Luis pulled the cab to the curb and eyed the passenger carefully. Shaking his head at his own suspicious nature, he smiled and watched the woman move her parcel to her left arm while she opened the back door of the cab with her right hand.
She seemed harmless enough. She had to be sixty years old. Her parcel was a bright bouquet of flowers and she was smiling.
As she got into the cab, Luis said, “Buenos dias! Where can I take you?”
The woman pulled the door shut and, smiling at him, gave him the address. Luis put the car in gear and pulled into traffic, relieved. Her address would take him out of the city. Anytime he could get out of the congested streets of NYC was a positive time.
“Pretty flowers,” Luis said over his shoulder. “What’s the occasion?”
His job was always more fun when he could engage the passengers in conversation. He usually gave it one or two tries before he gave up and rode in silence. Today would be good. He saw the lady’s face light up in the mirror at his question.
“My anniversary!” she said.
Luis frowned. “Oh, unfortunate date for your anniversary, isn’t it?” Today was Patriot’s Day. September 11.
The lady continued to smile. “Perhaps, but it was my anniversary long before it was the country’s anniversary. It still brings me happy memories before sad.”
“How long you been married?”
“Thirty-seven years,” she answered, looking out the window.
“Wow! To the same guy?”
The lady laughed. It was a pleasant laugh. “Yes, indeed! Carl and I were high school sweethearts.”
“And you’re bringing HIM flowers? Lucky guy.”
“I have been bringing him flowers every year since our second anniversary. That first year, I wondered if he’d bring them to me and he didn’t. I was sad and mopey for days – a silly schoolgirl reaction. The next year, I decided I’d nip it in the bud and take him what I called OUR flowers. He loved it and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Luis grinned. He wondered silently when the last time was that he’d brought his wife flowers.
Luis checked the GPS to make sure he was on the right track. He looked ahead at the cab’s destination and frowned.
“Ma’am? Is this right?” he said, pointing ahead.
The lady smiled again from the back seat and nodded her head. “Yes, that’s right. He may not be with me now, but I still bring him flowers.”
Luis felt awkward as he pulled into the cemetery lot. “Um, how long has your husband been gone?”
“Ten years exactly.”
Luis felt his face burning. “Ten years…. Then he passed on…..”
“Yes,” the lady said, her hand on the door as the cab rolled to a stop. “He was in the South Tower. I was on my way with the flowers when it happened. Can you wait for me here a moment?”
Luis was stricken , unable to respond. Then he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Don’t be sad for me,” she said softly. “I have had a wonderful life. And today I celebrate my wedding anniversary.”
Then she climbed out of the cab and began walking away.
Luis watched her as she walked, her head up and back straight. He felt his throat burn and was surprised to feel his eyes welling. His gaze left her and drifted up to the broken city scape sitting quietly in the distance.