I Said ‘No’

Sometimes one simple answer can lead to a million questions.

03 February 2024 / Published on Medium
Photo credits / Viktor Bystrov on Unsplash

He asked me if I was married or had kids as he sped the taxi down the highway.

I said no, and an awkward stillness enveloped the car. Now nothing but silence. Just streaming sunlight through the window, my hope to get to the airport on time and thankfully, the radio.

Was it just me? Maybe he was just simply thinking of what he was going to do after his shift or what he would have for lunch in a few hours. But the answer hung there, heavy and awkward. What did I reveal with that one simple word? What did he assume?

Breaking the silence, I asked him if he had a wife or kids or if he was from here…a desperate attempt to change the subject. To find connection. By the way if this fails, the subject of the weather is always a sure bet. There’s nothing like a good forecast to level the playing field. A common barometer that we all feel, no matter who we are.

He said yes and then gestured the Sign of the Cross as he was driving. Was it because of the ominous approaching traffic or was I in some sort of mobile confession booth? Was he praying for my sins? Or praying — hoping — not to be seduced by the influence of my presence? Like I was somehow as contagious as the flu or some other unwanted affliction.

I will never know.

Can I be good in your eyes just the way that I am? Or is your question some sort of litmus test for being normal?

That no…that single word…makes me feel failed and flawed. Did I pass the test for you? Can I be good without weddings or baptisms or sacred communions? Did I convince you that I am a decent human being or is recognizing my kindness too awkward? Maybe it’s easier to keep the boundaries as they are. Less to sift through. Less confusing. Less to rattle your faith.

All I can do is be a good ambassador. I’ll reflect back more of you and less of me. Leave my picture unpainted and less filled in.

Shrink a little to fit the mould, hoping that the next time you’re on a break with your fellow cab drivers or telling your wife about your day you’ll be less inclined to say faggot or maricón or whatever word comes to mind to keep me nailed in place. And then maybe the mould will grow — even just slightly — on your next ride.

I know I am good. I may not go to church on Sundays or pray before I go to sleep or read a holy book. I may not love the way you do but it is love just the same. I don’t need to read what is written down to know what’s right and decent.

Maybe I made a slight bit of difference with this fleeting moment. Maybe I’ll be less of a thing to you and more like a human being. Maybe something — however microscopic and minute — shifted today for one person on this planet. Maybe you’ll remember my kindness. That — in the end — is my faith.

“Que vaya bien,” I said, as I stepped out of the taxi and pressed a good tip into his hand.

He sped off as I wheeled my bag to the departure gate, not quite knowing what I had left behind.

Share this