Serge?'s School of Existentialism

by Isabelle Abraham

A leap into the unknown United States


After 11 days of exhausting sleep, and multiple flights with an airline rejected by the devil himself, I finally landed in my favourite city. Just as I escaped the sweaty agitation of JFK airport, a yolk-yellow cab pulled up at my aching feet. "Where to?" the driver barked, rolling down the window. "Times Square," I responded, getting in. The next few minutes wasted away as we struggled to understand each other's accents. "Where from?" he asked, starting the car. "Mozambique." "Mozambique? Wow! Your name?" "Isabelle." "French!" He turned and stuck his hand through the small window that separated us. "I'm Serge." "Also French," I smiled noncommittally, glancing at the road that he was not paying attention to. Ignoring the hint, Serge launched into his life story. For a while I stared out the window, hoping for silence. I couldn't help listening, though, when he started talking about French literature. "It's hard finding someone to discuss existentialism with," Serge said. "People don't read anymore." He carefully handed me the shabby books that were next to him. "They've been by my side ever since I left Haiti." "I haven't read much lately," I responded. "I used to write too-poetry, short stories-but now, nothing." "Do something about it," he insisted. "Just start writing and don't stop. One has to leave something behind for the next generation. A, a." "A legacy?" I offered half-heartedly. "A legacy, exactly! All people care about here is work, money, sex, drugs. Nothing higher, nothing pure." Out of his mouth flew a lengthy diatribe against the city and its "empty, empty" inhabitants. Not my New York, I thought sullenly, as the East River drifted past. My New York was about lights, beauty, dreams. Not this mouldy sham that his words painted. To prove his bitter point, Trump Tower soon loomed ahead of us. Even the spring loveliness of Central Park wasn't enough to distract from it. After an hour of dissecting the human condition, we arrived at my destination. I thanked Serge, promising to dedicate my first novel to him. As I stepped out of the cab, something pricked my line of vision: a huddled form outside my dark, gleaming hotel. The homeless eyes were shut so tightly that the face cracked with strain. It was the perfect stillness, however, that clouded my mind with unease. I turned away and gazed up at the surrounding buildings. For some, even a small slice of the Big Apple can be hard to chew.