Mary had sweet legs and thick glasses and she was crying when her man forced himself into my cab beside her. The first thing I said to her was, Is everything okay, ma’am? And her man looked at me in the mirror and said, Yes, everything is okay. Just drive, driver.
To where? I asked
Take Highway 18 for now, and then I will show you the way.
When a woman cries in my boat, I turn into a sad infant and then a lover of the high, far seas, a daring buccaneer. On these seas, the lower decks of merchants’ ships are filled with slaves and captured women. And I heard the whips from behind me lashing at Mary.
All you care about is your damn books, the man was saying. I need to go out, I need to see people. Books, books, fuck books. You spend all your time reading, And you have nothing to say to my friends, nothing to say to me. You sit there with your passive air of superiority. I am tired of this, do you understand?
I looked in my mirror and saw Mary crying. And when the man started to shout in her face and gesture with ominous hands, I pulled the car over to the side of the road. We had reached the edge of the city and were about to enter the suburbs with their flat houses and little gardens. And that is when I grabbed my thick feathered stick from beneath the seat and opened my door and opened his door and grabbed the hater of books by the sleeve, then by the collar, and I pulled him out of my car and pushed him down onto the pavement. I lifted my stick in the air and it fluttered in my hand and against the wind like a menacing bird quaking warnings not to cross, not to enter my rescuing arc, and I closed the doors and drove Mary away. It was raining that night; for days it hasn’t stopped raining. And I looked in my rearview mirror and I saw Mary’s husband defeated under the rain. And I thought, not all animals should have been saved from the deluge. Some should have drowned, without a doubt.
Mary, sweet Mary, had no place to go to. So I suggested we go to my house.
I don’t know you, she said.
Copyright © 2012 by Rawi Hage. Reprinted with permission of House of Anansi Press. www.houseofanansi.com