Damani is tired. Every day she cares for her mum, drives ride shares to pay the bills and is angry at a world that promised her more before spitting her out. That is until the summer she meets Jolene and life opens up. Jolene seems like she could be the perfect girlfriend - attentive, attractive, liberal - and their chemistry feels genuine. So maybe Damani can look past the one thing that's holding her back: Jolene is white. But Jolene really doesn't seem like one of the bad ones - she's done the reading, she goes to every protest, she even listens. Still, just as their romance intensifies, just as Damani learns to trust, Jolene does something unforgivable, setting off an explosive chain of events. Your Driver Is Waiting is a blackly comic and deeply political novel about anger, love and privilege in all their messy forms.
Release date: February 28, 2023
Print pages: 320
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Your Driver Is Waiting
If you’re going to be a driver, you’d better hide at least one weapon in your car. Especially if you’re a driver that looks like me. Not because I’m dashing or handsome, but because I am a woman, of course. I think it has something to do with tits even though not all of us have them. I sort of do, but that’s beside the point.
I’d been driving for RideShare using Appa’s old car, whose make I will not disclose. I had a switchblade in the glove compartment (which I normally kept in my back pocket), a tire iron under my seat, pepper spray by my door, and a pair of scissors under the mat by the pedals, taped down to avoid any sliding. In the trunk there were six bottles of water, a bucket, a bottle of bleach, some rope, a baseball bat, a few rolls of paper towels, a can of antiperspirant and another of spray paint, some condoms, tampons, pads, and diapers. As humans we have an assortment of bodily fluids and by then I’d tasted about eight of them. In the bucket—and I didn’t like keeping much in it—there was a roll of duct tape because duct tape will do just about anything you want it to. I also had some dishcloths, a towel, a crowbar, cleaning products, a toothbrush, baking soda, vinegar, and a squeegee buried under some rags in a corner of the trunk, because things got messy. Oh, and there was a pair of black rubber gloves too. These were difficult to find, but I wanted black.
All the drivers I’ve ever met say it’s crucial to drive prepared. Go ahead and ask one. If they tell you there’s not even one weapon hidden in their car, they’re lying. As a driver, you have to protect yourself. Out there in the city, we’re on our own.
I had only closed my eyes for a second and in this new place behind my eyelids, my hair was made of peacock feathers and I was riding a silver pony. The world here was simple. Smiley sun, fluffy clouds, grass that was greener than green on all sides. Then my head hit the steering wheel and I woke up to a long annoying honk reminding me that I was logged into the app, on the road, and in traffic. The driver behind me in a green hybrid flailed his arms around like he was late for his yearly dick suck.
“Fucking drive, bitch!”
“All right, all right. Good morning to you too,” I murmured to myself, smiling at him in my rear-view. Of course I am allowed to nap—maybe not stuck in traffic, but if it happens it happens. I’m sorry?
My morning routine was straightforward. I wish I could say I started the day with the four highly effective habits of the wealthy. You know, they wake up at five a.m. and go for a walk without a care in the world. They brush their horses in their stable, masturbate at the breakfast bar in the house they own on their private island that they flew to on their personal jet. But I had too much work to do. I had no kids, no pets—just one job and a whole load of responsibilities. I mean, I’d love to wake up earlier and smash out a few sets. Only, I get home at two or three some mornings, struggle to sleep most nights, and am up again by seven. That’s not enough hours to properly rest my muscles, my mind, or even my thoughts.
It had only been about ten minutes since I left the house, and my phone was already buzzing. It was Amma. I hit “end” as I always did, wishing that sometimes it had more power than just ignoring a call. Again and again, her name flashed on my screen, and each time I did the same. Then she sent me the first round of the many messages she will send in a day.
7:57 We need $350 for the electricity bill. What happened to minimum payments?
7:59 Rent. PAY RENT OR WE SLEEP NO WHERRRRRE!
8:00 Did U pay last months?
