Saturday, June 27, 2009

a memoir for larry

I gotta get my life some writers.—Bill Watterson (Calvin&Hobbes)

Out of all the taxis waiting on Front Street in Hamilton, Bermuda, I happened to get into Larry’s. Larry has skin the color of coffee, eyes more ice-blue than my own, a ready laugh, and a deep Bermudan accent (think British, but warmed and mellowed by the island sun and waves).

Taxicab philosopher, he’s a self-proclaimed expert on the weather, life, love ... and names, as I quickly find out.

“Well, good afternoon, Melissa,” he says, after I tell him where we’re going. “Wait—what’s your name?” “Jenn,” I answer.

“No. You look like a Melissa. All nice and sweet. Melissas are always sweet.”

I grin out at the Hamilton harbor, trying to hide my smile. “Well, I’m also Jennifer, if that’s any better.”

No, that’s worse!” he says. “All the Jennifers I’ve met were wicked, wicked women!” He says this with utter confidence, then looks hard at me. “Are you wicked?”

I’m choking now, trying not to laugh too hard.

“Or you could be a Lisa—maybe. You’re almost a Lisa,” he continues, as we pass a dozen brilliantly red trees—the Royal Poincianas, which seemed to bloom specially for my week there. “All Lisas are beautiful and sweet.” He shrugs. “But they’re not very smart. They’re 99 cents of a dollar, if you know what I mean.”

“Well, I guess I’m too smart to be a Lisa,” I say, still laughing. The Lisas I know are thoroughly capable, but maybe things are different in Bermuda…

“People with the same names are always the same,” he says. “It’ll be the same for you, Melissa. You’ll meet someone who spoils a name for you forever: like Yvonne. I can never be with another Yvonne.”

We hurtle across another bridge, and I stare out at pumpkin-colored houses. “Wait and see—you’ll be attracted to men with the same-sounding names, for the rest of your life.” (Sorry, Larry. But so far, this is absolutely not true.)

As the taxi winds toward my dad’s apartment, Larry wants to know everything about me. How long I was visiting, what I thought of Bermuda, why I was going home, where home was, why I wasn’t begging for three more weeks in Bermuda (I’m such a wimp about the humidity, that’s why!)...

When he finds out I’m a writer, he forms a plan: he’ll email me everything about his life, about passengers he’s carted around the island, and I’ll write his memoir. “You’ll be sitting there on Oprah, telling them all about me,” he says with a grin. ” ‘This best-selling book came from a ride in a taxi in beautiful Bermuda…’

“How many children do you want to have?” he asks abruptly. I make a great effort not to laugh till I’m snorting—perhaps Melissas all snort, as well. But seriously—planning for kids? This is something strangers chat about?

Then he tells me about marriage. “You should wait until you’re twenty-eight,” he says. “At twenty-eight, a woman knows herself. You’re twenty-four? It’s too young, far too young!” We curve around and the sun breaks over another view of the ocean…

And, at twenty-eight, this is the kind of man I should marry: “A Bermudan,” he says. Of course. “Because the island’s humidity keeps our skin so moist,” he adds. “You see?” He makes a face. “No wrinkles. And I’m forty-eight! Your husband will look young forever. And he’ll have an accent. You American women… you go crazy for accents.”

“Wow, Larry,” I say. “That’s everything on my list: no wrinkles. Has an accent. Sounds perfect.” And then I wonder if he realizes I’m joking…

As we come closer to the airport, my final stop, I sniff around for any additional memoir info. “How long have you lived in Bermuda—your whole life?” “Not yet!” he says, mock-indignant. “Why, are you trying to get rid of me?”

“Not while I’m still in the car!” I say. Perhaps Jennifers are wicked after all?—jl

Posted by Jenn Langefeld on 06/27 at 06:55 PM
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