I hopped in the backseat of the cab. A protective shield acted as a barrier between myself and the driver. These weren't present in taxis roaming the streets of the city I currently live in. However, the city I currently live in does not have the level of crime that plagues my hometown. I felt disconnected, but it was just as well; cab drivers can be quiet or entirely too talkative.
The commute – my regular commute – from the airport to my childhood home would be 40 minutes long winding through industrial zones, past the latest crop of highly congested retail outlets, to a residential area replete with mature trees, manmade lakes and a rich French/Metis history. My parents chose a physically- and spiritually-lush place to raise me. Although returning now brought a flood of bittersweet memories.
The cab driver eventually did initiate conversation. This started out with the type of generic universal dialogue that strangers fill the air (and time) with, but eventually evolved into one of the most profound colloquies I've ever had.
The driver appeared to be roughly the same age as myself and shared much of the same goals, struggles and heartbreak that I was going through. As many in their 30s can relate to. The frank discussion covered life aspirations that seemed to be eternally out of grasp, and ended, upon pulling up in front of my mother's house, our final destination, on the topic of parental loss and the hardship of faking enough strength to emotionally carry remaining family from their own despair. My father died last summer after an unexpected and far too brief battle with esophageal cancer. My driver's father died five years ago from a sudden heart attack.
He was not present.
And did not get to say "goodbye".
All of his family reside in India.
As I exited the taxi cab, I gave my farewell to the driver and told him to phone his mother. He smiled warmly, then watched and waited as I left to greet my own.
All that weekend, I regretted sharing everything with this exceptional stranger but our names.