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John Benditt in conversation with Nancy Pearl - University Bookstore Wednesday, February 25th, 7:00pm
He told me to mute the Taxi TV. He told me I should meet his eyes in the rearview mirror. The better to hear him; the better to see him. He was cruising in the slowest lane. He was in no hurry. He had some things to say. He asked, did I know why they call it The Big Apple? He would tell me: It was a long time ago. There was the apple tree, and the snake hanging around. Did I remember? The snake, he gave an apple to Eve; he said, here is a delicious fruit, ripe fruit. And what happened with that? They started to find out who they were. When you come to New York, it is like eating a piece of the apple. You find out who you are. What is inside people comes out. You can see your friends change. It might be better, or it might be worse.
He told me, men are turning gay because women work too much. They want careers, they come home late and tired, they’re all business. Men go to the bars and they don’t come back.
He asked, would I like to take Atlantic Ave. or the BQE? It was my choice. I was in charge.
He told me people in America should speak English. If you want to keep your old traditions, no problem, you can keep 20-30%. When he lived in Virginia, he spoke more English. In Virginia, he told me, life was better. Slower. On the West Coast, life is better. Here, you are always working, and for what? You get old, and then you die. He would like to live in California. Maybe San Diego. Not L.A. This city is corrupt, he told me.
He told me he doesn’t remember his dreams. He would like to, but he wakes up with nothing.
He asked me, do you have a husband? Do you have a boyfriend? I lied: yes.
He told me he makes dumplings by hand, from scratch. To save time and money. In the evening, watching a movie, he makes 200, 300. Easy. He freezes them. They’re good for two weeks, a month. When he’s hungry, they’re there. He can boil them, fry them, eat them in a soup.
He told me he could teach me. Would I like to learn? He told me, sooner or later you will be a mother and this will be a good thing to know. Children, they eat so much.
He told me, there are two times when men cry: when somebody dies, and for big love. One time he cried for love. Not anymore. He loves his wife, sure, but he’s not going to be crazy the way he was. He’s learned his lesson.
He asked, who did I think was in charge of the world? He told me, women are. Men, they can’t live without women. A beautiful woman? The way she walks? Did I see what he was saying? She has a lot of power. That’s the reason they burned girls at the stake. Witches.
He told me, a long time ago there was a man who was the king, and a woman next to him. You think he ruled the world? No. She did. Why? At night, when it came time to —— she told him what to do, how to be. Her words came from his mouth.
He told me, you and your boyfriend, you will not be equal. There is no equal. One is supposed to be on the top and one on the bottom. It doesn’t matter, man or woman. He told me, you girls are supposed to have a gentleman next to you. To make you feel like a woman.
He asked me, didn’t I agree?
He’s been in this life many years, he told me. He likes rock music, but his wife prefers jazz. With her, he listens to what she likes. He wants her to be happy. She’s a cosmetologist, he told me. She makes her own soaps and creams. Maybe she’ll start a business. I asked him whether they have any children. Yes, he told me, of course. Why else would he have a wife? Two children, a boy and a girl—a daddy’s girl. She studies well. He tells her, the most important thing you can have in this life is an education.
He asked me, Court Street or Henry? He told me my neighborhood is a good one. He told me he stops at Starbucks every morning before his shift. Four shots of espresso, with steamed milk. Sure, sometimes his heart hurts him, but it’s okay. He’s still strong. Four shots will keep you awake.
He told me, the tomatoes he found at a roadside stand in North Carolina were so delicious. They smelled like home. He bought a whole case of them, still green. When he wanted one to turn red, he would put it in the sun. It only took a few hours, it was so hot. He doesn’t even like tomatoes, but these he would just eat, like an apple.
Kate Brittain lives in Brooklyn. Her writing can be found at Vol. 1 Brooklyn and The Paris Review Daily.