Tailing by Luke Gregorio
‘Follow that red car.’
‘Alright mister.’ The cab driver chewed on his words slowly. Then quickly followed, ’actually, I dunno mister, following a young lady, late at night, you know, aint a good look, is it?’
‘Well we don’t get paid for good looks now do we; come on; drive.’ I threw my words at him like Bogart in one of his old pictures. The driver shook his head, sighed, then shifted his hand onto the gearstick and set off tailing.
I sat there thinking. So many whiners, so few doers these days. No one just follows orders anymore. Everyone thinks they know what’s what. I mean sometimes it can come in handy, people doing what's asked of them. We wouldn’t have made it to the moon if everyone building the rocket was stopping every two minutes giving their two pence, I don’t want you using that torque spanner, the X-80 spanners are much better and no the torque spanner has much nicer grip. Hell, we wouldn’t have made it to breakfast with that attitude. Just twist your spanner, get moving, not thinking.
It was a wet sticky night, it was raining so much I could almost smell the rain from inside the car. We were in a tired part of town now. One of those parts of London where it just felt like less effort was put into everything. The off-licences were drab, the houses needed a lick of paint, even the pubs here were using plastic cups instead of glasses. Everything just seemed kinda lazy, a little slow.
There wasn’t much to look at out of the window, so I fixed my eyes on the red car ahead instead. It was about 20 yards ahead of us now. I could just about make out the girl in the back. She was one of those girls you just knew was beautiful, even if your only look of her was the back of a head 20 yards up in front. Just the way she was sitting, the way she carried herself, you just knew she was a stunner. And she knew it herself too.
I had known that stunner once. And from the first moment I saw her I hadn’t got her out of my head since. Right then in the car I was thinking about her again. I was trying to picture what she was wearing when I last saw her. I think it was her purple top. It came with this gold buckle across the waist that was kind of like a belt. I used to think it was a waste, why would you want a top that came with a buckle? Why not just buy a separate buckle that you could wear with anything, one that you could mix-and-match? But I think I get it now. You only truly get to know someone when you spend some time apart from them. Only when you watch them from the outside, that is only when you get to know them truly. You see, it made her stand out. It made her look above everyone else even.
I was getting bored of thinking so I got to talking. I thought I’d give the cabby some of my best cab chat.
‘I bet you wouldn’t be getting this kind of job if you were with Uber mate?’ I asked in my best Mr Cab Punter tone.
‘Huh, I dunno about that, Uber’s full of weirdos. Perverts in the management, perverts for drivers - ‘
‘Are you calling me a pervert mate?’ I belted at him. I couldn't stand for this. Not whilst I was paying the fare anyway.
‘Calm down, I dunno what else to think, it was just a thought.’
‘Just keep your thoughts on the road.’
‘Well, you gotta see where I’m coming from here, guy comes in my cab, asks me to follow some young girl, looking at her like Bugs Bunny when he sees a carrot. That isn't really what - ’
‘You just don't know what youre talking about.’ I told him.
‘Ok fine, whatever, you know best, let's just leave it.’
The driver told me, but really you could tell from his voice that he didn't want to leave it. He went on to start talking about Uber. He really didn't like Uber. I drifted in and out of his rant about Uber. I think he was trying to tell me that the Uber CEO was a paedophile, but I wasn't really sure. I didn't bother to follow much. I just nodded as if I was listening. Sometimes grunting in approval. I didn’t care to listen to him then. I was distracted really, by the girl up ahead, you see. That was much more important to me than Uber conspiracy theories.
What was she doing? Where was she going? That was much more important to me, you see. And really, what was I doing? Where was I going? My brain was spinning in circles trying to think it all through. I wasn't getting any answers to any of the questions. Even with all this thinking. I still kept at it though, I kept thinking. Maybe, if you think hard enough you might start to move faster too. Maybe we’d catch up to her in seconds. Maybe, though I’m not too sure. Really, though, let's be honest, probably not. I mean all those boffins look pretty slow, Einstein, Newton, I can't imagine them being quick movers, even I’d probably take them in a sprint.
The driver coughed. It was a dramatic cough, the cough of a man who’d book two days off work if he felt just a sweat come on the night before. He then began an elaborate motion to shift gear, it was slow and careful, as if a ballet dancer was at the steering wheel. Still, it was nice to look at, I might give that to him. Too bad he had to spoil it by opening his mouth. If it wasn't his cough running, it was his mouth. Christ, I was wondering how long it would be before the bored nods I was giving him might lull him into silence. Cough. The cab bounced a little after that rumbler of a cough. At least it shut him up just for a second after.
My nut had really started really whirring now. It never took me too long to start thinking about her again.
Ah fucking hell. This geezer just won't keep quiet tho. He’d moved on from his Uber rant, he was talking about himself now, it never took long for people to start talking about themselves.
‘ ... So, here we are, its me and just this lad Terry, we used to call him the craic burglar you see, on account of his stealing everyone else’s jokes … ’ He kept on talking, he might have been talking for hours, it wouldn't have made any difference to me. He might have been talking about sharing a pint with the Dalai Lama, it would’ve bored me too.
To be fair to the man he was driving at a good pace though. We were making decent ground and not looking too indiscrete. I looked out the window. What a change this was, we were in a fancy part of town now. Things move fast in London, one minute you’re trying to hide your purse, the next you reach your hand in a bush and pluck out a Louis Vuitton bag like you were at some Russian oligarch’s easter hunt.
‘... I guess that’s why they call it a false economy. So like I was saying, it was me at it, again, and this girl, not bad looking, I mean you wouldn't kick her out of bed - ‘
‘Wow, who would’ve thought, a cab driver that doesn't get tired of talking about himself.’
‘Well you know, sometimes a man has to carry a conversation, especially when you've got a Freddy Follows Girls in the back.’
‘I said just leave it right.’
The cabby looked at me. I looked at myself for a second trying to work out what was going on. Were we about to get into a fight? I didn't think it had got that heated to be honest, but you know, two people read two stories different. Maybe that talk about himself jab touched a nerve. Then I noticed out the window. The girl had got out of the car.
‘Pull in, then pull up, over there, by the lights, that looks quiet, switch the engine off, and lets just keep it discrete ey.’
‘Okey, and what if I don’t, you gonna tie me up outside like a dog?’ He said. Then he started barking. I swear all cabbies are cracked.
‘Why does every cabby think he’s a comedian? Cut out the craic son, it ain’t the time.’
‘Anyone ever told you that a laugh might do you some good once in a while? Ya know it might mean you wont get your kicks chasing around birds. ’
‘Fuck off mate, you know what - ah fuck where’d she go. Shit.’
I sprang out of the car. It was so windy, if I flapped my arms a little I would’ve ended up in Croydon. I quickly looked around but she wasn’t anywhere, I hurried towards the shops up ahead, I thought those lights had to be my best bet. I started to run. I moved as fast as a screw after getting caught shagging an inmate. Where was she? I looked left. I looked right. I looked up. I looked down. My head was swivelling like an inflatable tube man. But still, I couldn’t see her. Still, even so my mind couldn’t stop thinking of her. I was trying to remember the last words I said to her, the last thoughts I shared with her. Right then I felt a tap on my shoulder. And there she was. Just standing there as she would.
‘You twist me up you do.’