“The cops should, they should go after these people. They should chase them down and give them a ticket. I get near them, I get a ticket. That’s why they have a whole, with the paint, a lane. The cops should get involved. They should at city hall get up and do something. You want to take the expressway or Milwaukee?”
The cabbie nodded sagely, as if I had passed a test.
He was the back of a head to me, a jut of scraggled, frazzy gray shooting from the back of a ball cap — Mad Science hair. He never looked back, just kept eyes on road and gestured with his hands at the cyclists whirring by. I couldn’t decide if his accent was more Minsk or Guadalupe. The vowels at the end of the name on his hack license voted Mexico, but it was hard to tell. He just spoke Chicago.
“It’s these two trials they got at the federal building,” he said by way of explaining the traffic.
“And that police chief. There’s one man I know who did it.”
“That police chief. He mistreated people. I know he mistreated people. They all mistreated people. If you black or Hispanic, they mistreated you, drag you by the hair. That _____ guy, the actor? He mistreated people. They all did.”
“Oh, yeah. I forgot he was a cop.”
“One time, I was smart with the cops. I was 14 and we were all hanging out and the cops came by and said, ‘You can’t be hanging out here.’ And I said, ‘It’s a free country, hey.’ Eh? How you like that? I was smart with them, you see? And they said, ‘We’ll come back around and give you a free country.’ And they came back around and there was this one cop who was like, ‘He’s just a kid.’ But the other, we were at _____ and they took us to the station and that was at _____. And they made me walk all the way back. That was it. Halfway across town, they made me walk back.”
“They just made you walk back?”
“They just made me walk back. Another time, I was 13 and some of us cut class and we went up to Lincoln Park and we’re looking at girls and we didn’t know the station, it’s right there and the cops are,” he said, miming binoculars. “And they come out and say, ‘Get down from there,’ because I see them coming and I’m in a tree but they get me and take me to the juvenile hall. You know if they still have those records there?”
“I know they throw out the records from school.”
“We were in school. I don’t know. It’s so long, I forget. Nine and a half days I was there. You see this guy? He won’t let me in and now he try to cut me off,” the cabbie said, gesturing angrily at a minivan taxi as we idled across the Monroe Street bridge.
“Nine days,” he said more calmly after giving up the battle with the minivan.
“In juvie?” I asked.
“If you were black, they made you wash your face in the toilet. You’re white, you’re Hispanic, you wash your face in the sink. But you’re black, they say, ‘No, you’ve got to wash your face in the toilet.’”
“You hear a lot about why black people are the way they are, but you come from that abuse.”
Nothing seemed right to say.
“Abuse? I know abuse,” he continued before trailing off.
He gestured at a bicycle cruising dangerously by.
“I wonder why so many people going to the Taste so early?”
Written in June 2010