Frank is good at what he does. The passengers might not outright say it because people tend to take for granted those who work for them, but by the time their rides, most of them leave with a satisfied smile or ask for his name so they can request him again specifically. Of course, there are weirdos and shitheads, people who manage to make his head hurt in the record time of a fifteen minutes drive. Luckily, they're not the majority.
He's been told he's liked because he's quiet which supposedly isn't a usual characteristic in taxi drivers. It's understandable since people are too caught up in their own lives to care about the opinion of some guy, they'll most likely see only once and for a quick drive to the supermarket or the airport.
The truth is most people don't think very highly about those who make a living driving from one place to another. Frank has made peace with it and is perfectly content with his job. It's not he has much to say, anyways.
He fakes attentiveness towards the chatty ones and mutters sounds of acknowledgment to those who prefer the illusion of exchange, too busy listening to the sound of their voices to care about who hears them. Frank enjoys driving quiet passengers the most, the ones who stare out of the window from start to finish, who keep their words at the bare minimum according to good manners.
Nate doesn't belong to the latter since he keeps trying to start a conversation, as if he's oblivious to Frank's reluctance or immune to his multiple attempts to abort them. At first, Frank ignores him and keeps his eyes stuck on the road ahead. By the time Nate dares to ask about his sister with a sickening ring of fondness in his voice, he straight up tells him to fuck off.
They've been quiet for a while and Frank is already internally chanting victory when Nate speaks again. He may be a wimp when it comes to his father, constantly abiding by his every word, but he isn't when it comes to Frank.
Nate has always been stubborn when it comes to what he wants if Frank is the one on the receiving end; and for the longest time, Frank found it endearing. Important. As if being the only person that Nate truly felt comfortable enough to stomp his feet down and voice his demands was proof of the strength of their bond. Clearly, Frank has never been very smart when it came to emotions.
Now, after many years, Frank couldn't feel further from what he once felt at Nate's insistence. He needs to find a way to shut him up, one that preferably doesn't involve vehicular manslaughter.
"How's the job?" Nate asks casually, like the last minutes of the ride hadn't happened. As if he had forgotten about the last nine years or had convinced himself that they are two normal friends catching up after a few months of not seeing each other.
There's nothing normal about them. Not the way Nate seems intent on pretending nothing happened, not the dull ache Frank feels every time their eyes meet.
"Not as stressful as whatever you've been doing, judging by your— general appearance," Frank says. Never in a million years, he would have thought he could be capable of being this rude to him, yet Nate seems unfazed.
Before he would have thought Nate was acting that way to hide how he felt, that his impassiveness was a mask to conceal his emotions. When they were younger, the blanker his expression got, the more deeply he was suffering. It doesn't really matter now.
"Look, Nate, I know you don't give a fuck about me. You made that pretty clear," Frank cuts him off, feeling his blood burn. "You don't have to do this, you know? No need for inane questions."
Nate remains silent after that, vacantly looking out the window. For the rest of the drive, Frank keeps directing furtive glances at him through the rearview mirror. He wonders if he had gotten everything wrong, if their relationship had always been like that: Frank looking at Nate while his attention was elsewhere, at a distant point, far from him.
The last time they had been together, he felt like the luckiest guy in the world. To be able to spend time with Nate, losing endless hours with him, felt like a miracle in disguise. It's the weirdest thing, to see a face that used to make you so happy and feel nothing but resentment and hurt.
"Do you want to come in? Mom would like to see you," Nate says as they arrive. Outside, his house manages to stand out even in the middle of a bunch of impressive mansions.
"Don't you fucking bring Gemma into this, man," Frank answers. "I only did this for her, but it's all I'm willing to do."
"No, you don't understand shit," Frank interrupts him. "Fuck, I'm not talking about this. Get the fuck out of the car."
"Nate, I'm serious. I can't do this. Get out," Frank hates the way his voice suddenly loses all the heat and turns into a small, pathetic whisper. "Please."
"You still did it. You had the chance to say no, but you didn't. That must mean something," Nate, for the first since their encounter, loses his unmoved demeanor. The pleading tone of his voice mirrors his own. "That could— that could mean something."
"Maybe it means I hate myself more than I hate you, Nate," Frank smiles bitterly. Words usually fail him, but not now.
Nate hesitates a little before getting out of the car without a word. Frank sighs and his knuckles turn white as he grips the steering wheel. He should feel relieved that it's over and that he didn't utterly embarrassed himself in front of Nate, but he feels defeated.
Their the relationship had no future, he always knew that. Even in the moments where he felt the most in love, with a million feelings running uncontrollable and wild inside of him, he kept no illusions about it.
Not once Frank thought their relationship would go beyond what they briefly had. As it started, Frank already knew that, sooner or later, it would end and he was mostly okay with it. A boyfriend with no prospects nor connections didn't have a place in the life Nate's father had painstakingly architectured for him. He now wonders if a boyfriend is part of those big plans at all. Perhaps a co-worker or a potential business partner with big ambition and a bigger trust fund could make the cut. Frank doesn't care, anyway.
James never liked Frank. This animosity he had for him was not a problem during their first years of friendship because he was rarely home, constantly traveling from one country to another, closing deals and making a shit-on of money, Frank guesses; doing whatever the owner of a big technology company does. Cheating on Gemma, most definitely.
On the rare occasion he did come home and had the displeasure to run into Frank, his attitude showed exactly how he felt.
At first, Frank felt extremely affronted about it because they had barely exchanged any words and James probably didn't even remember his name. It was impossible to make a good impression when the other person refused to engage with you, muttering a disgruntled 'hello' and leaving the premises as if they were allergic to your presence. Still, he wasn't usually at home, so for a long time, Frank and Nate were able to spend a lot of unrestricted time together. As they grew older, the expectations James had deposited in his son's future became more taxing.
Frank has to keep working. He despises the way anything related to Nate makes him immediately think about the past, he has no spare time for memories. When he was younger, he spent most of his time stuck in their time together, unable to move on and experience what was in front of him. Frank doesn't want to go back to that.
There's nothing more he wants than to return to his apartment and bury himself under a ton of blankets, but his boss would kill him if he called a day off with so little notice. Besides, what would he say? How would he explain the situation he's in? 'Hi, Charlie. My ex-best- friend-turned-boyfriend appeared out of the blue after spending years ignoring my existence and I'm completely floored. Tell Jimmy to cover for me.'
It's so goddamn ridiculous that the truth would sound less believable than if he were to say a lie. Once again, he resents Nate for putting him through something straight out of a fucking telenovela.
He sucks it up while driving talkative old ladies and antipathic teenagers, executives in a rush and housewives with too many grocery bags. His last passenger, Mary, is a regular and one of his favorites. She works at a bar in a part of the city where buses don't arrive, not too far from where his family used to live when he was a child.
Frank doesn't know if it's the relief of seeing a familiar face after an exhausting day or the certainty that he's going to be able to go home after he drives her, but he can't hold it anymore. All of a sudden, his eyes are filled with tears and he's having trouble breathing. Mary is looking at him bewildered from the backseat.
None of them say anything in the entirety of the ride. As they arrive and the girl leaves the car, the neon lights of the bar show Frank that, apart from the cash, she handed him a packet of paper tissue.
By reading my writing, you might get the impression that I don't understand how human relations work. It's true.
Thanks for reading!