‘Cookie And Me’
It was a hot gross sticky July night in New York City and I was in no mood to go out. A whole group of us were going to dinner, mostly because our friend Ally was visiting from out of town. Everyone was acting kind of drippy and boring, except for Ally, who was chomping at the bit to settle down into some serious drinking. As dinner ended, each of my friends excused themselves because of tiredness or having to work or whatever, and I was left as the sole member of the entertainment committee. I took her to the most famous lesbian bar in New York, promising myself that I would leave after a drink or two. But Ally wasn’t having it.
‘Bartender!’ she bellowed, slapping her hand down on the bar. ‘This lady needs a drink- fast!’
She’s the kind of person who will buy you a drink if you put yours down for two seconds and she was having a ball. Five Scotches later we were upstairs dancing our hearts out, and I think we even took our shirts off and danced in our bras, but I’m not sure beause this is a story about a night I don’t remeber so well.
At four a.m when I insisted to Ally that we leave before I slipped into a coma, we stumbled out on to the street. There was a cab already parked outside the bar so I said goodnight to Ally and got in. The driver was a woman, which is a huge rarity in New York. She was a butchy Latina, really friendly and talkative. She immediately started asking me all sorts of questions – was that my girlfriend, did I go out with girls, why did I go out with girls, did some guy break my heart, etc? I was intrigued by this and started questioning her back – how long had she been a cab driver? Was she married? Had she ever had sex with a woman? In my confused state I decided that she was a married woman who deliberately parked outside women’s bars late at night in an effort to secretly pick up a girl without her husband knowing. I became convinced of this. Unfortunately, I also became convinced that I would be the one to take her home.
I have spent years trying to convince my friends that this is absolutely unlike me – that this was the first and only time I’d ever tried to pick up a stranger. No one believes me to this day.
I tried my hardest to pick her up. I remeber her insisting that she couldn’t because she was working, and me insisting that it would only take half an hour or so. At the time that really seemed like a selling point. She had me going though, because she kept driving me around and around and talking to me as if she was interested. I don’t remember at all how it ended, except I couldn’t believe she wouldn’t take me up on the offer. Somehow I got upstairs to my apartment and passed out. When I woke up the next morning I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Thank GOD she didn’t come home with me – first, what a messy experience that would have been for her, and second, what the hell was I thinking? What would I have felt like if I woke up with the horrendous hangover I was dealing with AND the cab driver who drove me home was in my bed? I told my friends ‘ You wouldn’t believe what I tried to do last night…@ and they all told me I should be careful or I was going to get myself killed one day.
Seven months passed and the cab driver story became an old summer tale with hazy details. I was standing in a bar with a friend in January, when suddenly about five of my friends walked in looking like someone had died. ‘I really have to talk to you’ one of them said in a sombre tone and I got freaked out.
‘What? What’s going on?’
‘Remember that cab driver story you told us?’
‘Yeah, yeah – why? Is she here? Is she mad at me? Is she someone else’s girlfriend?’
‘No, It’s on TV’
This didn’t register for me at all. ‘What do you mean, on TV?’
She took a deep breath. ‘Ok theres this Tv show, and they taped people in taxi’s last summer, a lot of people, and you’re on the show. Everyone was just talking about it at this party we were at’
Incredulous, I dropped to the floor of the bar in a foetal position.
My friend called down to me, ‘It’s on four more times’.
Ouch. Have you ever been really drunk and tried to get someone to come home with you? Have you ever just done something embarrassing when you were really drunk and felt pained about it in the morning, telling yourself that everyone else was really drunk so no one would remember? Now imagine it on video tape. Now imagine it on TV. Five times.
