By Ana Paula Ponce
She let go of her son's hand to raise her arm towards the street, waving it to draw the attention of the small, yellow car a couple of roads behind.
Laura was about to turn left, towards the busiest part of the city, to hopefully find her first clients of the day. Until she heard a distant "taxi!" and saw a tall, chirpy woman with a little kid calling for her; her blonde hair kept in a scruffy braid that let many strands be carried by the wind.
Relieved, Laura rushed to meet her. Finally, she thought, as she stopped the car in front of the woman. "Buenas, señora ¿a dónde la llevo?" she asked her, with a smile.
Mary was proud to understand her, despite her limited skills in Spanish, and tried to remember how the place she wanted to visit was pronounced, but she could hardly focus while her son was tugging at her, trying to get inside the cab. "A... playa Cristal" she said with a heavy accent, one that Laura was very used to hearing from her passengers.
Laura nodded and opened the back door of her taxi. Going to playa Cristal. Again. She might as well hadn't asked where the woman was going, as every single tourist only wanted to go there. "Ocho dólares", she said, and Mary started hastily looking in her purse for a ten-dollar bill before handing it over, with a courteous smile. Laura accepted it, and decided to keep the two extra dollars the woman gave her by mistake, she thought she deserved them.
"Mom, are we near the beach now?" the kid asked Mary only minutes after sitting down, but she didnt know what to answer him. Laura, however, knew they were still very far away. But she didn't say anything, it was better for her to pretend she couldn't understand. Then, she wouldn't have to start —that— conversation; the one were the passenger asks "how do you speak english so well?" and she'd have to come up with an excuse that wouldn't draw any more questions. A lie to make herself feel a little less unacomplished and bitter.
Laura had started driving her father's old, battered taxi only three months ago, but she was sick of it already. It made her think of her father way more than she wanted to; it made her miss him even more every day. The worst part is that she didn't think about the happy memories. She could only remember all the promises she made him, before she left to start university in the United States; she remembered how proud he was, how certain he was that his daughter would have a better future than him. Sometimes, she was glad that he couldn't see her now, driving the same taxi he did, with thousands of dollars in debt and unable to find a job.
"Mom, look! There's a dog!" Mary looked out the window and saw a family outside of a small, cane house. Four scrawny kids ran near the dirt road while their mother watched; they were playing around with a little black dog and laughing so loud that Mary could hear them even inside the car. "How lovely, Johnny" she told her son, with just a little bit of envy. "They seem so happy and carefree, imagine living like that. Must be nice. Well, I don't think we'd ever get used to the heat though, would we?" she laughed softly, while caressing her child's hair. "But look at them, they are so happy with so little".
They are not, Laura thought. We are not. We wish we had so much more, but we know it's better not to get our hopes up. Very few of us ever leave, anyways. She once thought she could make it out, though. But that was years ago, when she got her student loan. It was her greatest dream, and she got it. But it was under one condition, that once she graduated from college, she'd have to go back to her country and work to pay off the money that the government had lent her. That's just how things worked, she assured herself, and she was sure she could make it in the end. After graduating, she thought the worst part was over, but it hadn't even started. She had needed impeccable grades, and admirable determination, but it still wasn't enough to land a job. Desperate, she had needed to work in her dad's old taxi to make ends meet. He had passed away while she was away, and that motivated her to work even harder to make him proud. It pained her to know she had failed him. He must be so disappointed, she thought, while the car slowly steered away from the main road.
"Excuse me, are you ok?" Mary asked the taxi driver, even though she knew she wouldn't understand her. But that seemed to get her driver's attention, and she quickly made the car continue in the right direction. "I'm fine don't worry" she responded, although she still seemed a bit lost in her own thoughts. Mary was surprised to hear her speak in English so naturally and out of nowhere, but she didn't say anything.