Her husband has just died, Ahmed can sense these things.
She wouldn’t be this upset had her beloved merely had a minor heart attack or gone through an operation. There would still be tears, but she would have stopped shedding them before stepping into his cab. She would have been able to compose herself enough to say her address clearly. She wouldn’t be holding a hospital issued plastic bag full of his belongings.
When Ahmed first came to his adopted homeland, he knew it would be awhile before he could get his papers, allowing him to do what he had done for years back in his country of birth. That meant taking whatever job he could find in the meantime. In his case, driving a cab.
When he first started driving, he thought that picking up drunks from the bars would be the worst part about his job. But at least some of those people are happy when they stumble into his cab. No one is ever truly happy when they leave the hospital. New parents are anxious, the recently discharged still face a period of in-home recuperation, and those with broken bones are understandably cranky. Those with shattered hearts, though, are the hardest fares.
She doesn’t seem that old, this new widow. Ahmed would guess early to mid-sixties. Old enough to fully understand that each day is precious, but still young enough to fool herself into thinking that they still had plenty of time left…to take that trip they were too busy to take during their working years, to spoil the grandkids in ways they couldn’t afford to spoil their children, or to just sit and enjoy a cup of tea together. Now there are phone calls to make, arrangements to take care of, and who knows how many years of try to make it on her own.
Ahmed wishes he could say, “I know. I know what it is like to lose someone, to feel as though you will never smile again, and to believe that life is often cruel and unfair to the good.” But as adept as he is at assessing a person’s situation, he’s still unsure of whether or not such comments would be seen as intrusive or as a much needed salve.
“Do you need help with your things, ma’am?” he asks as he pulls into her driveway.
“No, thank you. I’m fine,” she says through her tears.
Ahmed knows that she’s not fine and that she won’t be for awhile. A call has just come in from dispatch, though. Three people need to be picked up from a bar across town. Three people who have no idea that someone in their own city has just had their world torn apart.