Taxi by Alixa Brobbey
After weeks of flagging down yellow-striped cars, the drivers all begin to blend into one. His name is Kofi, then Yaw, then Prince. Today he looks young enough to be in high school with me, tomorrow the same age as the grandfather I never met. His car is a red Toyota, then a silver Mercedes, then a silver Kia. Yesterday, its wheels were stained with dirt from the red roads, but today it is polished silver. Classy enough to be featured in the latest Yvonne Nelson film.
As I sit in the backseat, squeezed tight between smaller versions of myself, my mother will engage him in conversation about the Black Stars’ most recent loss, or the crisis in the school system, or about the man who pays him to drive around the beat-up car. Once, as I sit in my green and white cotton skirt, a man with gap teeth and a loose demeanor succinctly described his boss: “he drinks, he smokes, he fucks.” My mother’s eyes widen into a spaceship as we lock eyes in the rearview mirror. I turn to the youngest to make sure her ears are closed. She has magicked the dusty door into a pillow, her head leaning against the clear gateway that lets me gaze out at the majesty of Accra. Sometimes the windows are only half open. Most have dark plastic peeling off in layers—the leftovers of a tint job gone wrong.
In a vain attempt to keep buzzing wings off of my skin, I wear thick leggings and socks. They stifle my skinny legs as we drive to school under the vengeful eye of the sun. At the end of an afternoon ride home, the middle-aged man will turn to my mother and beg for more money as recompense for the sweaty traffic or the gaping holes in the road, as if it is her job to fix them. One day my dozing baby sister leaks pee all over the inside of an old man’s backseat. He calmly smiles and cleans it up and doesn’t ask for an extra pesewa cent. It is never a woman driver, that is the only thing of which I am certain. When we switch over to Uber, a perceptive economics graduate tells us his life story. After laboring for months in a respectable position without pay, he turned to chauffeuring people like us around. At least now he can promise himself food every night.
I am planning to travel abroad for college; I’ve never worried about possibly living months without a job. As I listen to him talk, the air around me grows thinner and the world feels lopsided. Some invisible atoms have forgotten to shift into place. I do not know if I have the strength to move them.