Recall if you will the cab driver whom I made that desperate phone call to at three in the morning in my story of I GET OUT OF THE CAB? His name is Antonio and I feel a sense of obligation to go for coffee with him. After all I did wake him up at 3 a.m. He’s an attractive man in his mid 40’s, unfortunately he’s not my type, but you never know!! He’s a friend of a friend, and I know him to be a kind and gentle man. I spend additional time on my hair & make-up, choose a fashionable outfit, and adopt my best “It’s an adventure” attitude. This first date falls short of the romantic scenario I’d imagined, however I’m determined to place a positive spin on the afternoon…. SERIOUSLY, how bad could it be?
Antonio picks me up in his cab. It’s infused with a trace of stale cigarette smoke laced with a hint of artificial pine… The cab is actually his car, but he refers to it as a limo because it’s a 13-year-old Mercedes. (I don’t understand this logic either, perhaps it’s an Italian thing) He explains that his son just called and has an emergency with his math homework, would I mind if we swing by his house for 5 minutes? I acquiesce … he drives with his lit cigarette hanging out of the window as a “courtesy” to me.
Heads up to all you car-smokers out there. When you hold your cigarette, and/or blow smoke out of the window, this results in a vortex of Arctic air & smoke flowing into the back seat, it twirls around for a mile-second, eventually finding its way to your non-smoking passenger. VIOLA… an unhappy frozen passenger suffering from second hand smoke…
After climbing three flights of stairs and a “brief” tour of his attic apartment, (I’ll share design details in a minute), we sit in the combined living/kitchen/storage room while he counsels his son in grade 4 math. This chain-smoker’s idea of not offending me is to blow the smoke in the other direction. I perch precariously on a stool in this garble of rooms at a wobbly table that has one leg 2″ shorter than the rest. My illusions of a successful first date disappear into the trail of smoke flowing from his chain-lit cigarette to the nicotine-stained ceiling above. Antonio patiently tutors his young son who continually looks over at me grinning, as if I’m about to become his new Mommy. Even the most minuscule of movements causes the table to rock. Neither father nor son are fazed by this repetitive and irritating phenomenon. I have to literally sit on my hands to prevent myself from stuffing my purse under the asymmetrical leg. (I’ve officially entered the Twilight Zone)
While juggling the math lesson, preparing coffee, washing stained coffee cups, and checking on his mother who resides one floor below, Antonio shares with me his life story to date. It goes something like this: his ex-wife lives on the main floor as they can’t afford a divorce. His Mamma who lives on the third floor has advanced Alzheimer’s disease. She has lost the ability to care for herself, she’s incontinent, has fits of insomnia, roams her apartment, escapes periodically, requires supervision, and at this moment is “locked up” in her apartment. In addition, the combination of Italy’s sagging economy, and the chilly winter months mean he has no work, or income. (Could this be the reason that the coffee date is in his apartment?) As an added bonus, he lives in a make-shift apartment in the attic, and I mean the attic, of this 3 story walk-up. It has no windows, other than one 2’x2′ opening in the roof, no insulation, a stained sofa missing its legs, and a sloping ceiling requiring an innovative early cave man style of walking.
As he drives me home he confides that he is currently depressed, but the one shining light in his life is that he ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, finds a parking spot.
I promptly erase his number from my phone…