I have been postponing the moment when I have to accept the idea that my time in Abu Dhabi is coming to an end. I wander the streets as if I were here to stay. Forever. I rely on the eternity of each dawn to push away the uneasiness that wants to consume me, and I try to enjoy the NOW as much as I can; nonetheless, sometimes it’s painful to look into some eyes and not think of the few weeks I have left; it’s painful to take a vague look, and not try to over-watch or over-laugh or over-analyze every gesture, every fine line, and every sound.
Fazal is one of these faces that will stay with me for a while. I met him by chance last September. It was my first day venturing out the comfort of my home to hail a taxi. My daughter had just started school. My world had been turned upside down. For the sake of socialization, she had to go to school and try to survive on her own—for five hours, five days a week. The first morning when my husband took her to school is one of these mornings I will always remember. I was petrified. My hands were shaking, and I had to take deeper breathes to fill out my lungs. I waited and waited for the first five hours to fly by, and ten minutes before 1:00 O’clock, I thundered out like a hurricane. It was then I realized that I would not make it on time. A sea of people was spreading on the sidewalk, hoping for the rare taxis that occasionally stopped by.
A few minutes went by before a grey taxi bearing a yellow rectangular sign pulled over to drop someone off. People rushed, ready for a fight. I assessed the scene with a hopeless gaze and decided not to put my son, who was sleeping, through that chaos, but the taxi stood there still, and the driver pointed at me. Supposedly my baby gave me priority over the other people. I was speechless.
As I got on the taxi, I was greeted by a warm and cheerful ‘hello’. Gratitude welled in my eyes as I stared at the rotund, bearded, middle-aged, exuberant Pakistani driver who asked me “where?” I mumbled a sincere “thank you” before I gave him the directions to the school. I hardly had time to heave a sigh of relief, his voice cut through my bliss: ”What’s the baby’s name? Obama?”
I beamed happily. “No his name is Dede. Do you like Obama?”
“Yep. Everybody likes him.”
We chitchatted a lot that day, although I usually don’t like small talking. Silence is more comfortable to me than a bunch of void clichés destined to make one look sociable. But it was fun to chitchat with Fazal. I learned that he had been here for 17 years, that he has 7 children in Pakistan, and that he wanted Obama to be the president of the United States of America.
Before I got off the taxi, I asked him if it was ok to call him for pick up. He said ‘yes’ , but some friends told me not to get too excited, that these cabdrivers were not reliable, that their phone numbers keep on changing... But I have been lucky to have met Fazal. 75% of the time, he shows up, makes my day, and even brings candies for the kids.
Last week, my husband who usually drops my daughter at school in the morning, had to travel. I told Fazal that I wanted him to pick me up the next morning at 7:40 AM. Next morning, I woke up and tried to call him, but my phone was out of service. My subscription had expired. I panicked, fixed breakfast on the run, hurried downstairs at 7:45, hoping for the worst. To my surprise, Fazal was in the parking lot waiting for me.