Taxi Driver Bills by Caroll Sun Yang

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 Never stay up on the barren heights of cleverness, but come down into the green valleys of silliness.  –Ludwig Wittgenstein

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“I mean it this time… come on girl, don’t look at me like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like I won’t.”

“How then? Spill it.”

“Probably razor blades, and a good grip of mood enhancers. Nothing gory.”

“Mood enhancers? Ironic. So entirely you.”

“People will realize that they loved me after all. Real deep. Even you.”

“Very charming. Jesus, your inflated presumptions are so juvenile. Be a grown man for fuck sake. How do you expect anyone to–”

“I want everyone to be at the funeral, snot dripping out of faces, reeling with that stand-still kind of motion sickness. I want deep guttural wailing. My folks–”

“Fine. So just go for it then and stop talking about it. Man up. For once in your life just walk the talk. Fucking Leos.”

“I’d leave an amazing note too, something that would make me famous, go viral. A perfect piece of fucking final wordsmithery!”

“Well what would it say Kurt-fucking-Cobain, enlighten me. I know you’re dying to.”

“I dunno, mostly it would be about my quest for some mythical promised space in this undeservedly mythical town. I’d make sure it was poetic, so poetic it cut. It’s ruined me you know. This whore LA, all the sprawl and grime for nothing. Driving in circles. Taking people around. Cleaning up their messes and giving advice and shit. All hours, just covering a grid for morons who have IMPORTANT places to go, and for what? And you, oh you sweet little cherry, meeting you ruined me the most.”

“Well, happy to have contributed to your ruin I guess. Look–”

“Some homeless guy on the 181, you know what he said to me the other day?”

“Why would you even listen to any goddamn person on the 181?”

“Why wouldn’t I? You get into all kindsa machines with complete strangers, bumping around, zoning on grinding gears, giving side-eyes, smelling each other and all, when suddenly somebody just has to start spouting off. It always happens. So I listen. Anyways, I was sitting next to this big ancient guy, no teeth, leaking sores all over just reeking like a zoo in August and he just turns his head and says in my ear, ‘You may always be known via hearsay on a brilliant, sunny day. I say.’ But he said it in a loud whispery way, like someone dying in a movie. Made me prickle all over.”

“Just like that? Guy was an optimist. Good for him, having a fine sense of self. You could take a lesson.”

“But it made me feel sick, the way he said it. Damn puzzle that. My gut hurt just sorting it out.”

“You’re a hot smoking pile of mess. Truly.”

“I’m just saying that’s what happened.”

“Well then what? So what the fuck do you think he was trying to say? This too, you are obviously dying to tell me.”

“Shit if I know, just seemed wise. Something about how we are not ever alone maybe? We’re rumors. Aliens probably. But you know, all those kindsa guys, drop dead shamanic. Dirty philosophers. A little bit of Jesus blood right there.”

“Stop being romantic, it never suited you.”

“Suited you just fine in bed. Crucified!”

“Shut up. This is all rather typical, way you’ve been acting, common as hell. You aren’t so special you know, working a crap job any slab can do, thinking you can write better than so-and-so, always waxing La-La land philosophical. You don’t learn a thing. You just jabber on in fragments and circles, thinking that makes you special. And you know what? People break up ALL THE FUCKING TIME okay. I mean, honestly who the fuck do–”

“I learned it by watching you! Shhh. Look what I got for us.”

“No thanks. I gotta go, this is done, I can’t–”

“Load up sweetheart, come on.”

“I’m not a sweetheart and I don’t feel like it. I got stuff going on today. I don’t even know why I came, knew it was too soon. You said we were going to sort out the bills and shit. I mean we are sitting at the edge of a fucking kid park looking really obvious and creepy. I don’t want to be those people who have to meet in public to work out their personal shit. I’m leaving.”

“No, please, sit down, have some, just a little for old time sake. It’s not much, just a bit of fun. Be irresponsible with me, baby. Help me live today. We won’t be able to do things like this when we have our children.”

“Get it god damn clear, we aren’t having children, or a future, or one last time or any of it. I’m trying to be civilized, but you are crazy making and I just–”

“So file a restraining order, do whatever you want. I know you. You say you want to go but you are always coming. Here honey, one more time. It will be nice, like we were.”

“Wow, you are absolutely something. Where did you get this? Doesn’t look right.”

“Same guy, same spot.”

“We just can’t be like this forever. Just this waste of bodies and hours, it isn’t right. This is wearing me down, I just want to cry all the time now, please stop this.”

“Oh you precious romantic you. Here, stop talking.”

“Fuck. Fuck.”’

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***

“In one dream, when they used to play in colors, even Mr. Bickle would not have me, that’s when I knew that nothing else was left. Shunned by the shunned. So I decided I should just squander away hours under party bulbs, staring off into wilderness until I am dead. I used to have aquamarine dreams, book dreams, pretend love dreams, all kinds of wonderful scenes, but now just gunmetal. Steely dreams. All abandoned architecture and hallways–no feelings.”

“Sounds dumb. Netflix ‘apocalyptic drama category’ much? Am I a Mr. Bickle then? Given the industry you are in, wouldn’t that make you him?”

“Yeah, you and me both, Bickles. That’s why we clicked. And why it won’t end. But you aren’t the only one, my only Bickle. I fall in love a dozen times a day. That is real. I’m in love with the world through the eyes of a girllll, who’s still around the morning afterrrr–”

“Are you trying to make me jealous, because I would have to want you in order to be jealous, and since I can’t stand you anymore, you can fuck off with it.”

