The woman on the street corner looked just like his mother. He stared at her, watching as she slipped around the corner, skirt swishing around her ankles. He blinked, and she was gone.
The doctor shook himself and looked at his watch. If he didn’t catch a taxi soon, he’d be late for his mother’s funeral. He squinted through his fogged glasses, rain soaking his hair, looking for a cab through the mist. One eventually appeared, careening down a side street, screeching to a halt before him.
The cabbie stuck his head out the window. “Going somewhere?”
“Yeah, I am. Thanks,” the doctor said, letting himself into the cab.
The driver looked about sixty, Italian, with a wisp of gray hair and small wire-framed glasses. He smiled at the doctor as he pulled away from the curb.
“Crappy day out there.”
“You aren’t kidding,” the doctor muttered. They drove in silence for a few minutes, the windshield wipers clicking.
“You don’t seem like a happy camper, kid,” the driver murmured, peering at him through the rearview mirror.
The doctor cleared his throat. “I’m running a tad late. My mother’s funeral is today.”
“Oh!” the driver exclaimed. “Oh, I’m sorry about that, kid. And what a day for it, too.”
The doctor watched as the city streets flew by, blurs of dilapidated storefronts mixed with new construction, like jigsaw puzzle pieces that didn’t quite fit. He shook his head. “Every time I come back to New York I remember why I left.”
The driver chuckled. “Well, we try our best around here. Where are you coming from, Sonny?”
The doctor froze like a deer in headlights. Sonny. Only his mother ever called him Sonny, and that was before he left New York. The nickname conjured memories of a childhood lost — sitting in the kitchen of their cramped Bronx apartment, his mother singing to herself in Italian as she cooked.
The doctor shook his head. “Boston. Moved there for medical school.”
“Huh, Boston. Every cab driver’s worst nightmare.”
The doctor didn’t respond. Sonny. When was the last time she called him that? Was it the day he left for Boston, when she told him he had broken her heart? Was it after he stopped returning her phone calls? He hadn’t been home in a decade. She hadn’t called him Sonny for far longer.
“You alright back there?”
The doctor swallowed. “I’m sorry. It’s just that my mother used to call me Sonny. Before I left for Boston.”
The driver smiled, his eyes twinkling. “Oh yeah? You been back much since you moved?”
“No. Hardly at all.”
“Ah. So the prodigal son’s returned to say goodbye?”
“I guess you could put it that way.” The doctor contemplated for a moment. “I should have come back more. She was upset that I left, upset that I’d never return her calls. I wanted to give her a call. But it felt like it was impossible to bridge that gap. Ten years is a lot of time.”
The driver was silent.
“What I wouldn’t give,” the doctor began, his voice shaking, “to return one of her calls right now.”
The driver nodded. “You know, a mother’s love can bridge quite a gap. Even a ten-year one.”
“There are some distances,” the taxi driver murmured, “that love can’t break.”
The doctor was quiet.
“I’m sure your mother would want you to know that, Sonny, if she could tell you,” the driver said. His eyes, the doctor noticed, were the same dark shade of brown as his mother’s.
“I just wished that I’d come back to New York sooner. I wish I’d had more time.”
The driver smiled sadly. “Don’t we all? We run around like chickens with our heads cut off, paying attention to everything except the things that matter. So maybe the lesson here is to open our eyes and pay attention a little more.”
The doctor was quiet. With a start, he realized the cab had stopped, St. Anthony’s looming over him. His brother David was on the church steps. The rain had finally finished.
“Well, this is your stop,” the driver said, turning around. He saw the doctor take a few crumpled bills from his pocket. “Don’t worry about it. This one’s on the house.”
The doctor smiled. He stepped out of the cab and into the street, waving as the cab drove off.
“Hey!” he shouted. “I never caught your name!”
The cab driver didn’t hear, vanishing around the street corner.
It was only after the doctor reached the steps of the church that he realized he had never told the driver where to go.
Alexandra Carcel is an avid reader and writer with a love for historical and literary fiction. Her work has previously appeared in the online magazine “Allegory.” She lives in southern New Jersey.