st 2010.

I think you watch Jeremy Kyle don't you Tony?

EditorialDecember 1st 2010.

He doesn't need to, Darth, he frequently drives the real deal around.

Having picked our staff up in his cab on more than one late occasion, we are feverishly paying him hush money so he doesn't write about that.

Professor ChucklebuttyDecember 1st 2010.

Blimey that was cheerful. Couldn't you have added a bit of poetic licence and driven over his foot? Otherwise another fine piece of writing.

What a thoroughly hopeless situation, how do these nasty little Svengalis manage to do it? You must be tempted to kidnap some of these people and cold turkey them from their path self destruction.

Give us a happy one for Chrimbo, make it up if you have to.

Here's an idea:
Old lady starts sobbing in back of cab. She's all alone in the world and her only company "Thomas" her ginger tom cat has been missing for a week. She's worried he's been run over or is trapped somewhere.

She asks you to keep a look out for him and gives you a picture she's had photocopied to put on the lampposts. As you turn to take the picture from her frail hand, you hear a thud and apply the brakes. You get out and check to see what it was and there with it's head in the grill of the cab, legs spread out like one of those Garfield things and tail upright, still twanging like a ruler under the desk lid is a ginger moggie. After some strenuous tugging, you finally release it's head and hold it in your arms.

Amazingly, he is still alive just a little groggy and you call the old lady to come and see. With a big smile,you hand her the cat. With tears in her eyes, she gazes at the poor dazed and bewildered animal. " No that's not it" she says and throws him in a wheelie bin, slamming the lid.

The next day The Daily Star publishes a CCTV picture of you near the bin with the headline;

"Cruel Cabbie Bins Tabby"

Anyway turns out she's never owned a cat, it's just a fur hat in the hallway.

Something like that, a nice happy ending.

WagDecember 1st 2010.

It was a rat...

Professor ChuckapussyDecember 1st 2010.

It's a CAB...

Fred LawlessDecember 2nd 2010.

A great read. I always look forward to reading your work Tony.

DigDecember 2nd 2010.

It was Ken.

WagDecember 2nd 2010.

The feral moggie?

DigDecember 2nd 2010.

Yeah Ken. How many feral moggies do you know?

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