Dallas, TX. Photo by Flickr user Schlüsselbein2007The highway around Dallas is one big loop, but I still got lost. I passed Chipotle, the JP Morgan Chase building, La Quinta Inn, and Mockingbird Lane seven times before I finally pulled over and admitted I needed help.
My sister was in the psych ward. She had asked me to visit her for Labor Day weekend and even though she’d always had violent tendencies, it had never gotten as bad as it did that time. I’d had to call the cops on her after she tried to smash a water bottle on my head. They had put her in handcuffs in front of me. Please don’t put her in jail, I had said. She’s not a criminal. They’d said they wouldn’t. They would take her to Green Oaks Hospital, the place I was looking for now. I knew the Chipotle I’d passed seven times was near her new apartment, so I parked and went inside to call a taxi. The operator said it would be 20 minutes, but the taxi was outside in less than 10. I went up to the taxi and asked the driver if he was meant for me. “I never fail,” he answered.
The taxi smelled like free cologne samples and herbs. His name was Tik Tak and he told me he was half Jamaican, half Ethiopian. He had his hair in crisscrossed dreadlocks and a Bob Marley beach towel on his dashboard. Before we took off, he looked me in the eyes and asked me if I liked “the reggae beat.” I nodded, so in seconds, he was blasting Yellowman on his stereo.
Tik Tak said the hospital (I didn’t tell him it was a psych ward) was 30 minutes away, but he swore he could have me in there in 15. As much as I wanted to see my sister, this didn’t sound so good. He reversed the taxi too quickly and almost backed into a van with a mom and two kids. When she told him to watch where he was going, he stuck his head out the window and screamed, “Shut up, stupid!”
We must’ve been going no more than 60 at first since there were state troopers hanging around the highway, but once we passed them, Tik Tak slammed his foot down on the gas pedal. Yellowman’s moment on the radio was over and now Musical Youth was telling me to “pass the Dutchie on the left hand side.” I was hanging on to my seat, looking at the JP Morgan Chase building and the birds soaring past its front side. Even if I didn’t get to see my sister, I was okay with it. It would only mean I would have died trying to see her.
Tik Tak said his mother was from Addis Ababa and went to Kingston, Jamaica, to escape a marriage she didn’t want. She arrived in Kingston and a taxi driver took her to her motel. That taxi driver turned out to be Tik Tak’s father. “Taxis, they put my parents together,” he said. “I’ve been a taxi driver for over 20 years.”
Ten minutes had passed and I was focusing on the skyline, hoping remain in one piece. Then at the last second Tik Tak saw our exit was closed and he was going at least 90 to 100 miles an hour, so he swung the car over to the next lane, almost hitting two other cars in the process. He took the next exit, by Southern Methodist University. “We’ll take a different route,” he said. “But don’t you worry, Miss. Tik Tak never fail.”
Tik Tak came across a roundabout just before Southern Methodist University and since he was still figuring out the fastest route to take, we were spinning around in circles with blood rushing in our brains. He turned right, which wasn’t good enough due to a slow driver in front of us, so he made a sharp U-turn and went to the left side. A man on a bicycle was in his way, so we took a right again. We passed the slow driver by cutting him (or her) off and nearly crashing into a tree — actually, two trees.
There was construction on the next road. Tik Tak almost ran into a worker, who yelled at him to “watch it.” Tik Tak stuck his head out the window and answered, “You shut up!” Then he apologized for using that kind of language in front of me, but I told him not to worry. I had profanity in my mind too.
Yellowman was back on the radio saying “zung-guz-zung-guz-zeng” as we sped through downtown Dallas. I saw the book depository where Lee Harvey Oswald hid and the spot where JFK was shot. I tried to mourn my country’s former president, but I was interrupted by Tik Tak asking me why my sister was in the hospital. I told him she was sick. “With what?” he asked. I told him my family didn’t know, not even the doctor knew. He said maybe listening to the reggae beat would help her, which I found funny. Maybe it was worth a try.
We came to a place shaded by fake palm trees and tall, uncut bushes. I looked up and saw the lit “Green Oaks Hospital,” sign, with the word “hospital” burning out. I had my wallet out to pay Tik Tak, but he said he could wait. Won’t that run your meter? I asked. He turned it off. So I went into the hospital’s lobby and asked for my sister.
The nurse said I needed a three-digit code in order for her to assist me. The only person I could get the code from was my sister. But I’m the one who I put her in here, I said. She won’t want to talk to me.
The nurse disappeared from the front desk and returned after a few minutes. “Your sister is here,” she said. “That’s all I can tell you.”
I walked back to Tik Tak’s taxi and asked him to take me to Chipotle. “What about your sister, Miss?” I said the doctor already let her out; I got there too late. “So is she better?” he said. Yes, much better, I said.
We were back on the highway, going 90 miles an hour again, and I was bunched up against my window. I closed my eyes for the entire drive and when I opened them, I saw the glow of the Chipotle sign. “Here we are, Miss,” he said over Bob Marley’s voice. “You ever in Dallas again and need a ride, you call me. Tik Tak never fail.”