Dina Toyoda

Copyright 2018 by Dina Toyoda

Photo of a San Francisco taxi.

"Ooh-hooh, leaving!" 

Stroke, stroke, 


The street was endless. It seemed like it's been hours since we boarded a Paratransit taxi in front of the hospital in San Francisco, where my mom, finally, heard her diagnosis.  

All along we suspected the worst, but it didn't stop me dragging her from one doctor to another. It took them months to come up with the verdict. 

 Afterwards, as we waited for our ride, a small group of would be passengers gathered at the curb.  Paratransit cost almost nothing, but it was a shared ride, and we'll have to wait for the driver to drop everyone off at different locations. When the taxi arrived, it was a smallish sedan, and all four of us had to fit in.  

A wizened, mean looking old lady, wielding a thick cane, pushed her way into a roomy front passenger seat. A tall lady in an African dress, my mother and I stuffed ourselves in the back. Cancer and the chemo didn't melt away most of mom's weight yet. She and I were of similar, "generous", proportions. The black lady wasn't skinny either. Even though I let her sit at the door and took the uncomfortable middle for myself, she kept squirming in pain and rhythmically stroking her knee. Mother, although in shock from the news, was throwing resentful looks at her and the old lady, and I knew, soon some very politically-incorrect pronouncements, reinforced by thick Russian accent, will make everyone even more uncomfortable! 

The driver was a huge Latino man, who dwarfed his seat and the taxi. 

We fought through the mid-day traffic jam to get onto the Bay Bridge, crawled amid other cars, desperate to get out of the City, and almost as soon as we were across the Bay, exited the freeway.  

That's when the song came on the radio. All of us were uncomfortable. The black lady kept trying to move away from my sweaty side, but there was nowhere to go. Stroke-stroke: her fingers knew no rest, touching the stubborn aching knee in a constant, pleading motion. My own legs were cramping from being twisted on the bump of the car's floor. 

"Mmmm, L.A. proved too much..." - I never paid attention to that song before, but now it was the only escape from my thoughts and our excruciating ride.  

A long boulevard stretched before us.  Speed bumps (bump-bump) crossed it every few yards, making the journey even more unbearable. But soon the music, the emotion and the rhythm of the song had us all in their grasp.  

 I saw my mom glancing at me in surprise and realized, I was saying the words out-loud. I could see the mean old lady's face in the side mirror. She sat with her eyes closed and soundlessly mouthed the words too. The black lady was silent, but the fingers on her knee accepted a new tempo, and her face relaxed.  

"Ooh-hooh..." - the fuzzy, pink rolls on our driver's neck quivered and sang too. Any other time I would've smiled, hearing this big man's tiny, soft falsetto coming from behind his bulk, but the doctor's voice was still fresh in my head: "She has about a year and a half to live with chemotherapy, or - about nine months - without it." He left the room after giving us the news, as mom and I clung to each other and cried. I've been telling her, people live with cancer for years. I guess, I was wrong!   

I wished myself numb, but the song had a different idea. 

"Leaving!.." "I'll be on that train!" Gladys and the Pips knew what they were doing! Other people's pain was easier to digest, and the promise of love in the story soothed us.                                         

"Ooh-hooh, aah-aah!.. I'd rather be in his world, than live without him in mine!" - What awaited us after we get out of this car was unthinkable. I now wished, the song and the boulevard would carry us forever. 

Stroke-stroke, bump-bump...We didn't feel resentment for the mean old lady anymore. Mom, the black lady and I mushed, dampened in our common sweat, and wrinkled together, as we swayed to the same melody.     

The driver put the old lady's hand through his arm and tenderly helped her to her door. She disappeared forever behind rampant rose bushes. I can't recall, if the black lady or we were next to be dropped off. I remember, how she smiled at us broadly, as we parted our ways. 

My name is Dina Toyoda. I live in California with my husband, while waiting for the kids to come home from college.  

I began to write only a few years back. I published Leaving in my blog and kept working on it since then. 

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