The night was warm and toned down the city, getting it ready to close up the weekend. The late Sunday calm had taken over even the lively garden. The two girls were waiting in the street, at the exit, looking for a free cab. Because they hadn’t seen each other for ages, they took their time. It was the anniversary of the younger of them, Tina, who had left the rest of the guests at the table to see off her friend. Luana was quite the rara avis, they didn’t hang out in the same spots, so she enjoyed seeing her and sharing the kind of secrets girls share when they get together. The ten years age difference between them had never been noticeable. Listening to Tina’s confession, Luana was looking down the street. A pleasant breeze fluttered her short summer dress, slightly uncovering her thighs. She had gotten dressed in a hurry for going out that evening and somehow managed to create a look more feminine than usual. The sinuous hair and low heel, blue stones decorated sandals added up to her aerial impression. Finally, a free taxi stopped on the other side of the street. Luana started to cross the street towards it, but a speeding car was approaching, so she stood there and waved the driver to come near. Saying goodbye to Tina, she slowly got into the yellow car. The conversation with the driver began with a hurdle; when given the address, he commented grumpy that he didn’t understand why he had to turn the car around. Luana apologized gracefully, explaining that it was her first time at that bar and as she was not a driver herself, she had not realized… Surprised by her quiet way of reacting, the man behind the wheel discretely checked her up in the mirror. The sophisticated eye shadow, carefully chosen words and the soft perfume invading its car made him rethink his client’s age, initially estimated as much younger.
– Do you mind if I smoke? he asked cautiously.
– Not at all, said Luana, I also smoke.
– Would you like a cigarette? Please…
– No, thanks, I smoked at the bar.
– Well, then you have missed the experience of smoking with a taxi driver.
– Well, I have certain habits regarding smoking. I mean I need a drink to go with that.
– I do too, smiled the man, holding up a paper cup. It would be nice to have an automatic coffee machine for the taxi ride. Or better yet, he added, would go a Martini.
– You’ve got me here, said Luana, starting to laugh loudly, with her strong, out of the chest laughter, usually reserved for the times life pleasantly surprised her.
The man, let’s call him Adrian, looked around instinctively, they were passing by Horoscope restaurant.
– Where to find a Martini now? he muttered thoughtfully.
Luana laughed again:
– Well, the taxi ride is to and from the Martini drink. Otherwise, what would be the point?
– That’s right, agreed Adrian with a sigh. He looked in the mirror again at the young woman, seeking for the hidden treasures in her eyes and words. Even the city seemed to eavesdrop. He decided suddenly:
– You smell extraordinary, miss!
– Thanks, she smiled, instantly realizing that no one noticed her perfume earlier, at the dinner table. Tonight it’s Eternity by Calvin Klein.
– Why are you thanking me? asked Adrian puzzled.
– For noticing, said Luana, with a smile, looking at him from one side. He was a middle-aged, gray-haired man. His classic beard, cut short and neat, suited him perfectly. Miles away from the beard invasion nowadays, worn over zealously everywhere due to a too far taken fashion trend.
You could see the Intercontinental Hotel ahead. Adrian began, in his professional tone of voice:
– If we take Caderea Bastiliei street and then cut Iancu de Hunedoara boulevard…
– No, Luana interrupted, I’d rather follow the central axis. I enjoy seeing the city by night.
– Well, if you like the ride, Adrian said, we could go all the way to Brasov. Call a friend and we’ll go! Or I can call one, he offered spontaneously.
Luana laughed. That laughter again. But said nothing. A car suddenly appeared from the right, dangerously close. Avoiding an almost imminent collision, Adrian soothed her:
– I really like to drive, Miss. And when I have a nice company… then I like it even more. It rarely happens, though…
– I think you must have nerves of steel. And a special sense of humor, said Luana suavely.
– And diplomacy, especially diplomacy, Adrian added. You cannot imagine the kind of people I have to deal with.
Victoriei Square was spreading its wings in front of them, ready to take them in. The car was running noisily. It was a wreck. When she had gotten in, Luana had a bit of trouble trying to close the overly stuck door. She kept on listening to Adrian…
– Sometimes I feel sorry for you, the customers, having to deal with some of my colleagues.
– Well, I’m really lucky. I’ve never had a bad incident with a taxi driver.
They were passing the Aviators Square. The boulevard with the same name stretched before them, announcing the final part of the way home. Adrian was fully aware of this, so he decided to at least try the unexplored potential of the night:
– You know, when I said we could go to Brasov, I wasn’t kidding. If you want, we may stop the timer right now and just go.
For the fourth time, Luana laughed. Loudly and throaty, as very few had the privilege of hearing her. But this time, she didn’t keep silent. Easy and well-balanced, using the same gentleness she had been invited with, she spoke:
– No, unfortunately the ride lasts only for two-three minutes more. Then the Sunday evening takes charge and the autopilot is turned on. She liked this man who, in the position of a service provider, in a rattletrap car far from favoring him, had somehow been able to use the available 15-20 minutes to explore her world just enough to make an invitation in a warm, natural and spontaneous kind of way. With the skill of an experienced man who masters the art of complimenting. Not an intellectual or a story telling wizard. Just a man. And these are to be discouraged gently when being refused.
They were in front of her apartment building. She thanked him and handed him the bank notes. With a little extra, as she usually did. Adrian hurried to give her the change, but she wouldn’t take it.
– Now I’m indebted, he said twice in a low voice.
– Let it go, said Luana, why do you think I’m lucky with the taxi drivers?
– At least take a card, said Adrian, reaching for his wallet. And remember the call sign!
Luana smiled and thanked him again. She knew the call sign. Another thing she used to do when taking a taxi was to mentally sum up the numbers of the call sign. When she liked the final result, she would get in the car. If not, she avoided it. Just a whim. Which tonight had brought her a genuine compliment, associated from now on with the smell of hot asphalt. And of Eternity by Calvin Klein.
Photo credits: Octav Drăgan, Radu Stefan Photography, orasul.ro (Serban Vornicu, Crisanta Maciuceanu, Stefan Tuchila), secondglobe.com