“You aren’t going to be sick are you? I just got this thing cleaned,” the driver new in an instant the fare standing outside the passenger door of his Taxi was going to be a daunting one tonight. The young woman was probably somewhere within her mid 20’s and most likely attractive under normal circumstances too he thought. Presently however, she looked as though she had tumbled down the side of a mountain. Her hair and clothes were in a state of disheveled chaos, accessorized with an enumerable amount of twigs and leaves woven into knotted strongholds. Her apparent indifference to her choice in flora as body decor was complimented by a thick noticeable layer of dirt pasted to her skin. The driver could taste her stench as she opened the door, confirming the muck she had bathed in was held in place by dry sweat collected across her body aside from where her cut off jean shorts and flowing black tank top rested on her skeletal frame. Her smell was less grotesque than he was expecting, or perhaps it was and he would have noticed it more if not for the immediate feeling of discomfort ripple through him once he noticed the fear and paranoia screaming from her pale gaunt face holding a pair wide wild eyes she did not appear blink. He hated these types of passengers, they were always difficult.
“No,” she replied quickly while looking over both of her shoulders searching the surrounding scene for some silent lurking threat.
“People get off planes and are sick all the time, you really don’t look that well. Are you sure you are okay?” the driver persisted despite knowing his passenger had clearly not exited a flight prior to their current exchange.
“Yes, I’m fine.” the passenger said assertively.
They sat within the taxi soaking in the silence until the driver finally inquired,“So where I am taking you?” As he spoke he proceeded to reach across the passenger side of the vehicle to and flick off a small red light perched above the door.
“How much to take me to the North Shore? My phone was stolen in the airport. Did James send you?” she managed to stammer, her tone ridden with fear.
“I don’t know who James is lady, but it’s going to be at least $200.00 to take you all the way up there at this time of night,” the driver stated bluntly.
“My credit cards were stolen too and I don’t have any cash on me. James will pay for it, he told me he would earlier tonight while I was driving around the island. I called him to try and offered to let me stay at his house. He promised I would be safe there. Will you call him? I don’t have his number memorized and I know they sent you. Just please don’t hurt me. Please. I am so sorry for everything I did.” she pleaded earnestly.
“I already told you, I don’t know who James is lady,” the cab driver’s annoyance apparent as he sat glaring at her with his car idling under the flickering lights illuminating the arrival area of the Honolulu International Airport, his face now ridden with wrinkles from frustration having learned the financial state of his current fare.
“Then can I use your phone to make a call? I have someone who will pay my fare,” her tone nervous as she slumped below the passenger window, fearful of the passing cars driving through the airport terminals. The man looked over at the young woman, she was sitting there in such a feeble and submissive state, he decided with reluctance to hand her his phone.
Her hands shook violently as she dialed the number to the one man whom had ever truly loved her unconditionally, after she had endured so many painful heartbreaks throughout her life. The one man that she remained ignorant and oblivious to the fact that she had the continuous habit to cause him so many more. The man that had never batted an eye when faced with fear and always stood like a sentinel, guarding the corners she often found herself backed into, ever watchful over her safety. The one man she could always count on regardless of the situations in which she frequently found herself entrenched.
“Daddy,” she said as tears began to stream down her face, “I stopped driving the car like you said and I am at the airport, but I cannot fly home right now. I would never make it through the security checkpoint in this condition. Daddy I am so sorry but I am so scared. I don’t know what to do. I want to come home tonight. I have no where else to go aside from James’s house. Daddy they are still coming for me. I need $200.00 to get to the North Shore, I know I will be safe there. If anything happens to me at least then you will know where I was staying.”
Overhearing her conversation, the man put his cab into drive and began to leave the airport.
Oblivious that the taxi had started to move, the young woman remained slouched in her seat intent on listening to the mummer of a gruff voice on the other end of the phone.
“Daddy I know that everything that has transpired began with him, but I do not know what else to do at this point. I have no one here to help me, I’m alone,” tears had started to rain down her cheeks. The driver had expected this, she was one of those fares, he had gone through this before.
She looked over at the taxi driver with a glint of hope in her eyes, “My father wants to talk to you,” the urgency in her voice accompanied by his phone as an outstretched offering.
Edward grabbed the phone with hast from her while driving, annoyed with the outlook of his current fare. His tone and demeanor changed the instant he was implored to speak to her father. In a polite voice he explained the predicament in which both the passenger and he were now monetarily entwined. While distracted from the fear of her surroundings, the young woman took note of the beguiling smirk that was now slapped across Edward’s face during the entirety of his conversation with her father. She did not let that cause her concern. Her father was a lawyer, a professional problem solver, and he was going to call back with a solution, as he always had when his daughter found herself placed in troubling predicaments.
Following the cessation of their conversation, the cab driver took an abrupt turn and veered off his current unknown course and into a McDonald’s drive thru. As the duo sat bathing in the incandescent light radiating from menu sign, Edward maintained a courteous demeanor and asked the static voice emanating from the drive thru speaker if they were still open.
“Maybe.” The voice crackled, slicing through the awkward absence of interaction with the cab.
“Can I take 200 cheeseburgers please? What’s the total on that?” Edward asked in jest, his ominous and uncomfortable smile still spread across his face.
“Uhh,” the voice over the speaker managed to muster before Edward cut it off and ordered two chicken sandwiches with a side fries.
With food in hand, Edward looked over at the meek girl trembling and extended a gift, offering her one of the chicken sandwiches he had just purchased. He looked down at his food without indulging, then glanced over at his passenger gorging down her sandwich and said casually, “So what’s your story?”
