Diary of an Uber Driver, The Font , is the third and final story in the series. The preceding stories are below:
Hillary never suspected me. I knew when Andrew would be going away for business. I knew the love she had for her precious Marigold. And still, she never suspected me. The notes started shortly after we first met, on that dreary, rain soaked morning back in August. Every episode of Law and Order I ever watched about a stalker or an assault or rape involved that question to the victim, “Has anyone new come into your life lately? Anything out of the ordinary?” I was the only new addition to Hillary’s life. A total stranger who, by absolute chance, appeared one day at her front gate, offering a friendly smile and a safe ride to work. My first words to her were, “Wow, you have the greenest eyes I’ve ever seen.” How could she trust me?
I was waiting for a fare in The Rocks at 12:30pm on a Wednesday when my phone started ringing. It was Hillary:
“Hi are you near the city? I really need a ride home from work. Please, please, please,” she begged through heavy panting. “Taxi drivers are protesting in Macquarie Street and I can’t get an Uber either, I think they’re staying away from the protest,” she said frantically, yelling over the beeping horns and passing busses on the street.
“I’m nearby, I’ll be there soon Hillary,” I replied, closing the book I was reading so hurriedly I forgot to mark the page.
I was nervous. My palms were sweating and my left leg was shaking uncontrollably as I made my way to Phillips Street in Sydney’s bustling financial district. For the past week I had that song stuck in my head. It wouldn’t stop. It grew louder and louder as I got closer to Hillary; my heartbeat in sync with the tempo of the cymbal.
I pulled over at the front of the building where Hillary works. I thought I caught a glimpse of bright, red hair from behind one of the marble columns at the towers entrance. I grabbed my phone to call her when I saw movement once more. Hillary was standing with her back to the column and every 4-5 seconds would steal a glance around the corner before returning to her barricade. I sounded my horn and Hillary’s head again appeared from her place of refuge. As soon as we made eye contact she bolted to my car, pushing bystanders from her path on the way.
“GO! GO! GO!” she yelled, slamming my door and reaching for her seatbelt in one motion. I didn’t hesitate, planting my foot firmly on the accelerator and pulling out from the curb. Hillary was breathing heavily, like she had run down all fifteen flights of stairs from her office on the top floor. Through her panting she was saying something over and over. I tilted my head and tuned my ears in attempt to hear her breathless whispers. On every exhale she was saying,
“I got him. I got him. I got him. I got him.”
Chills ran down my spine and the hairs on my neck stood on end as Hillary repeated her chilling mantra. I needed answers, and quick:
“What do you mean? What happened Hillary?” I demanded, as I snuck through an orange light on Hunter Street.
Hillary slowed her breathing through long, controlled exhales. She tilted her chin to her chest and closed her eyes, concentrating hard to catch her breath. After more than ten seconds she opened her eyes slowly, turned to me, and told me a story I would not soon forget:
“I was organising the work Christmas party and had just finished creating the invitations. I went to hit print but my screen kept flashing with a printer error. I really needed to have these invitations printed today and didn’t have time to phone IT to fix my computer. One of the bankers was off sick today so I booted up his computer to print them off. I needed to add one more line of copy to the invitations and they would be ready to go. I typed, ‘Please RSVP by the 15th of December.’”
Hillary paused for a moment and squinted her eyes shut. She rested her face in the palm of her right hand and let out a deep sigh before continuing:
“I almost fainted when I looked up at the screen. I had to cup my mouth with my hand to stop myself from screaming. The font. It was the same font from all the letters. There it was typed on the screen in front of me. It couldn’t be a coincidence because who would choose that font? Out of the hundred fonts to choose why would you have that font saved? I tried my best to hide my panic from the other workers in the office. My hands were shaking so much I almost couldn’t move the mouse. I clicked on recent items and found another note written in Showcard Gothic. It was so much longer than the other notes. More of a letter. I hit print and took the note to the stairwell to read.”
Hillary opened her bag and presented the note she had printed out. She paused, took a deep breath, then started reading:
“IT’S TIME. IT’S TIME YOU PAID FOR YOUR DISRESPECT. YOU NEVER REMEMBER MY NAME YET REMEMBER THE COFFEE ORDERS OF THE BETTER LOOKING BANKERS ON OUR FLOOR. YOU WOULD RATHER TEXT ON YOUR PHONE IN THE ELEVATOR THAN MAKE SMALL TALK WITH ME. YOU GO FOR AFTERWORK DRINKS WITH EVERYONE BUT ME AND THEN RUB IT IN MY FACE ON MONDAY MORNING BY TELLING STORIES ABOUT THE GREAT NIGHT YOU HAD. LAST YEAR’S CHRISTMAS PARTY WAS THE FINAL STRAW. YOU FORGOT TO SEND ME AN INVITATION AT ALL. AM I INVISIBLE TO YOU?
YOU TOOK AWAY MY DIGNITY. NOW IT’S TIME I TOOK SOMETHING AWAY FROM YOU. WOOF.WOOF.WOOF.”
I gasped, almost unable to focus on road in front of me. I had flashes in my mind of a stranger opening the gate to Hillary’s house and calling out to Marigold. That beautiful, unassuming dog would answer the call and be led away from the house. I gritted my teeth and accelerated through another orange light. I shot a quick glance over at Hillary, expecting to see a face stricken with panic and terror, but that’s not what I saw at all. Hillary was smiling self righteously and nodding her head with steely confidence. She scrunched up the letter with attitude, before turning to me and saying, in a strong tone I hadn’t heard in her before:
“I’m not stupid you know. I’m not some pushover little girl who gets stepped on. I got him, me, by myself. This coward only dropped his letters and threats when he knew Andrew was out of town. For the past week I have been telling everyone Andrew was going on a business trip to America for the next month., leaving today. I even posted a photo of us on FaceBook telling the world how much I was going to miss him. Andrew is at home with Marigold, safe and sound. This creep has played into my trap. He can be as big and as scary as he wants. Smart wins every time.”
Relief instantly washed over me when I heard Marigold was safe. I couldn’t help but smile and nod in unison with Hillary, the warrior sitting beside me. I could see the flashing police lights in the distance as I pulled into Hillary’s street. A man wearing a tracksuit and black hoody was being led into the back of a police wagon, his hands cuffed behind his back. Hillary broke down when she realised her tormentor, her stalker had been arrested. The relief was so much that Andrew had to help her from my car and lead her inside. When Hillary reached her front door she turned around and smiled at me through her tears. She gave me quick wave before disappearing behind the door.
I drove home thinking about the man I saw being taken away by the police. To most, if not all, he was a normal, functioning member of society, successful even. Yet here he was, so aggrieved at the inadvertent lack of attention he received from Hillary, a wonderful person, who would not have intended a skerrick of malice towards him in her actions. What tragedy had he suffered that made him that way? I was so happy for Hillary, but at the same time concerned for her, for me, for every good person out there. My next passenger, your next driver, could be as cold and damaged as the ghoul who cast a shadow over Hillary’s life for the past five months….. And we would never know.