We all gathered to watch it the next time it aired. I was in fits. A narraotr explained how it worked ‘…We put five lipstick-sized cameras inside each taxi and the driver had an ear-piece from which we could communicate with him or her from a van that followed closely behind…’ The first lucky person on the show was an insane transexual who was screaming ‘Everybody wants my cunt! Every man in this town!’ She was a mess. I was beginning to get incredibly nervous about what actual words I had used to pick up my driver, since it was evident that the show didn’t have any problem with vulgarities. It between segments they showed legless men in wheelchairs on the night streets of Manhattan and prostitutes leaning into cars. They played REM’s ‘Everybody Hurts’. I don’t know about everybody, but I was certainly hurting. I couldn’t wait to see how I fitted into this delicious little representation of the underbelly of New York…
The minute I appeared on screen, slurring my address to the cab driver, all of my friends started screaming, then screaming at each other to shut up. The words ‘Tuesday – 4.20 a.m.’ were typed across the bottom of the screen, as if a crime were about to be shown. I ran out of the room, covering my ears from the sound of my own voice. I stayed in the other room, occasionally lifting my hands from my ears to hear my friends howling. Then they all started screaming, ‘Come back! Come back! It’s over!’ I shuffled back into the room, head hanging, barely able to speak out: ‘How is it?’
One person said, ‘It’s not that bad. It’s kind of cute actually…’ and another said ‘Ph my God. Oh my God.’ Still another said ‘Were you on serious drugs that night or what?’
They taped it for me and it wasn’t until hours later that I was actually ready to wacth it. It was pretty fucking mortifying, I have to say.
First of all what a sucker I was. Obviously the cab was way too well-lit and when you watch Cookie DeJesus, for that was my dream dates name, you can see how premeditated the line of questioning was – and how easily I fell into the trap. I mean, I don’t think they expected me to come on to her, but I don’t think they were at all unhappy when I did: Second of all, Cookie didn’t look quite like I remember her from that night. She was indeed an appealing woman in her own way but later, when she went on talk shows, they would introduce her as ‘Cookie DeJesus. mother of three and grandmother of five!’ I wished I could draw a picture of what she looked like to me that night as I rolled around in the back of her cab. Not much like a grandmother. ‘So’ the talk show host said to her, ‘you certainly had an interesting experience…’ The audience chuckled softly. She said, ‘I just wanted to pull the cab over and give her a big hug.’ That’s more embarrassing than if she wanted to pull the cab over and slap me. Hug? ‘I think she really wanted me to be a sort of mother to her’, Cookie said, not unkindly. Mother?
Third of all, I didn’t say a single vulgar word in the infamous cab ride, but what I did say was worse. Just creepy stuff that no one should ever know you said. It’s not even how I talk; I was just trying to figure out what she needed to hear to come home with me. I can only thank God that when she said ‘So you just wanna go upstairs and cuddle?’ I said ‘…or whatever…’ instead of saying ‘Yes, my gentle sister’. One of the more horrible things I did was to describe my girlfriend at the time as ‘…big…and quiet…’ and when Cookie asked if Ally was my girlfriend, I snorted ‘No!’ and then if Ally was just a friend, I barked out ‘Hmph! Not even!’ The piece de resistance, however, is the last moment of the segment, when leaningwistfully against the window, I murmered, ‘Just you and me and no one will ever know. No one will ever know’.
My dad wrote me a little card a few weeks later, saying ‘…Caught you on late night TV the other night, just fliping channels. Talk about a coincidence! And talk about drunk!’ I got calls from people I hadn’t heard from in years, saying, ‘Wow! Your career is really taking off!’ and ‘It’s just so great to see a sexually aggressive woman on TV!’ And of course there were the endless people who recognized me in the street. ‘Hey!’ the guy in the copy shop said to his co-worker. ‘That’s the girl from the taxi! Hey – did she go home with you?’ Two of my friends have memorized the entire thing and will start whispering to each other, ‘OK – you be Cookie – go!’
I don’t know what I was supposed to learn from this experience, except maybe that anything can happen and nothing is sacred, things I already kind of knew. I will say this though; if you’re ever in a taxi in New York and you see that the driver’s name is Cookie Dejesus, tell her to drop you off at my house. I’m sure she’ll remember the address. I’ll come downstairs with a wad of cash and say ‘Cookie, start driving. I’ve got a few questions I want to ask you’.