Four Buddhists, dressed in orange robes, fold themselves into my cab outside the colossal brass doors of La Paloma, a lavish resort on the north side of Tucson. They’re Asian, one man in his 50’s, and two men and a young woman in their 30’s, all bald-headed and with flawless complexions. One of the younger men has eyeglasses. The woman scrunches in between the younger men in the back seat. The older man perches himself shotgun.

“You take us to casino?” he says to me. There is a photo of me pasted to the dashboard, fat and tired-looking, with the name Matt Glasford, independent contractor, written under it.

My eyes lit up. The casino is on the Tohono O’odham Indian reservation out in the desert, at least 40 minutes away. It was a jackpot fare: 80 bucks.

“The Casino Del Sol, yes sir,” I say, and punch the meter.

“This is good casino?” the old Asian man says.

“Oh, they’ll take your money.”

“I wear red fo’ luck,” he says, showing Jesus a bright red pin of some kind on his orange robe.

“You’ll need it.”

“Yes.”

“Where ya from?” I say. “China?”

“Japan,” the old man says, frowning.

“Sorry.”

It’s five o’clock in the evening and we’re driving directly into the sunset. The traffic is Friday rush hour; even the nuns from St. Elizabeth’s will cut you off and not repent a bit. It’s roasting hot outside. The windows of the cab are up and the air conditioning is flowing.

I have no religion, but there seems to be something special about today. It’s a quiet ride. The sinking sun leaks pink and purple and orange in front of us. The old man doesn’t notice because he has nodded off. His head is lowered onto his breastbone. I think he is meditating until he begins to snore. Then I check the rearview mirror: one of the younger men is also asleep. His head has fallen back and his mouth is open and his eyeglasses are tilting into the milky pond of his cheek.

Five minutes of lotus-smooth highway later, the other man is asleep too.

I look at the woman in the rearview mirror. I imagine my thought is a butterfly that flies out of his forehead and lands on her nose. She looks out the window at the desert that begins at the outskirts of the city. The red rocky hills are spiked with cactus and cholla and creosote, nothing kind there, nothing soft. She won’t meet my eyes. She seems unhappy, like she is involved in some kind of tremendous mistake.

“Looks like it’s just you and me,” I break the silence, talking to the young woman. It feels like the two of us are the only ones there, because we are the only ones awake. She doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t smile. She looks at me with puffy, raindrop eyes. But the old man jerks awake. He sits straight up and blinks a couple times.

“We they yet?” he says.

“Another 20 minutes.”

He grunts. 30 seconds later he’s asleep again.

I always get a feeling when people fall asleep in my cab. They trust me to get them safely to where they want to go. Buddhists are trusting souls, aren’t they? In either case, I am relieved when we arrive at the casino. I feel my blood pressure lowering with the promise of solitude.

The Japanese Buddhists climb out of the cab, stretch toward the sky. The old man reaches inside his robe and comes out with a wallet. He pays me. The woman flashes me a look and then turns away. They shuffle off toward the door of the casino.

I drive away, back to the city.

So are the separations of this world.

***

For all installments from 6 to 6, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Traveling Mercies
  2. Next Time, Take Skyline
  3. Suicide Lane
  4. Morenci in My Rear-View Mirror
  5. A Spiritual Adventure
  6. Sonja’s Ring
  7. A Pair to Draw To
  8. Grocery Day
  9. A Day with Melanie
  10. The Hot Light
  11. Drano
  12. The Cab Knows the Way
  13. Dodi’s Luck
  14. Don’t Die Before Your Mother
  15. Bob’s Big Day
  16. Nothing But a Human Being
  17. John’s Dream
  18. God Didn’t Get Me No Weed
  19. Ramirez
  20. What’s Going to Happen to Me?
  21. Do I Look Like an Indian to You?
  22. The Maze
  23. Fun with Ruby
  24. Portrait of the Artist as a Certified Loony
  25. Turn Around, Dumbass
  26. Red Bull Blues
  27. The Great Desert Palms Escape
  28. Bitcoin
  29. At Least it Isn’t Raining
  30. Marshmallows on Everything
  31. Mermaid with Doctor’s Mask
  32. My Other Jacket
  33. Late
  34. The Hideaway
  35. You Can Have a Seat, Sir
  36. Book People
  37. 112 Degrees
  38. No Way
  39. El Pendejo
  40. Batman
  41. Plasma
  42. The Jumping-Off Place
  43. November in July
  44. The Double