Gypsy Taxi

Seconds after I raise my hand, a run-down white Lada swerves across two lanes, cutting off cars on Gorogly and abruptly stops in front of me. This hectic bustling street isn’t a designated spot for foreigners, and I stick out. The driver leans over to crack the passenger side window. I give him the hotel – Ak Altyn.

The old Russian man hastily motions for me to get in as if I am a bother. In Ashgabat – this pristine white capital city – everyone is always in a hurry. Even though there is nowhere to go and nothing to do. I quickly open the passenger door and sit down. The unofficial race starts. While dodging cars and speeding up and slamming the brakes, the driver cuts his eyes to the rearview. I stammer out a quick thank you hoping that he returns his attention to his primary focus – the road. A smile breaks out. 

You speak Russian!
And before I can answer, the personal questions pour out.
Where are you from? Why are you here? Why are you on Gorogly Street? 

He’s curious. And that’s the catch with these gypsy cabs – these makeshift taxis in former Soviet countries – a quick chat is inevitable. We scale the curb turning onto Atamyrat. 

I’m American. Yes, I speak Russian. I live here, back off Gorogly. One month now. I’m an English teacher at the American school in Berzengi. And where are you from? I ask, already knowing the answer. 

What? Ashgabat, of course! American? Obama! I love America! How old are you? 
 Twenty-seven. How old are you?
What? Why would you ask that? Are you married?
Why not? I have a son. You’re not married, why?
First, I need a boyfriend. I won’t marry just anyone, but I’m happy you have a son. I’m sure he is nice. 

The brakes squeal, and the cab makes a sharp left onto Magtymguly ignoring the red light. The end of the race in sight.

Do you like Ashgabat? Turkmenistan?
I love Ashgabat. White City of Love, yes?
Yes! Hotel is here. Go straight? 
Here, please. 

The brakes slam to a halt. We make it in under five minutes. One month in and I know what’s coming next.

Will you marry my son?
Hmmm, Yes. If I get twelve camels, six yurts, a new dress every month, four Akhal-Teke horses. And a country house. I think that’s it.
Twelve? That’s expensive. A yurt? FOUR Akhal-Teke? Americans are crazy!
A no then?

Of course, no. That’s crazy, and you’re old. Three manat.
Okay – while handing him a five – keep the change.
Thank you, and with a smile, Goodbye. 

He speeds off until his next race. An everyday conversation for him. I’m speechless. And I walk to the white marble hotel, trying to absorb this new life, this white city of love. 

Twenty-seven. Single. Old. No prospects.

Because of an evening sharing stories about teaching, and living overseas, Lindsey LeCroy realized she had something to write about. So, she does. Most of what she writes happens to be when her high school students work during Writer’s Workshop because, in the evenings, she’s busy being a new mom. She currently lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her partner, their son, Sebastien, and their dog, Sonja.

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