The Taxi

It’s the oldest story in the world: two high-school teenagers start out as friends, best friends before finally falling for each other and becoming strangers again. But we’re not going to get to that last part.

It was prom night and the boy had dreamt of asking the girl out as his date; dreamt of having that first dance with her; dreamt of that first kiss with her on the shores of the ocean where the after party was set; dreamt of sharing a ride back with her and calling her his girlfriend by the end of the night.

But things rarely come as scripted as this – especially if you’re a shy boy from a small town in the suburbs of Beirut. The only thing that came true for him was the final part of the plan: sharing a ride back home with the girl of his dreams.

She was the girl of his dreams – and he was certain of this since he’d already seen her many times in his dreams. These weren’t brief encounters where her face would suddenly appear to him; they were full-fledged reveries centered on her character.

But returning from the after party that prom night was anything but a dream. They were both drunk – but even that couldn’t stop him from admiring her long hair flowing all over her shoulders and thinking about caressing it. Back in the taxi that night he tried to sober up and gather what little courage he had to ask her out – after all, it was to be the last night they shared together as high school friends and the door of possibilities was wide open and looming for them to grab by the handle and explore.

Holding on to her wouldn’t be as easy anymore since the amount of time he’d see her or spend in her company would be significantly reduced now that they were no longer bound by the school calendar.

So back in that taxi sharing the backseat with nothing but a little plush heart hanging from the ceiling to separate them, they started talking about their future hopes and dreams and the ambitions they harbored and wanted to achieve after school. She wanted to use her education as a springboard for a more serious degree – a degree in communications engineering always looked nice on any Lebanese résumé and any Lebanese lips – and she hoped to take the big schools in France by storm while touring Europe.

He had a more candid view of the world – a naïve vision that pushed him towards chasing his most burning desires wildly and passionately. He wanted to become a writer (language was the only thing that’s been kind to him over the years) and write great stories about beautiful women and miserable men and perhaps even one day a great book that people would read.

So their paths seemed conflicting from the get-go and the only meeting point for them was here and now: at a very late hour inside a taxi driving them back home.

The boy observed the little wobbling heart-shaped plush swaying left and right between him and the girl he loved. It was his heart; his one-and-only source of life. His heart swaying between him and her, caught between the devastation of revealing the truth of his emotion and the aberration of preserving that slumbering love.

As they neared the girl’s house, the boy felt his clock ticking. Time was suddenly unwinding, and the flashbacks of an entire school year – recesses and afternoons spent in the library studying each other’s movements and waiting for that decisive premier pas to be made.

He thought about those things, how those were the important things in life, the things worth looking back on, the things worth retaining after one of the good chapters was finally closed.

The boy suddenly felt the girl’s hand grabbing his own and gently caressing it. ‘You’re a good friend,’ she said.

‘Yeah,’ he told her. ‘A friend.’

‘I wouldn’t have made it without you this year. Everything we’ve been through…I don’t know what I would’ve done if you weren’t there.’

Hearing those words coming out of her mouth – sometimes all it took was the sound of the spoken truth to recognize it. Those words were always there in his mind, right from the start. They were etched in his soul like an undying certainty that controlled his behavior and helped him keep his emotions towards this girl in check. They initiated the sacrifice; the sacrifice of love for friendship, of romance for brotherhood and intimacy for trust.

He held her hand firmly and looked into her eyes. ‘And I would’ve done it all over again if I had to.’

Situations dictate the state of things. Some things seem less important at times and more crucial at others. Love, for instance, that eternal answer to man’s darkest conundrums, was at times able to belittle itself and make room for friendship. And on the night when he was promised to fulfill his own heart’s desires, the boy gained a lot more by letting go of love in favor of a lasting friendship. He learned that not all roads follow the same path, and not all of them are made of stone. Some are softer but slippery. Others are harder and more arduous. And some are just narrow fillings that lead you to your destination much faster than the others if you know when to take them – and tonight, he had taken that narrow road that led him out of that chapter, out of that page, out of that book.

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