100 Refutations: Animals

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The taxi driver eases slowly into the roundabout—though he knows better, though the sign clearly states otherwise, though, already, there is a car caught in the orbit of a circular street in Quito, Ecuador.

Not too much, just enough, the yellow hood of a taxi like a curious snout turning stones, testing doors—just a bit. Because a fare is a fare is a fare. And it’s what you do, and there isn’t much else to do. No harm in trying.

What the taxi driver does not know, however, is that the woman driving the silver Peugeot never yields, never gives—not an inch, not ever. So, “Imbécil,” she mutters under her breath. Though it is likely louder than that. Perhaps she doesn’t mutter it at all, or else it escalates very quickly, insults bursting from her throat in torrents of foam and fury. “You stupid man!” As she lowers her window, “You dumb son of a fucking whore, learn to fucking drive!”

It’s hard to tell, in the wind gust of counter-clockwise traffic, which words land and which are swept away. It doesn’t matter, though. The driver of the European-made car has made her point and she’s already over it. She’s a pale, tall, busy woman from a much higher social class, and she does not need to give the matter or this man a second more of her time. So instead she pulls up in front of a building and drops off her passenger. “Stupid man,” she may utter one more time, reflex and a need to fill the silence, “Gran güeva.” And that’s the end of it for her. Her colleague pulls his suitcase out of the trunk and she checks her phone, her eyeliner in the mirror, and maybe that’s why she doesn’t notice the taxi driver pulling up and parking right in front of her car.

“I swear.” She’ll sometimes say shaking her head and rolling her eyes, “Every single one them. Dumb animals.”

Her colleague, however, does notice. “It was hard to miss.” Yellow car, blinking lights, and a man emerging from the driver’s side. “He was dark skinned,” he’ll say later, “Not indigena-indigena, like so many in Ecuador properly are. But darker skin. More like…most of us.”

Mestizo, then.” I say. “Mixed.”

“Yeah, yeah, that’s it.” He replies, “Short, not fat…thin, even. Then he got out of the taxi and walked right up to her car.”

The shortest distance between two people balancing on the razor edge of histories and heuristics is not a straight line. It is a labyrinthine tangle of barbed ivy and poison postcolonial politeness. So, though the taxi driver may seem to cross an easy distance, he is actually traversing a thicket in spiral strides.

And yet, there he is. A taxi driver in a worn linen shirt walking toward a pale woman with a heavy ring on every finger.

“I was a bit worried,” the woman’s colleague says later, “Didn’t know what he was going to do, you know?”

And I nod, remembering how, at an intersection, I once saw a man get out of his vehicle and bang his fists on the driver’s side window of the car closest to the crossing. “Open up,” I remember him yelling, “Open the fuck up!” Before walking back to his car, reaching under his seat, and pulling out a butcher knife.

“He could have done anything,” he repeats, because a fare is a fare is a fare, and this is what you do, nothing else to do, and no one gets this worked up. “No one ever pulls over.” No one tries to walk a straight line that does not exist. “And the driver, I knew he didn’t know what she was like.” That she does not yield, not an inch, not ever. So her colleague stays close, “Just in case,” and watches her get out of her car as well—fearless, fearsome, and entitled as she arches her back like a catapult and begins hurling insults at him as though there is anything at stake for her in this fight. As though there is vitriol bubbling in her belly, boiling invectives in her throat that she pours like hot tar around her castle walls. Worthless man, idiot, moron. Good for nothing, son of a whore.

But the taxi driver does not move, does not reach into his pocket or beneath a seat. He does not clench his jaw, nor his fists. Instead he watches her yell at him, he takes in every insult, and he waits for his turn. Sticks and stones and a pale woman with a tongue soaked in tar, fire, and privilege. “Malparido, hijueputa, animal!” And then an opening—she draws breath, the silence of catapults being loaded—so he takes his chance. “Miss,” he says to her, “Forgive me.” Softly, calmly, “You may be better than me, you may be right about the roundabout, and as far as you know you may even be right about my mother. And yet,” a crown of ivy atop his head and shattered scythes beneath this feet, “you still have no right to say those things about her.”

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.

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To help more directly, please visit:

Hispanic Federation: http://hispanicfederation.org

Hope for Haiti: https://hopeforhaiti.com

Salvadoran American Humanitarian Foundation: https://www.sahf.org

Bios

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.

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Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V. (100 Refutations translator and editor) earned MFAs in creative nonfiction writing and literary translation from The University of Iowa. She is the author of Drown Sever Sing from Anomalous Press and Don’t Come Back from Mad River Books, as well as editor, with Sarah Viren, of the forthcoming anthology Essaying the Americas. Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and translation work has been featured in journals including Bellingham ReviewChicago ReviewFourth GenreBrevityPoets & Writers, and The Sunday Rumpus, among others. She won Best of the Net and Iron Horse Review’s Discovered Voices Award, has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and is a Rona Jaffe fellow. She moved from Colombia to China to Columbus, Ohio to Richmond, Virginia, where she works as an assistant professor for Virginia Commonwealth University. Visit www.linawritesessays.com. ******************************************************************** Amanda Dambrink (100 Refutations co-editor) works as an editor for the University of Wisconsin's Continuing Education, Outreach & E-Learning program in Madison, Wisconsin. She also holds an MA in creative nonfiction from Ohio University, and her previous work has appeared in Prairie Margins and The Normal School, among others.

Copyright (c) Lina M. Ferreira C.-V., 2018.