I get into the cab and fall in love with his voice. I ask where his accent is from, even though I know. I just want him to talk.
“That is Hatian,” he says. “I like the way you ask that, not where I’m from. Everybody asks where I’m from and I say I don’t know, I have been here 17 years, I think I am from here.”
Seventeen years is a long time. I ask if his accent had changed.
“How did you know? Here nobody can understand me because I sound Creole, in Haiti now nobody can understand me because I sound American.” He wants to know if I speak other languages.
“I speak French. I used to, it’s mostly gone.”
“Haitians can understand French,” he says, “but Frenchmen cannot understand Creole. I don’t think they try very hard.” He teaches me a few phrases, how they sound in French and in Creole. “You see,” he says, “you can figure it out if you try.” It's true.
Now he is trying to learn Spanish. He knows some from his Dominican grandmother. “I had a funny thing the other day. These two women were my passengers, older, very rich, speaking Spanish. One is telling the other she is disappointed in her boyfriend. He’s terrible, the other says, you should get rid of him. Then she points at me, she says you should ask the driver out, he’s very handsome. They laugh. They think I can’t understand them.”
“Did you say anything?” I want the story to be that he turned around and confronted them. I want to see what happens in that story. We’ve already gotten to where I’m going and he’s turned the meter off, but we keep talking.
“No” he says, “We still had a long ride. Anyway, I know that women get this all the time and it’s not so comfortable, men on the street saying how they look. They don’t want that. But me, you know, men don’t get this. It doesn’t happen for us. I’m thinking I’ll take the compliment. I’ll take what I can get.”