“I want to feel all the Bickles breaths washing over me. What if my final farewell was a celebration, in some crowded smoky room. Maybe December. People coughing their mammal sickness everywhere and fucking like at some Beverly Hills bullshit holiday party. I just put that barrel to my-“

“Oh now it’s a gun. And maybe December? Way to commit. Okay listen, we need some real talk, no more of this ADD-ass-navel-gazing-writer-boy bullshit. It isn’t all about you. This needs to end. Really. Lets walk. Where are the bills? Did you bring the Honda paperwork? I need the vet receipts too, did you bring those?”

“Okay, but I am warning you. I can only go a few blocks before a frazzle-puss will enter my skull and bring a dull drool upon my fibers baby. Baby, is that okay?”

“Be serious! Stop puking words for once–Jesus Christ, did I ever tell you how my mother used to drag me to church, I mean physically forced me, and the only sermon that ever stuck was about how the Lord loves all of us with an extravagant love, so much that he even welcomes suicide victims with open arms, despite the threat of the old school’s Hell. Comforting. The congregation objected though. Insisted that to kill your own self was to turn against the Lord. To destroy the temple that was you, that was Him rather. Eventually, they kicked the preacher out. But that makes zero sense. I knew it even as a child. I think to die by one’s own hand is absolutely turning towards the Lord, begging for a god like a baby for tit. Logic prevails here. So don’t be afraid of it, there can be peace for you. If you can’t talk right with me, then go hang. The Lord wants you.”

“If I’m not mistaken, I rather think you want me dead. So much hate. Okay kitten, that’s fine but I gotta warn you- I have many birds to kill first.”

“I feel woozy. Birds, what birds?”

“Good. Good girl.”

“And that preacher, you know what he did?”

“Tell.”

“He hung himself right above the baptismal pool. No ladder or step, mystery how he managed it. When they found him, the only way to get him down was to cut the rope, body sunk like a stone. Born again.”

“Beautiful.”

“Oh man, this shit is kicking in. Why did I let you do this to me again? I’m confused. So wait, what birds? Birds to kill, what does that even mean? Like hunting? Would you even take down the Alpine Swifts?”

“Why not?”

“Because, they can fly for up to seven months without landing! Can you imagine? A woman can produce a viable human being in that amount of time! A mouse, several generations! Forget about flies!”

“How do we know all of this?”

“Microchips.”

“Everything is a microchip.”

“I feel really strange this time. I gotta go, can we please go? I mean the bills and shit… that was… when are we… you said it was just about… wait, what time is it? When will this be over? I don’t feel good–”

“Depends.”

“I’m scared again. Wait, okay, I know, can we please do this, I know it’s weird, that weird thing I used to do when the attacks came. Can we please just sing quietly? Like a prayer song, it’ll help me feel better. Oh god, my heart is exploding, ugh–”

“It suits the occasion darling, anything you want.”

“Okay, how about Dies Irae?”

“Desire? Oh yeah, I got that. Honey, do I got that.”

“No! Dies Irae means days of wrath in Latin. Stop making me sick!”

“Whatever you want. It’s your day baby.”

“Here is the nice part, this will help me now- Low I kneel, with heart submission, see, like ashes, my contrition; help me in my last condition–”

“Yeah honey, that’s real nice. You’re such a good little singer. Let me see, how about this version- Slow I deal… in stealth condition… see, my stashes… by permission; leave me fetal in position!”

“Fuck. You’re clever but useless. I feel so anxious. Chest feels wrong. Can we please leave now? Where’s your cab? Just take me somewhere else please. So many children here, we can’t be here. I need a dark room, quiet, where can we go?”

“Crystal blue persuasion, aqua skies, the land of breathing under water, seven-month dreams. We have so much of this so-called time now. May we always be known, like this, via hearsay on a brilliant sunny LA day. You love me. You really do love me. You can’t live without me or without all of this… hope?”

“This is done. I don’t want you!”

“You talkin’ to me?”

“This is the end!”

“It’s only begun.”

“Get me the fuck out of here. Now!”

“Lets walk.”

“No, the cab.”

“Okay darling, I’ll be your driver, like at the very start.”

“After this time, no more!”

“Evermore. Get in girl.”

“What are all these? Notes? All of these notes for me? I am so sick of your letters…”

“Aquamarine dreams.”

“Just drive, stop talking.”

“Not on your life.”

“What are you- what the hell- wait stop, no no no, please I need to tell–”

“By cab.”

“Please slow down, oh my god! By cab? Oh god, are you-! Stop! I’m pre–”

“Darling, lets get born again!”

“What the hell! Watch out! Stop! No! No! –”

BREAKING: FATAL TAXI CAB CRASH KILLS TWO. A PREMATURE “MIRACLE” BABY WAS RUSHED TO THE HOSPITAL AND REMAINS IN STABLE CONDITION AFTER BEING DISCOVERED NEXT TO HIS MOTHER’S SEVERED TORSO, STILL ATTACHED TO THE UMBILICAL CORD THAT WAS DANGEROUSLY LOOPED AROUND HIS NECK. TOXICOLOGY REPORTS CONFIRM THAT BOTH THE DRIVER AND MOTHER WERE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF NUMEROUS ILLICIT SUBSTANCES AT THE TIME OF DEATH. SEVEN SUICIDE NOTES WERE FOUND AT THE SCENE. NO CONFIRMATION ON THE PATERNITY OF THE INFANT HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED AT THIS TIME.

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*In loving memory (vaguely) of Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle and Elliott Smith as Elliott Smith and Ernest Hemingway forever.

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Caroll Sun Yang holds her BFA in Fine Art from Art Center College of Design and an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University. Her work appears in The Nervous Breakdown, New World Writing, LARB, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Entropy and Juked (forthcoming). She survives in Los Angeles.


Artwork courtesy of Chas Schroeder, 2010.

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