SHE was gorgeous. A real beauty, a show stopper, an English rose, with hair that rolled across her naked shoulders like warm brown chocolate poured over vanilla ice cream.
A dream girl who looked awkward in heels her ankles struggled to control. Heels on legs that drifted up to meet her body in perfect symmetry, slender and strong they complemented her in such a way that the security guard in the gate house nodded to me then shook his head in admiration.
She was gorgeous.
I looked away, I’m daft that way, shy that way, old enough to be her dad. And even if I wasn’t she wasn’t the sort of girl I asked out when I was 18. My ego was half formed back then and I would have admired from afar instead of like now, when I admired her from a car.
The old familiar sound of the 'sniff snort' came from the back and my estimations went down as my eyes went up to the mirror again
A few boys smiled at her as they chatted at the halls of residence gates and she smiled back and said a soft “hello.” One of them poked his mate in the ribs, teasing him, and I felt the warmth of his blush. He might have been me, 20 years ago, except he was at university, living the dream.
I hoped hey all stopped occasionally and looked around their lives and smiled.
“It doesn’t get much better.” I thought, as she leaned down to my window and gave me her name.
It matched the one on my screen and I nodded and she slid onto the back seat, flicking her hair and a glance at the lads by the gate.
She was shy, and she fumbled with a purse the size of a Hovis loaf and nearly dropped it. Shy, beautiful, awkward: a young girl who hadn’t grown into the body she’d been given she dug in the Hovis and prodded at the rattles and change.
“I think they like you.” I said to pass the time while she found what she was looking for and she looked up and followed my gaze to the lads by the gate who were looking back.
“I think he’s off my course, the tall one.”
“He went all shy when you said ‘hello’.”
“Did he?” She replied, surprised, looking back out the window at the boy whose name she didn’t know. She really had no idea why he was shy, it made me smile.
“Where are we going love?”
She dug in the Hovis again before pulling out the sort of mobile you get for a tenner, which has a screen the size of a toenail. It bleeped a few times then she held it at arm’s length before saying the word that everyone from out of town loves to say.
She showed me the phone and I squinted because my eyes didn’t fit the screen. I nodded at the address and shoved the car into traffic.
“Bit late to be going out? Everyone else is heading home,” I said to the mirror.
“I know, I’m working,” she said to the compact she was holding, inches from her mouth, like it was some sort of Star Trek communication device.
I watched her dab concealer on a face that didn’t deserve to be concealed before the lights changed again and we began to move. The old familiar sound of the “sniff snort” came from the back and my estimations went down as my eyes went up to the mirror again.
The telltale two-fingered rub of the top lip and nose gave the game away and she smiled back shyly and slyly and shook her head.
“I’m sorry. I should have asked if it was okay to have a line.”
Maybe she wasn’t as innocent as I’d thought.
“Not much I can do about it now is there?”
“Have you been working all night?” The coke was working fast, same as usual; huge sniffs caused loose lips, as the WW2 poster had nearly once said.
“I have, nearly time for me to go home.”
“Do you like your job?”
“Sometimes yes, sometimes no, this job comes and goes love, one day it’s your mate and the next day it wants to kick your head in.”
“I hate mine.” She started dabbing again with the compact, like she was putting out tiny fires on her face.
“What are you studying?”
“I’m in my first year.” She said and I made note of the side step so that I could record it in my notebook when she was gone.
“I’ll need a garage please, unless... Unless you’ve got some condoms?”
I looked in the mirror again, aware that most people look in a mirror to look at themselves, and that taxi drivers did it to look at other people, (someone should write a book about that one day).
That coke was certainly working now.
“I haven’t love, there’s no call for them in this cab.” My stock answer, used in case of emergencies to answer questions unsaid.
“I’ll go the garage then.”
Who said romance is dead?
At the late night garage I stopped short of the window and she got out of the car and went to shout at plate glass and point.
“Were you looking at my bum?” She asked when she got back in.
“How dare you!” I cried with mock indignation.
We both laughed and she flicked her hair and opened the window and the morning blew in cold and noisy, off to our left the sky was adjusting its brightness and the world felt sort of good.
We turned into the tiny terraced street, the sort we all know. It looked like I’d beaten the milkman because all there was on the doorstep was a group of four scallies, all smoke and nylon, attitude and angles, elbows sticking out and necks bent, sucking on cigarettes, pushing and shoving with hands down the tracksuits.
“Oh no.” She said behind me. Maybe the world wasn’t as good as I’d thought.
“Is that the house?”
“I think so. They are supposed to pay you.”
“Do you want to stop?” This time I said it out loud.
“I have to.” She replied, so I did, because there wasn’t enough time to tell her she didn’t.
One of the lads came to my window and drew a bundle of notes that stank of weed and gave me a twenty.
“Alright girl,” said his mate who had opened her door, ever the gentleman with his hand down his pants.
I looked over to her and she looked back at me with a thin lipped smile, the kind of smile I saw far too many times from the back seat of the car. The lads on the step squealed with delight when she unfolded from the car, maybe six inches taller than her escort.
I know it’s about choices, I know it’s about empowerment, I know it’s the oldest trade in the world and I know some women say they love it.
But when those scallies squealed like kids at Christmas, I felt sorry for the neighbours, but most of all I felt sorry for her.
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