This is the second and final part of my Present in the City series. For part one (and the back story), read here. To download the audio of the Cobblestone Project's panel discussion at Present in the City, click here and find the panel discussion link (it worth giving a listen; my wife's on there).
The cabby's name was Lawrence. He asked "whereto, boss?" I gave him the address of my hotel and sunk into the rich pleather seat. He asked where I was from and I told him Arkansas. He sighed, "ah..." and then slowly pronounced "Ar-Can-Saas; yes, I know Ar-Can-Saas."
"Oh really, how's that?" I said, feigning interest.
"My wife is from Ar-Can-Saas."
Trying to make small talk, I asked how they met. He said, "that's a long story boss, but lucky for you we have a little time."
"Yes, lucky for me," I thought.
Lawrence was the black sheep of a wealthy Syrian family. He had come to the United States for college, dithered about for six years, met an American woman, and fell in love. When his father demanded that he return home, he refused. Instead, he married and started his own family.
Lawrence's daughter was born with a significant heart defect. The doctors pronounced that she would require a lifetime of medical attention. When Lawrence's daughter was a teenager, he accidentally failed to send a monthly insurance payment. The insurance company canceled the policy and refused to issue new coverage for his daughter. Her heart defect would constitute a preexisting condition under the new policy, they said. The mistake would cost Lawrence thousands of dollars and would ultimately ring the death knell for his marriage.
"My wife took everything, boss. Everything but the medical bills. She left me with every single cent of those."
"I'm sorry, man." I meant it, but it didn't seem enough. It seemed hollow, cavalier.
"I guess it's all history. If I had not divorced, I would not have met my new wife. She is a good woman. She is getting her bachelor's degree in a medical field. I am driving sometimes fourteen hours a day to put her through school. And," he said demonstratively as he placed his right pointer finger in the air, "she is from your state. Do you know her family?" Inferring that everyone in Arkansas is well acquainted, he told me her last name. I informed him that I did not know a single French Arkansan. He said that was a pity because French Arkansans are very good at love. He chuckled.
"Any kids?" I asked.
"No, not yet. We are fifteen years apart in age. We are happy together, and I am not sure she wants kids. But, she is good to me, anyway."
We pulled into the hotel parking lot and he swiped my credit card. I told him thanks for the lift, told him to take care of his wife. He said, "I will boss. Enjoy your stay."
I entered the hotel lobby wondering if even half of Lawrence's story was true. I'm not really sure whether that matters. The truth is, everyone loves a good second chance story; everyone wants to believe that there is love in the end.