I look for you everywhere. Every time I see an older, brown-skinned man, if his face is round and his hair is silver, if his lips are plum-colored and golden wires frame his eyes, I look for you.
I saw you, just now. It took me a moment, perhaps because it was extra dark, maybe because I had waited on 15th street for too many minutes in the cold, right hand raised, cursing rush hour for putting the masses on the road, as cab after taxi cab sailed past me, each filled with warm, traveling bodies. When a Lincoln finally pulled over, I gratefully got in, feeling extra chic in this cardinal coat (your favorite color) while I gracefully sat first, then swiveled my legs inward (just as you taught me). That's when the driver turned around to stare at me and I froze, not from the frigid January air but from the face which loomed between the worn leather seats.
It was you.
That navy woolen hat that you wore every winter, especially when you got older, which I thought looked so silly and now find endearing-- you were wearing it. The glasses with the double-bridge, defiantly out of date and so conservative; they perched on your nose, which looks a bit like mine. The imposing, salt and pepper mustache, which forever marked you as an outsider to this culture, it was there, too. But it was the look in your eyes which made my heart pound, as I gasped and felt faint, because it was like gazing at a ghost.
Then you cleared your throat and the glamor dissolved.
You were waiting for me to state my destination
"Sorry," I murmured. "2100 Pennsylvania, please."
You turned around wordlessly and drove with precision and care, just like you always did.
I wanted to hear your voice. I wanted you to turn around, one more time. The rear view mirror was not doing its job; I could see no reflection in it. It was like a toy mirror, the sort you find in a doll house or model car; a dull gray color which tells no tales.
"How are you?", I asked dutifully.
I have no other way to show you that I remember what I learned at your knee. I have no other opportunities to care for you; what I would give, now, to have you ask me to make you coffee again. I would not scoff or roll my eyes. I would not bask in ungrateful, unbecoming sulking. I would leap up and rush to the kitchen, grab a coffee pot and your mug and prepare exactly what you enjoyed. I would do it willingly and humbly.
Because I never did.
And it never occurred to me that one day you would be gone. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Mourn you always, I must, I must.
You paused and said, "Fine" in a low, almost gruff voice. Yes, it was you.
And then you said nothing. Just like you always did in the car or at the dinner table.
When we got to our destination, I made a complicated request for my own convenience; I used the excuse of safety, too many bags, unwieldy heels and a snow-slicked sidewalk.
You wordlessly maneuvered the car, bypassing laws and other drivers to fulfill my wish, even though it was not the easy or logical thing to do.
Just like you always did.
And when you finally shifted gears and the car rested in "park", then you turned around. I felt foolish. You were not you. You were a cab driver. Probably Ethiopian, possibly Eritrean, even if you did look Indian. I quietly reached for my wallet, counted out bills.
How I wished it were you, as illogical and impossible as such a thing sounds. What I would give to see your face again. What I would give to say everything which has been pent up for twelve years, twelve years, my G-d, twelve years…has it been so long. Where have you gone? Oh Daddy, Daddy…where did your love go? Don't you leave me…don't you leave me no more…
Stupid me. I don't even care for speculative fiction, but I imagined you out of thin winter air and an Ethiopian cab driver, because I miss you so much.
And just when the tears were ready to spring to my eyes, the driver looked at me kindly and said. "It's okay. You are going to be okay." And then my heart lifted in my chest. And speculative or not, fictitious or not, I knew. I knew it was you.