cabdrivers

Matthew Connors: Fire In Cairo.

“Masked men in tight, cheap clothes marched on our position with ugly cudgels and gasoline bombs. They had been holding vigil all night in the old stadium singing chants and shaking their hands to get in the mood. Some fired wildly at us with homemade bearing guns and attempted to blind us with lasers. The Brigadier General ordered us to hold the sector while Sherif fired sniper rounds from the upper floor of a building designed by Edward Matasek. He targeted known transcendentalists, firing efficient shots deep into their chest cavities. I decided I knew nothing. The rebels pulled back to the river in a feigned retreat and hastily reinforced their battalion with cabdrivers and potato vendors. They returned with lacerated photographs of the President’s face. This force was crushed by late afternoon on a day that began with a quiet meal of soft cheese wrapped in white bread.”

From the archives - The Berber Uprising, from Matthew Connors Fire In Cairo.

The Business Partner

Chapter 1

Looking back at your apartment, you sigh heavily before locking the door behind you and rushing to the awaiting taxi outside. The sun is bright and you shield your eyes before sliding into the back seat.

“Did you say airport, miss?” The cabdriver asks.

“That’s right. Departing,” you reply before settling into the seat.

With a nod the driver heads the short twenty minute drive to the airport. You stare out the window nervously. So much was going on in your head; the pending contract you and a business partner were supposed to close on, said business partner whom you did not get along well with, and the still fresh loss of your father.

Your boss had thought it would help you heal to win a big contract and then enjoy some vacation time after. Closing your eyes, you let out a big sigh just as you pull into the airport.

You pay the driver, quickly grab your suitcase and stepped out into the chaos of the airport. You make your way to the ticket counter and then through security. It’s not long before you’re in the air. The flight to LAX airport in California is long. It feels like days before you catch your connecting flight there to Honolulu and then catch another connecting flight to Maui.

           As you step outside after getting your luggage, you’re overwhelmed by the heat and humidity that engulfs you. Bad idea not to have taken off your sweater before going outside. You glance around anxiously and are relieved to see a man holding up a sign with your name and your company’s name.

           “Miss Y/N?” he inquires. You nod and show him your picture badge as proof. “Welcome,” he says in greeting. “Let me take your bag.”

You let him take it. He opens the back door for you and you slide in and buckle up. Within moments you’re on the road heading to the hotel. As you stare out the window taking in the scenery, the lush greenery is breathtaking under the radiance of the searing sun. White puffy clouds float lazily across the intense blue sky. Before you know it… you fall asleep.

You awake with a start, momentarily forgetting where you are. As your surroundings come into focus, the nightmare you were having about your father slips away.

“Miss,” the driver says to reassure you. “We are just a few minutes from the hotel. There’s bottled water under the cushion to your left.”

“Thank you,” you mumble and give him what you hope comes off as a smile. “I’m sorry if I scared you when I screamed.”

He glances at you through the rearview mirror quickly and says, “It’s okay. No More Dream right? You okay,” he states.

You nod as a response and take a long tug of water and hope he takes the hint that you don’t want to talk. He takes the hint and you ride in silence for about 10 minutes. And thank God for that because when you pull into the hotel your mouth actually falls open at how Beautiful it is. As mad as you are at the boss, you’ll have to thank him for setting up the meeting at such a gorgeous place.

You all stop and the driver lets you out. As he passes you your suit case, you slip him some cash as a thank you. He graciously accepts and with a wave, he’s gone.

You head towards the main desk, but are stopped by a hotel employee who welcomes you by placing a beautiful purple lei made of real flowers around your neck. She points you where you need to go to check in.

It’s beautiful; with an open plan you can see how lovely the native vegetation and blooms are. The concierge is quick in giving you your room key and let’s you know the meeting is booked for Tomorrow at 11 and then lunch will be served as well. You thank him and then head to the elevators.

As you wait for the elevator, lost in your thoughts, you stifle a scream as you feel a tap on your shoulder and hear…

Annyeong-haseyo.”

“Onion wha…,” you sputter in annoyance as you turn around. “Oh!” Your eyes widen momentarily as you’re caught off guard by the guy standing in-front of you. Tall and lean, he’s wearing form fitting black slacks, a black buttoned down dress shirt and a bright red suit jacket, unbuttoned. You look up and are greeted with a grin and almond shaped eyes that are glittering with amusement…at you’re expense, you’re sure. Cocky mother… “Annyeong-haseyo,” you say cutting off your own thoughts and pull what little Korean you remember from your trip there two years ago. You give him a quick short bow and take that moment to change your expression to a polite smile.

“I checked in a bit before you and recognized you from the email briefing I was sent,” he replies. “I thought I’d introduce myself before heading up.” He sticks out his hand, and with a smile you’re sure he’s used on plenty of women to charm them, he says, “I’m Jeon Jungkook. You can call me Jungkook.”

You can’t believe he doesn’t remember you. You shouldn’t be surprised. You’re not a size zero, so you probably wouldn’t stick out in his memory. You remember him though. Arrogant flirt.

“Y/N,” you reply as you give his hand a quick shake.

You manage to suppress a shiver at the contact. Something changes in Jungkook’s eyes, almost like he’s confused, but just as quickly the twinkle in his eyes return.

“Let me help,” he says and he grabs for your suitcase handle as the elevator doors open.

Before you can protest he’s inside the elevator and you have no choice but to follow him. He presses the button with the seven on it.

“You’re on seven?” you ask

You forget to hide your annoyance.

“Ne,” he says with a chuckle.