8:03 Garlic Causes Blood Clots—click here—SEE I TOLD YOU!
8:03 Dont drive like a crazy today
They say mothers are in tune with their children even if the relationship they have with them is beyond what one might describe as “shitty.” Amma was sure that she knew me inside and out when she couldn’t even remember how to function like she used to. Somehow, she believed life was more draining for her than it was for me.
“That’ll be twenty-three twenty-five.” She must’ve been twenty-three herself, and there she was judging me as I glanced at the items on the conveyor one last time. Iced coffee in a can, ginger ale, actual ginger, garlic, onions, cold rub, chilies, Epsom salts, two vanilla protein bars, dates, and some chocolate almonds. Twenty-three dollars and twenty-five cents. I’d need to either do two short rides or one in high surge to make the money back.
“I don’t need these actually.” I pushed the almonds to one side, knowing I’d regret it later.
The fluorescent lights in the shop were stupefying. I had noticed, in my quick perusal, that the organic foods were no longer in a separate section, but now had an aisle to themselves directly opposite the value options. On the left, a can of baked beans for half a dollar. On the right, a can of baked beans for three-fifty. Someday I’ll buy one just to know what they taste like. If they melt in my mouth without a hint of aluminum, then they will be worth every penny. But if you’ve got culinary talent gurgling in your veins like I do, you don’t need the organic shit to make something near-genius.
Row upon row behind me was packed full of boxes, bottles, and Tetra Paks colored in wisps of every hue: 100% Juice, Completely Sustainable, Ethically Made and Sold by Cherubs in Fancy Dress, No Orangutans Were Killed in the Process, Fair Fucking Trade. Nothing about any of the exchanges in this hellhole were fair. The city was trying to fool us all.
The old woman waiting for her turn behind me smiled while I rummaged through my pockets for another few coins. She wore yellow high socks and held a bag of oranges in her hands, with some milk and a packet of raisins. I was beyond any point of embarrassment that would allow me to care what she or the twenty-three-year-old teller thought of my grown self looking for more money in my lint-filled pockets.
“You can never find those coins when you need them.” I winked at the teller.
“And don’t they just love to hide. Did you check your back pocket? In your shoe? In your bra?” The old woman jested at my expense, laughing jovially at my predicament. She had had her fair share of living too seriously, it seemed—she threw jokes into the air as if she was going to die tomorrow. I plopped the change I found in my back pocket on the counter. I had hid a twenty-dollar bill in my hand and pulled it out from my hair. The old woman slapped her knee with the bag of oranges and I worried she’d fall over. She chuckled and I could tell she had been a smoker. I nodded at the teller, smiled at the old lady and grabbed my things. My phone vibrated. The shopping bag with all my twenty dollars and twenty cents’ worth of goods probably weighed about four pounds.
Outside there were kids playing in the street. Good for them, I thought. Better than losing their minds in front of a screen. But their motor skills weren’t fully formed. Their lanky arms and oversized palms clapped haphazardly into the air, missing their ball every now and then. All I could see were my wing mirrors cracking, and if that were to happen it would be another bill on top of the bills I already could not afford—even with Shereef’s discount at the garage—stacked on the kitchen counter.
“Watch it, kids. Don’t play near parked cars.”
“There are cars everywhere, lady. We’re all gonna die!”
Kids these days are so well-informed. I got my phone out. “Hello, one sec, Amma. I’ll call you back.” Key in the ignition, I took a deep breath. The first of many for the day. A traffic light ahead, a left then right turn before waiting at a school crossing. I could do this drive in my sleep, but I wouldn’t, of course.
It was 8:16 in the morning. Mrs. Patrice’s bingo started at nine and she was usually my first ride of the day, and my favorite (5.0 stars). She had on her thin taupe trenchcoat with a motley-colored scarf tied round her neck. I could smell her musky amber perfume even as she walked down the steps of her building. She was slow, so slow that most mornings I had time to smoke a whole cigarette before she got to the car.
“Good morning, Mrs. P.”
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