Two Conversations by Jessica Slote
Two conversations, Friday, Dec. 12, late afternoon, dusk 1. Haitian cab driver, young man, beautiful
How are ya, thanks! This is terrific. Beautiful night…, where you from?
…I have two Haitian girls in my class—deux jeunes filles jolies, intelligentes, and ….how you say? funny!
Marant! Elles sont marant! …Been here since he was thirteen. Did some French school in Haiti. But here in New York he doesn’t speak much French. “I lost my culture.” Going to school again now. What are you studying? Oh he’s not studying in a school, just at the library. He goes there every day. Reads. So what do you study? Wanted to do criminal justice did two years in a school…. But realized there might be any jobs. Not jobs in courts, no jobs in police. Driving a cab now and studying on his own, not sure what, wants to learn something with his hands. He figures there’s always work for people who work with their hands. Tomorrow there’s a big march you know. Be terrible traffic. ? Millions March….. to protest the killing of black men by the cops…. He saw another march the other day, the traffic was stopped up and he got out of his car to see what was going on, he asked some people what was it about He doesn’t talk about that sort of thing with people…. you know I tell him I understand, he’s in the service industry Just yes sir, no sir….. I get it, that’s your business…. you make a living…. … So as we turn down 23rd st. at 8th Avenue he says, I gotta tell you a story. A friend of mine, my best friend, he drives a cab too and he was returning the taxi late one night to the lot in Brooklyn. There are so many taxis and so many cars of people who live there that often you have to park the cab far away, 10-15 blocks away. He parked the car and then he was walking to the lot. Two police cars pulled up one in front one behind they jumped out and one pulled out a gun. My friend he said, whoa like this he puts his hands up and the cops tell him to get up against the car. They ask him where he’s coming from and where he’s going and he says he parked his cab and he’s walking to the lot what is it what did I do? and they tell him that a store was just robbed in the neighborhood, they’re looking for a young black guy your age wearing jeans and dark coat. My friend he says something, whoa no that’s not me or something like that and they…. beat him. They beat him and they arrested him. They said he was resisting arrest. He was in jail for 6 weeks. At Rikers. I went there to visit him. Ohhhhhh that is terrible terrible place…. I was scared. They fined him fifteen hundred dollars. He had to pay. And they tried to take his license away, but the cab company didn’t do it. ….. OMG …. We pull up in front of the London Terrace Gardens. Thank God your friend is okay in the end thank God they didn’t take his license. He thanks me and says it was nice talking to you.
2. In the London Terrace Gardens visiting with Elsie and Teresa. We are drinking whiskey. Teresa tells the story of her son. Teresa: My oldest son he came here at 21 spoke no English nothing but he learn very fast and he study he went right into college today he is doctor, he is 40! But my younger son he was 12 when he came here. He real American guy. He study two years in the university but he didn’t want to do no more, so he decide he want to be a police. He want to help people protect them from bad guys. Now he a police! But Jessie, do you know anyone in police? My son he asked me, Mom I gotta get out of there. He work in housing project in Brooklyn. He only white face in whole place. All people hate him. He say he can see hate in their faces. He say everyone police get transferred out. But you got to know someone. He scared. I scared too. What he gonna do?
Text and photos: Jessica Slote, NYC, Dec. 12. 2014