You glare at him as you try and figure out if he just said ‘yes’ in Korean or if he said ‘no’ in English, but with an accent. The doors open and you both get out. He follows you in silence. You find yourself tucking your hair behind your ears and tugging at your sweater and that really bothers you.

With this job, you travel… a lot, so it makes it very hard for you to put myself out there. You haven’t been in a relationship in about four years and pretty much gave up dating three years ago. You’ve lost touch with friends. It’s pretty much just been you and your dad these last couple of years.

At the thought of your dad, your eyes burn with tears. You take a few deep breaths and let them out slowly as you push your grief to the back of your mind.

“Here’s my room,” you say a little too gruffly. Closing you eyes, you try to rein in your emotions. Taking the suitcase from him, you bow a little as you say, “Kamsahamnida.”

His eyebrow shoots up in surprise.

“You know Korean?”

You open your room door and step in a little.

You turn around and, leaning against the door, you tilt your head to the side and ask, “You really don’t remember me?” His face takes on a serious look as he tries to remember your face. “The Kim Namjoon contract about two years ago?” You just get a blank stare. With a sigh, you say, “I might have looked a little different back then. I’ve lost some weight and I mostly use contacts now, but really… I was the only other American that flew in to help seal the contract…” You stop as you see a light of recognition flicker in his eyes. “Okay great. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’m going to rest. It’s been a long day and I want to be refreshed for the meeting. Thanks again.”

You let the door close before he can say anything. You’re not sure why the fact that he didn’t remember you rubs you the wrong way. It’s not like you were chummy back then. If you remember correctly, he hooked up with the only other female that had gone on that business trip. Whatever.

You lock the door, then pull you suitcase up onto the bed. You rummage around for a fresh pair of undies and your sweats and tank top. You take a quick shower and after putting your stuff in the corner and setting the alarm to wake you, you pass out from exhaustion.

The chiming of your phone alarm wakes you at 8 AM. You take a shower and wash your hair after brushing you teeth. You put your hair in a French twist and decided to wear your glasses to show you’re smart and mean business. They’re red and make you look fierce.

You’re too nervous to go down for a full breakfast. You munch on a granola bar you had in my purse and go over your notes imagining every question and doubt the prospective client might have. Before you know it, it’s 10.

You iron out the wrinkles that your outfit got from being folded up in your suitcase. You pull on a dark gray spaghetti strap top and then slide on a gray pencil skirt, making sure to tuck in your top. You then put on a gray suit jacket and button the only button. You slip on a pair of 3 inch heeled pumps and then get to working on your makeup. You go for a natural look with just some eyeliner, mascara, and lip gloss on your lips.

You check your phone for the time. 10:40 a.m. You’d decide to get going down to the meeting room. Better to be early. You grab your folders, pen, and open the door.

“Ay!” you yelp and jump back.

Jungkook is standing on the other side.

“Good morning,” he says with a huge smile. “I thought it would be a good idea for us to walk down together.”

“You scared me!” Is all you can say.

“I’m sorry,” he replies biting the inside of his mouth probably to keep from laughing at you.

“Hmph!”

You close the door and you walk together to the elevators. Once inside, there’s a bit of awkward silence. You pretend to look at the buttons in the elevator, so you can see his reflection in the mirrored interior.

He’s got on a black suit with a white button down shirt, black tie, and a black suit jacket that’s buttoned up. He’s got small earrings in both ears. His hair is parted on the right and looks like he finger-combed in some gel. When you look at his eyes, you squint into the mirror trying to look closer without being obvious. It looks like he’s wearing eyeliner and a little eyeshadow. Okay. You did not expect that. He’s either gay or it’s a Korean thing.

“Did I pass inspection?” He asks with a chuckle and then shoots you that killer smile.

Flustered, you look away, your cheeks blazing with embarrassment. The elevator doors open before you can say anything.You follow the signs for the Circle Room. It’s not long before you’re both standing in front of the door with a sign that says Circle Room Cypher. You look over at Jungkook who nods at you and then opens the door.

The clients haven’t arrived yet. You put your stuff on the circular table. It’s large, with eight chairs. The room is pretty much like any conference room; beige walls, minimal furniture, and the furniture that is there is black.

“Do you want to go over anything before they arrive?” you ask.

You’re getting nervous as you usually do and going over notes and documents help calm you.

“Ne,” he nods, all business now and pulls up a chair. You sit next to him. “What’cha got?”

You slide you folder over so you can both look at your notes. You go over numbers and details you have and compare to what he has. You have to trust what he tells you as all his notes are in Korean. You feel your nervousness slip away and soak up some of Jungkook’s confidence. Just in time, too. Your clients step in a few minutes later and the meeting starts.

Three am - Jill McDonough

Our cabdriver tells us how Somalia is better
than here because in Islam we execute murderers.
So, fewer murders. But isn’t there civil war
there now? Aren’t there a lot of murders?
Yes, but in general it’s better. Not
now, but most of the time. He tells us about how
smart the system is, how it’s hard to bear
false witness. We nod. We’re learning a lot.
I say—once we are close to the house—I say, What
about us? Two women, married to each other. Don’t be offended, he says, gravely. But a man
with a man, a woman with a woman: it would be
a public execution. We nod. A little silence along
the Southeast Corridor. Then I say, Yeah,
I love my country. This makes him laugh; we all laugh. We aren’t offended, says Josey. We love you. Sometimes
I feel like we’re proselytizing, spreading the Word of Gay.
The cab is shaking with laughter, the poor man
relieved we’re not mad he sort of wants us dead.
The two of us soothing him, wanting him comfortable,
wanting him to laugh. We love our country,
we tell him. And Josey tips him. She tips him well.