Her eyes widened, the remainder of her food still tumbling around her mouth and responded in fear, “Did I ruin your day with all my antics?”
“More than my day,” Edward’s reply was flippant.
“How many people were affected by what I did? More than twenty?” she inquired having finished her food and returned her attention to her obsessive compulsion to peek her eyes just above the bottom of the windows within the cab, continuing to cast her wild eyes in every direction.
Edward’s smile was devious as he responded, “Our upcoming Thanksgiving Day will be ruined by you for many more than myself. Tell me your story.”
The irony of his inquiry struck a chord in what memory remained within the mangled mess of her mind. She thought for a moment. The truth was less beautiful than the lies she had concocted and recited to so many sets of hungry ears over the past three weeks in passing, at parties and in bars she had frequented. She was a professional surf photographer for the big wave competitions presently taking place on the North Shore of Oahu. She was a reporter for Surfer Magazine interviewing the competitors. She worked for National Geographic and was writing an article on some of the unique biology inhabiting the area. Lies. Lies so that she could be anyone else other than he woman she saw staring back at her each day in the mirror. The truth was she had traveled to Oahu looking for a release. A release from her mistakes, grievances, wrongdoings, responsibility, all of it. A release from a broken ‘together’ and an aborted ‘forever’ with her previous boyfriend which had left her alone and empty.
She found it staring into James’s two placid green pools for eyes and his crooked smile that beckoned her to say ‘yes’ to dancing with all the demons that she had been running from for so long. She had stumbled drunkenly across the key that fit her lock, a sparkler wielding madman that yearned to light the fuse to her long ticking time bomb. One could only detail their introduction as the connection of fragmented pieces from two halves finding solidarity as a whole. They were a cataclysmic combination of congruency. Their cores were comprised of each other’s opposite unstable elements, aching painstakingly for the other’s complimentary components in an immobilizing magnetism drawing them fatefully together on a crash course for disaster.
The truth she thought, was she had not taken her medicine, slept or eaten in five days. She was in the throws of a mind maddening mayhem incited by the onset of her mania. The truth was she had put thousands of lives in danger driving chaotically on the roads around Oahu convinced that a local community of cannibals were trying to execute her at James’s behest for malfeasants she had committed toward the local community during her stay. The cab driver sitting next to her at the moment was not exempt from being involved in the entire debacle in her mind.
She believed that she had committed the only grievance intolerable to the small community occupying the North Shore of Oahu; She had lied. James was a prominent business owner within the area, he owned a shark diving company which was responsible for tremendous amount of ecotourism within the area. Of course she would fall for the owner of a shark diving company, she had never been conventional. To her own dismay, she had concocted for him a grand story centered around her prowess as a writer. But once their affair was close to a conclusion because of her looming departure date back to her very real unsatisfactory life, she became hypnotized by his charm and she lied more. She could not place why she had decided to create such a vast array of such magnificent lies, but she had without hesitation.
James was trying to hurt her. She was a pawn in a game he was playing and she was shark bait. The community was protecting him from whatever slander she could potentially write because they relied heavily on the monetary stimulation from those partitioners flocking to the North Shore to participate and view the international and annual surf competition that was currently taking place. It was known for its perfect surf conditions and bad press was not good press in their eyes. She was certain a community of cannibals inhabited the North Shore and she was now their next meal. But she was not convinced that was James’s intention as reality became less certain in her mind. Maybe, James was a cannibal and had been trying to overtly warn her in an attempt to aide in her escape. Not taking her medication had been the origin for the onset of her delusions. Lack of sleep and sustenance caused her to believe her own lies. So much so that she could no longer make sense of what was truly real and what her own mind had intricately falsified and fabricated as fiction. And she was alone, 3000 miles away from her family that knew how to manager her Bipolar Disorder.
“The truth,” she mustered through watery eyes, “is I am scared and I want to go home to my family. They love me. I don’t want to have made a mistake that I cannot take back..”
Edward stared at her, considering her response. “We are all actors here, myself being the greatest of all. I’m an academy award winner wouldn’t you say? And how we act can eat us alive or make us feel more so than we ever fathomed. What do you think of your actions as of late, as though your life were on the line?” He paused for a moment but was met with no response. He then continued, “I don’t normally do this, but I have children whom love their father like glass and continued, “and tonight I am going to set you free.”
Edward’s phone started to ring as his right hand reached into the backseat of his taxi cab. She was barely listening, drowning in her own paranoia with watching cars move around the Mcdonald’s parking lot, tormenting her as they drove in and out of spaces and the area itself. She was positive the cars were deliberately circling her like sharks or as though they practicing strategically executed formations akin to those executed by the military. They were all involved, protecting Edward and waiting for her demise, she was certain. Her lack of attention to her surroundings within the taxi had done her an injustice. She had not noticed the duffle bag stretched across the backseat, nor eerie stench emanating from it. She had not taken note of Edward’s left hand which had been latched to an unknown object below his seat during their time spent sitting together or the that he had ordered food without attempting to eat anything during their conversation. She failed to recognize the small camera attached above the passenger side door frame that was once lit red when she entered the cab was now not currently on or operating.
She was empty, lost and not alone in that moment. But she was free from all the burdens that had been bludgeoning her alive each time she looked into the mirror.
Edward’s phone continued to ring for the rest of the evening, the passenger’s father desperately trying to resolve the issue that had been at hand, wanting nothing more than his daughter home safely for Thanksgiving that was to take place the following day. Amidst his relentless resolve to reach Edward the number was abruptly disconnected. Everyone was full for Thanksgiving.