Strange world

By BOB PFEIFER  |  February 16, 2011

We have about an hour and a half to make it, so we're okay. Juan sits upright, eyes closed. I put my knapsack against my window and close my eyes. Jetlag hitting. I wake up. We're stopped in an intersection. A second later our taxi gets hit from behind. Maybe it's the other way around. Maybe we get hit and then I wake up. But I think I wake up first. The luggage on my lap blocks my going forward. Look over: Juan's okay. The driver's out the door yelling. We get out. The car behind us is smashed up, steam coming out of the hood. The passenger, a woman, went through the windshield. Blood. Rain coming down. Juan and I become observers. We almost fade away. Maybe I'm in shock. The cop directing traffic is there in a second. He's pissed off and on his mobile. We hear sirens in another two or three. They pull her out. Ambulance. She looks familiar. I tell Juan she's the girl on the street. He asks me what girl I'm talking about, and I say the hooker who gave the stuff to the cab driver by the park. He says he remembers, but I'm wrong. It's the one who came up to our window and took a swing at him with her purse. He's right and says, "She's messed up, man." The other driver, the first one who crashed into the back of our cab, comes up to us and starts yelling. He spits at us. Juan puts his fists up, like let's go. He used to box for the Mexican national team — lightweight. Our driver runs over and gets in the guy's face. The cops break it up.

They put the girl on a stretcher and rush her into an ambulance. I have no idea if there's any hope for her. It looks bad. Blood makes things look bad, but blood doesn't always mean it is bad. It just means it's not good.

"Oh, shit." I just put it all together.

"Yes, this is shit, Branko."

"No. I mean the guy who hit us is the first cab driver. The one we left."

"Motherfucker. He want to fight. Branko, I kick his ass."

I knew it, I think.

The police cuff the first cabbie, uncovering the track marks on his arm to show us what's up. Druggie. They tell us the girl is dead and take him away. Our cab driver gives him the finger and shrugs his shoulders. Our driver, being helpful, asks if he can call us a ride, probably angling for a tip, but still it's nice of him.

I look over the train schedule. No way we'll make the next one now, and there isn't another for four hours. Ask the cops how far the train station is. They're helpful. We just don't understand their answer. The rain stopped. We decide to walk. Everything is wet. Puddles to avoid in the dark. We know we're going to feel lousy on the train to Perugia.

When you don't sleep you dread the sun coming up. No shops, restaurants. Nothing's open. Just keep walking.

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