I GET OUT OF THE CAB (part 1)
It’s a rainy day in Florence. I stroll through town enveloped in the sanctuary of my chivalrous umbrella, serenaded by the muted sounds of rain tapping the umbrella’s taut grey fabric. I’m struck by nature’s tenacity as the droplets join together transforming themselves into tiny streams that cascade onto to the cobbled streets below.
Yesterday, I happened upon the perfect pair of boots at my favourite leather boutique here in Florence. Like many women, the maiden voyage of new footwear rates right up there with splitting the atom and world peace. My fabulous new boots protect and adorn my feet with their heavy heels and stylish design.
Leaving the restaurant we are greeted by a clear evening sky revealing the luminous silver rays of a winter moon. The temperature is pleasant for early February. We stroll the charming streets of Florence packed with tourist and locals celebrating Carnival in Italy. A flawless day filled with laughter, mouth-watering food and fine Tuscan wine. (Have you noticed a pattern regarding food & wine in my stories??)
It’s now 2:30 a.m. Kirsten has made me promise to call her the minute I step foot in the door. I see the worry in her eyes and tease her for this amusing role reversal-HER worrying about ME. As I sit peacefully in the backseat of the cab, exhaustion engulfs my body. I close my eyes and imagine myself snuggled under the covers, a hot water bottle soothing my bone-tired feet. After several minutes I realized the cabbie has diverted from the most direct route home and is taking me for a ride, literally. The ten euro fare has climbed to a whopping twenty, and what should be a six minute cab ride has turned into twelve. I’m annoyed at his unprofessional behaviour and the minute I recognize a familiar landmark I ask him to pull over. I’ve walked this road over fifty times in the past several weeks, often in the dark. The cabbie turns to collect his fare with a smug look on his face. Scowling, I reluctantly hand him the twenty euros he has clearly not earned. Even if he won this battle, I feel gratification knowing he won’t see the extra ten euros he expected to make from me tonight. I ceremoniously slide out of the back seat and glare at him as I slam the door with a self-satisfied HAH !!!
I get out of the cab…
I spin around on the heels of my new boots having decided, even though I’m tired, I will embrace the uncomplicated walk home. To my shock I realize this is not the friendly side street I’ve grown accustomed to walking, this is not my neighbourhood at all.
As I stand there confused trying to decipher where I am, I see movement out of the corner of my eye…I’m not alone. Two women are standing near the curb their icy stares fixed on my unexpected arrival. They are dressed like call-girls and not the high-priced kind. The wall behind them is littered with menacing graffiti, and a man sits motionlessly in a chair, the brim of his hat covering his face. I remove the astonished look from my face, and strike out in the direction of “anywhere but here“. My boots and heart beat drowning out their mocking laughter behind me. In the distance an overpass looms silently against the ashen sky. My intuition tells me I need to be on the other side of the tracks. Anxiety coupled with determination keeps me moving at an astounding pace.
In the hospitable light of day, I’ve marvelled at the beauty of the narrow passages that line Florence’s architectural buildings. Rustic doors nestled in welcoming entrances beckon at every turn. Tonight however, like many cities, Florence removes her make-up after dark revealing a cold and harsh exterior. My eyes strain for a familiar landmark in these dimly lit streets. My boots cutting the silence as they strike the uneven stones, making me a target in the deserted streets. An unspoken question resonating as I walk…was it just ten euros that made me decided to get out of the cab?
It’s now after three in the morning and I’m lost in an unfamiliar city. To my astonishment I’ve been walking for over thirty minutes. Any confidence that my situation would resolve itself has been replaced by panic. I grip my umbrella like a weapon in one hand, in the other I hold my phone prepared to call for help. But who do I know that will answer at this hour? I have a total of three numbers in my directory. I don’t even have a number for the police.
I turn the corner and to my delight a familiar sight, Devon & Devon, the shop I’d happened upon on my walk this past Sunday. A bathroom design store filled with elegant European faucets and designer tubs now feels like a familiar face you see on the street. I hide in the entrance alcove with my back pressed tightly against the glass door trying to disappear into the shadows. Five days ago I stood in this very spot knowing I would return, delighted to have stumbled upon such an interesting store. This is not how I imagined my second visit would feel.
Standing in the alcove, I allow myself a moment of calm. An amusing thought enters my mind, ‘My girls will kill me when they find out about this’. A weak smile crosses my lips, then the intensity of my circumstances jolts me back to reality. I made a foolish decision that would alter my children’s lives if something happens to me tonight and for what...ten euros??
WHY did I get out of the cab?