Tired and ready for bed, I hail a cab stopped at a red light at the corner of 18th Street and 6th Avenue and climb in.
Me: I need to go to Astoria, please?
Aamir: I just came back from Astoria!
Me: Oh! Sorry?
Aamir: Where in Astoria?
I tell him.
Aamir: Upper level or ?
Me: Upper level of the bridge is best, yes thanks.
I lean my head back against the seat and take my phone out of my pocket to check the time. Pretty late for a Sunday night. I imagine my empty bed at home. The week feels long and it hasn’t even started yet.
Aamir shouts in another language into his cell while I type a text on mine, both of us preoccupied for the moment.
And then suddenly, Aamir is knocking on the glass partition. It takes me a second to realize he’s talking to me and not some other entity on the end of his phone.
Aamir: HELLO LADY! ARE YOU BUSY?
Me: Excuse me?
Aamir: ARE YOU BUSY?
Me: Um. I guess not, no.
Aamir: MY PHONE DOES NOT RING. IT DOES NOT EVEN FLASH. WHEN SOMEONE CALL ME, NOTHING HAPPENS. CAN YOU SEE?
Me: You want me to fix your phone?
Aamir: YES! ALSO THE DATE AND TIME ARE INCORRECT!
I reach through the empty space between the glass and take his phone out of his hands. It looks like the very first cell phone I had, a gift from a college ex-boyfriend in 2003. It takes me awhile to remember how to use it. I’m used to touch screens and Angry Birds and what the heck?
Me: Yeah, it says today is January 1, 2008.
Aamir: YOU FIX?
Me: I’ll try!
Aamir: How was tonight? Have fun?
Me: I was babysitting!
Aamir: OH! HOW MANY BABIES?
Me: Two boys, 6 year old twins.
Aamir: TWINS!!! OH TWINS! THEY LOOK THE SAME?
Me: Yeah. They’re identical. Also, they are crazy but so cute. Okay, I fixed the ringer I think.
Aamir: HOW DID YOU DO IT? DO YOU WORK ON PHONES?
Me: No! I just messed around with it. You have to go into settings. Also, I have to help my dad with his phone a lot.
Aamir: Your dad is from Greece?
Me: What? No, my dad’s from Poland.
Aamir: POLAND IS NICE.
Me: Yeah, I mean. He’s American, really. But Polish.
Aamir: And your mother is American?
Me: Yes! She’s a whole bunch of things, Italian, Irish, etc. So I’m a mess of things.
Aamir: ALL AMERICAN!
Me: Yeah. And where are you from, Aamir?
Me: Woah. That’s far away.
Aamir: YES YES.
Me: Lots of stuff going on over there. Okay, so it should make sound when someone calls you now.
Aamir: MY PHONE RINGS! You call it!
Me: Me? Now?
Aamir: TO TEST! My number is 718…
I call his phone. It plays Fur Elise.
Aamir: (full of joy) YOU FIXED THE PHONE!
Me: Yeah. You need a new ringtone. Lemme fix the date and time now.
Aamir: You have a boyfriend?
Me: Not exactly.
Aamir: WHY NOT?
Me: Oh, Aamir.
I inch forward and perch myself on the edge of the seat so I can lean into the space between the glass. Aamir listens contentedly, nodding in the rearview mirror.
Me: Boys confuse me. It’s like I want to date and I want to find a boyfriend but I never know what kind of man to pick, like who feels right, you know? Or I don’t know if I’m ready because the last one hurt me and I’m afraid to move on. I get so stuck in my head. What do you think I should do?
Aamir: OH NO. I DON’T KNOW.
Me: Me neither.
Aamir: GO ON MORE DATES.
Aamir: DATE A BOY! SEE IF YOU LIKE HIM. ONE TIME? YOU DON’T KNOW. THREE, FOUR, FIVE TIMES? YOU KNOW!
Me: You would think so.
Aamir: BUT DO NOT GO BEYOND A KISS.
Aamir: BECAUSE THE BOYS WANT SEX. ALL THE BOYS WANT SEX.
Me: Okay. Yeah.
Aamir: THEY SAY, COME BACK TO MY PLACE, LET’S GO TO YOUR PLACE, YES? THEY SAY THIS TO YOU?
Me: Sort of.
Aamir: GOOD GIRL. SAY NO. NOTHING BEYOND A KISS. KISS IS GOOD. KISS IS FUN.
Me: I know. That’s part of my problem. Okay, your phone is fixed! It rings and the date and time are all correct now.
Aamir: THANK YOU!
Me: You have kids?
Aamir: Yes! My wife give birth to a dozen! Only five survive.
Me: Oh, geez. I’m so sorry.
Aamir: IT IS OKAY! LOTS OF KIDS!
Me: And your wife?
Aamir: WE ARE MARRIED DOUBLE AS OLD AS YOU!
Me: Well, that’s great!
Aamir: You are young! 22? 23?
Me: I love you, Aamir.
Aamir: How many babies you want?
Me: I have no idea. More than one? We’ll see when I get there.
Aamir: IT ALSO IS IMPORTANT HOW MANY YOUR HUSBAND WANTS.
Me: I guess so, yes. Babies are great.
Aamir: YOU LOVE BABIES!
Me: I do. Yes, this one, right here is fine.
Aamir eases the cab over to the side of the street, in front of my apartment.
I swipe my credit card and wait for it to process.
Aamir: THEY CHARGE ME FOR CREDIT CARD!
Me: I know, I’m sorry. No cash tonight.
Aamir: NO BABYSITTING CASH?
Me: She writes me a check.
Me: Thanks for driving me to Astoria, Aamir. Have a great night.
Aamir: DO NOT GO BEYOND A KISS, LADY!
Me: I’ll try not to. Have fun with your phone.
Aamir: THANK YOU AND GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK AND GET MARRIED!
Me: We’ll see!
I shut the door to the cab and step carefully over the patches of ice on the sidewalk, maneuvering around my dead Christmas tree which is laying on its side next to the bags of garbage.
I look up as Aamir gives a wave and continues on down the street, only pausing when he hits the stop sign at the end of the block.
It’s cold out and I’m so tired and my bag feels heavy but I stand there for awhile as the wind whips around me. I stand there looking down the street. Waiting for something to come. Even though I’m already home.