We emerged blinking from Customs and Immigration at the Marsh Harbour International Airport, pole-axed by the intensity of the sunlight.
In the Bahamas for a wedding, Jeff and I meandered to the taxi stand, where a young guy assisted our luggage into the back of a mini-van driven by an older man in a neat black suit.
We settled onto the wide back seat and the van peeled away from the terminal at about 13 dusty miles an hour.
In that friendly, implacable Caribbean way, the cabbie introduced himself as J----S---- and asked us where we were from, what we did for a living, how long we’d be staying. And was it true that our hometown was indeed a good place to buy a used limo?
Cars passed us on the right, on the left, zooming, flying by. But J----S--- held firm to a top speed of perhaps 22 mph. I was surprised when Jeff offered him names of several limo services in our hometown. “They can probably give you an idea of where to get a good used one,” Jeff suggested. Always with the hidden depths in his still waters. Who knew my husband had an opinion about and knowledge of the livery trade?
As J---- S--- continued to pilot us carefully across town, I took note of the Bible dotted with yellow sticky-notes, the starched collar of his shirt, and the aluminum walker crammed onto the narrow dashboard.
We were here for a wedding? he eventually inquired.
We were. A friend of ours would be marrying a girl from Nassau, over in Hope Town.
“My wife and I just celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary,” he said, and I took a quick look at his grey-flecked hair, trying to do the math.
“The secret is,” he said, pulling carefully into a parking space at the ferry dock, “To say ‘I love you,’ every day.”
He popped open his door and wrestled with the aluminum walker before swinging his single leg onto the white-dust driveway of the ferry docks. I hopped out to join Jeff in fetching our own luggage from the back of the minivan. Lifting open the back hatch, I was taken aback by the sight of J---'s prosthetic leg -- complete with shoe, like a two-toned riding boot ready for the hunt -- standing upright next to our duffle-bag. I nudged Jeff and he nodded.
I could barely wait to tell the story -- how this one-legged taxi driver (perhaps the slowest taxi-driver of all time!) with his neat black suit and his warm accent offered up such sweet advice for marriage and happiness. I was thinking it was a sort of narrative gift from the funny old world. And for toasting newlyweds --! But when I tested it out with some friends from the wedding party, they interrupted me.
Oh, was it J--- S---? they asked, J--- S---- from over the way? Oh, yes, they said, we know him.
Of course they did. Five thousand people on the big island where everyone flies through or comes through by ferry. It would be surprising if they didn't know him.
That sizzling noise? That would be the sound of hot air escaping from the silly balloon of a story that wasn't actually picturesque or funny after all. I should know by now that Jeff's better at toasts than I am.
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