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The Mortal Journey
“You gettin’ out, buddy?” Joe asked, becoming impatient. Joe’s taxi was small and cramped, the sweet smell of cigars lingering in the upholstery. Duct tape covered the back of the bench seat and several springs were visible through the yellow foam stuffing.
“Yeah, gimme a minute, man,” Jason said, running his hands over his face and covering his nose to avoid the smell of Sweaty Cabdriver.
“Whatever. It’s your dime,” Joe said, letting the car idle. The engine rumbled and a steady rain pounded the roof.
The windshield wipers flung themselves back and forth, while Jason pondered his fate. He knew his parents were in there, probably watching Wheel of Fortune and eating microwave dinners in front of the television. Jason wasn’t ready to face them, though. The news had been too sudden and the doctor’s words still lingered in his mind. He was surprised he wasn’t more worried about it, though. Jason had never harbored a terrible fear of death, he just accepted it for what it was: unfortunate and inevitable. The only thing that terrified him, the only thing that hurt him deeply, was telling his parents. Their love had guided him, protected him throughout his life. But, now it was about to be cut short and there was nothing they could do to stop it.
The numbers on the cab toll clicked with every wasted moment he sat there, prolonging the truth. The sound reminded him of a clock, ticking away the moments of his life, forcing him to realize just how short it really was. Jason was in no hurry whatsoever to meet God, Allah, or any other higher power for that matter. But, he had been dealt a losing hand. Not necessarily a bad hand, though, for he regretted nothing, nor did he feel that his life had ever been useless. He had experienced many things in his twenty-six years: love, loss, and acceptance. Jason was ready to own up to his mistakes, however many there may be.
“Look, kid, I got places to be, alright?” Joe said, turning to look at Jason, “I need to get home or my wife is gonna string me up by my balls.”
“I have cancer,” Jason said, staring intently at the driver, “I have cancer and there isn’t anything anyone can do about it.”
Joe’s eyebrows rose and he dug around in his flannel shirt pocket. He pulled out a joint and stuck it between his lips.
“That’s some s***ty luck, kid,” he said, lighting the joint and taking a puff. Joe passed the joint to Jason, who took it calmly.
“You know something funny, though? I’m not scared. Not at all,” Jason said, smirking and passing the joint back.
“You know, kid, death isn’t the worst thing there is,” Joe said, “and if you don’t believe that, you’ve never spent an evening with my wife.”
Joe motioned towards a picture taped to the inside of his sun visor. A stern, graying woman stood, unsmiling. Her facial expression seemed dour, but Jason saw a twinkle in her sharp eyes. He’d seen his parents look at each other like that. The thought made him smile. They would still have each other.
Jason reached for his wallet, “No, don’t worry about it, kid,” Joe said, “this ride’s on me.”
“Thanks, man,” Jason said, passing Joe what was left of the joint.
He wiped his sweaty hands on his jeans, preparing for what was surely in store. Stepping into the downpour, the rain produced a blurry film on his glasses, making it hard to see Joe’s face.
“I’ll see you when I see you, kid,” Joe said, shaking Jason’s hand.
Joe smiled and walked blindly up the walkway. When he got to the door, he paused and turned to look back at the taxi, but it was gone.