D is for Driver is wrapping up today’s catch up marathon because I’m pretty sure that I don’t have anything left inside of me after this last one, which is called “Found Family.” I apologize because it’s long but the story started taking on a life of its own, and I let it. For those of you who followed my blog back in the olden days, this might be more like something your used to. Thanks for your indulgence.
Tonight’s the last time I’m driving people around for money. The job and me doing it are ironic. I hate driving, especially in the city where going around the block can put you on a one way street that takes you miles away from your destination.
It’s been quiet except for the guy who hit on me, the couple who fought because he was flirting with the waitress, and the last man with shifty eyes who ran to the car and promptly growled: “Drive like you’re trying to lose someone,” which alone made me nervous enough without him continuously glancing out the back window.
Now I’m at The Pizza Place waiting for Marco. A guy approaches with one of those pizza warmer bags. As he slides in, the car immediately fills with the aroma of cheese, pepperoni, and onions, reminding me that I haven’t eaten in seven hours.
“Do I get a percentage of the tip?” I ask, joking.
His cell rings. “No, ma, I’m going to be late. No. Yes. I know you have to get to Aunt Estelle’s. I told you that dude totaled my car. I’m in a freaking Lyft . . . .” He pauses, glances at me, “No offense,” he says meeting my eyes in the rearview.
“After I deliver these pizzas, I’m gonna see if I can borrow Tommy’s car for the rest of the shift. Yep, then I’ll take you to Aunt Estelle’s.”
When he hangs up, I do something I don’t normally do, admit that I was eavesdropping. “Tough night?”
“You don’t know the half of it. My cousin Vinny, no joking, he’s really my cousin Vinny had one of his guys hit-and-run my car—”
“Are you like mafia?”
“Do I look like mafia? My family runs The Pizza Place. Vinny is pissed cause we’re taking away business.”
“Let me guess. He owns My Cousin Vinny’s over on Sixth.”
Marco nods. “Asshole,” he murmurs, then glances up quickly. “Not you.”
We arrive at the address. Marco asks me to wait for him as he delivers the pizzas. I tap my fingers on the steering wheel to the beat of “When the Levee Breaks,” remembering the time when I used to hate Led Zeppelin. There’s no time to hate anything anymore.
I like the look of Marco, the insouciant way he walks, the way he nods at me when he returns to the car and sits in the front rather than the back although his knees are suddenly banging on his chin because I always have that seat pulled up as far as it can go to give backseat passengers room. He shakes his head at his own absurdity before sliding the seat back.
He tells me he’ll put it the way it was when we get back to the restaurant.
“No bother,” I tell him. I pause and then glance at him. “You can use my car for your deliveries if you’ll drop me off at my place.”
“What? You don’t know me.”
“I don’t know anyone,” I say without knowing why I am saying it. And then I do as the next words slip out of my mouth. “And maybe you could use it to drive me to the hospital tomorrow morning?”
He jerks his gaze to meet mine. He doesn’t say anything as his dark eyes scan my face. “You sick or something?”
I nod. “I am indeed sick or something. Look, I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking—”
“Yeah, sure,” he says. “I’ll take you. As my old man used to say, anyone who listens to Zeppelin. Look, I don’t mean to pry, but do you have anyone?”
“Anyone? You mean family?”
“Yeah or friends, lovers?”
I could tell him that I have family who disowned me six years ago when I fell in love with a Black musician. That when I called three weeks ago to tell them about tomorrow that, while my mother was crying and promising to be here for me, my father ended the call with the words: you don’t exist to us. That the Black musician hit the big time and left me last year because I didn’t fit his image. That my best friend thought I was flirting with her fiancé, ending our friendship with, “I can’t trust you,” although I’d given her no reason not to but maybe her fiancé had, although I didn’t add that. That relationships are, frankly, hell. But I don’t say any of that, just shake my head, knowing I’m pathetic.
“Look, maybe you shouldn’t be alone tonight,” he says.
I roll my eyes. Maybe I misjudged old Marco here.
“No, nothing like that. You’re beautiful but, look,” he says. “It’s just that my ma would disown me if I ever let someone in need—”
“I’m not a charity case. I’m good. I’m your driver.”
He grins. “Yeah. I’m the one in need. Definitely. I’m just saying, my ma would welcome you to stay with us tonight.”
“You live at home?”
“Are you judging me?”
Now I grin. “No.”
“My apartment’s being fumigated,” he mumbles.
“What about Aunt Estelle?”
“I thought your mom—”
“My ma is taking her their lottery winnings and then coming home. They won $300 dollars. They’ll probably spend it on more lottery tickets or something to do with their hair.”
I pull into the parking lot of The Pizza Place and watch as a fine drizzle coats the windshield.
“So, what do you say?” he asks as he opens his door and a sudden coolness wraps around me.
“Am I crazy to say yes?”
“I think you’d be crazy to say no.”
“Okay. If it’s not an imposition.”
He nods his head toward the restaurant. “Come on inside where it’s warm and I’ll call ma.”
It’s stupid. It’s crazy. Maybe I’m needy, but I turn off the ignition, follow him into the warmth of The Pizza Place where his father takes one glance at me and says: “You look like a woman who needs one of my famous meatball subs.”
For the twenty minutes that I sit at a comfortable corner booth while Dean Martin sings “That’s Amore” and eat the best meatball sub I’ve ever had, I’m introduced to family at its finest. Brothers, cousins, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandmother. Suddenly, even his mother is there, embracing me.
“You look like an angel,” she says, and then, as if realizing that it could have other connotations, shakes her head. “But you’re not going to them tomorrow. You’re with me.”
Over her head, Marco grins at me.
On a night that began with me never having felt more alone in my entire life, I find light and laughter and happiness, and more importantly, hope, which I had thought was gone.
Marco’s ma grips my hand. “My grandmother always told me that family may not be blood but the people who fit. She said it better than me and in Italian. You fit, dear girl, you fit.”
Warmth fills me. Finally, I fit.