I was seated, as usual, next to the window, towards the rear of the TaxiBe. Next to me, on my right, sat an elegant young man in his mid-thirties. He was neatly dressed in a navy jacket, a blue denim shirt and a pair of blue Levi’s jeans – the type students are wearing these days. I also noticed he was fondly clutching what looked like a laptop bag.
At the Tsiadana stop, a woman of about forty got into the TaxiBe and sat next to the young man. She was wearing a simple blouse and jacket ensemble, khaki slacks, dark glasses, and a nice perfume. She was more cute than beautiful; attractive, but not too much.
It was the young man who initiated the conversation by introducing himself as Nestor Ramambazafy, but told her to call him Maestro. She seemed confused by the latter point. When she asked why, he explained how he didn’t like to be called Nestor, Nesta, or Taoro.
“But why do you call yourself Maestro?” she insisted.
“What’s wrong with Maestro?” he retorted. “You don’t like Maestro?”
They both laughed, a happy, careless laugh, as she reached out and lightly touched his arm. I figured she was one of those physical conversationalists. Guys usually like girls like that.
“Sure,” she said, “I will call you Maestro, but only if you call me Farazoky.”
“Deal!” Maestro extended his hand and she playfully shook it. “Nice to meet you, Farazoky!”
I could feel the chemistry between these two.
The TaxiBe stopped to pick up more passengers at the Antanimora station — the popular neighborhood where the city’s prisons and army barracks were located. A black 4×4 with tinted windows passed by with its stereo cranked up to the max. Oddly enough, it was playing a soft, pleasant ballad.
“I love that song,” Farazoky said. “Do you know the title?”
“I don’t really like Phil Collins,” he said, instead of answering her question.
“But do you know the title of the song?” The car had now driven way ahead of us and the song was no longer audible.
“He’s just too cheesy for my taste,” he continued, completely ignoring her question. “A bit like Richard Marx. Do you like Richard Marx?”
“Sure,” she replied. “Who doesn’t like Richard Marx?”
“Well, I don’t like Richard Marx,” he said in a definitive manner. “I think …”
“What does Maestro like?” Farazoky interrupted him, poking a manicured index finger into his arm. Maestro backed up, squeezing me further against the window.
“I like Paul Simon, but only when he was with Garfunkel.”
She nodded. We were going through the residential Antsahabe neighbourhood, gradually approaching the city center. Traffic was becoming noticeably denser.
“I like Sting,” Maestro went on, “but only when he was with The Police.”
“Roxanne is my favorite song,” She chipped in, for the sake of saying something, I guessed.
“I just don’t like singers who venture into solo careers outside their original formation,” he asserted, by way of conclusion. “It confuses me.”
She asked him if he also disliked Paul McCartney and John Lennon.
“I don’t listen to the Beatles,” he replied matter-of-factly. He then went on to stare at a couple of beautiful girls who had just boarded the TaxiBe. We were now near the Ambohijatovo public gardens in downtown Antananarivo. It was the end of the workday for most civil servants and the sidewalks were becoming crowded. Surprisingly though, traffic was more fluid than usual.
“So, are you a loyal and faithful guy, Maestro?” Farazoky asked him, again poking his arm with her index finger. Again, he backed up — I could feel his elbow resting on my ribcage through my jacket.
“Why are you asking?”
“I think you are,” she said. “I can usually tell a lot about a person by his musical taste. You are the type of person that dislikes any disruption to the established order. You tend to stick to what is familiar.”
She was looking at me as she said those lines. For a brief moment, we sustained eye contact. Then, she smiled and shifted her gaze back to Maestro.
“Wow! You totally figured me out.” I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic. “Are you from the Psychology Department, or something? Maybe Sociology?” He was eyeing her with the nervousness and perplexity of a man whose secret was about to be discovered.
“No,” Farazoky chuckled. “I don’t go to the University. Don’t worry, Maestro! Your secret is safe with me.”
Once again, they joined in jovial laughter. Her hand was now on his lap, next to his laptop bag.
Maestro smiled and was silent for a while. He appeared to be quite attracted to this girl. As far as I could tell, he wanted to make his move on her, and she, in turn, was flirting back. I observed them as if I was watching a TV show; one with rather good dialogues, I have to say.
Moments later, the show was unfortunately brought to a screeching halt.
“Oay lelika!” Farazoky suddenly exclaimed as the TaxiBe came to a stop by the Anosikely roundabout in front of the Senate building. “I almost missed my stop! Driver, please wait! I need to get out.”
She gave Maestro a sweet kiss on the cheek — “See you around Maestro! Bisou!” — and hurriedly pushed her way towards the TaxiBe’s back door. There was a bit of commotion — a lot of people were getting in and out as this was a popular stop.
Maestro tenderly watched as Farazoky got out and disappeared into the thick crowd in the busy marketplace nearby. I wondered whether he was disappointed that he didn’t get her number. Either way, Maestro was smiling, apparently quite pleased with himself.
As the TaxiBe slowly continued its route towards the Ampefiloha neighbourhood however, Maestro seemed to have suddenly realized something was very wrong. He panicked as he looked around desperately – his laptop bag was apparently missing. Amidst his gesticulations, I was pushed even further against the window.
“Oay lelika!” Maestro cried. “My laptop! That bitch just stole my laptop! Driver, please stop the vehicle, I need to get out now.”
There was another series of commotion as the TaxiBe came to an unscheduled stop. I watched as Maestro hurried himself out of the 119 van and started running back towards Senate building.
Truth be told, I was not sure what his plan was. Was he really thinking of catching Farazoky? She had rushed out of the bus almost ten minutes ago. She was probably already very far away at that point. Why would he still attempt to go after her?
Something seemed fishy about the entire episode.
After things settled down a bit, the TaxiBe continued its route through the infamous Andavamamba corridor. It was almost dark when I finally got out at the 67Ha terminal station.
As I briskly walked towards my apartment building, I felt an uncomfortably unfamiliar lightness in my jacket. When I reached to check for my keys, I noticed my wallet was missing. So was my iPhone.
The officers at the Commissariat de Police later told me that they were quite familiar with the light-fingered duo, and that, if it was any consolation, I was not their first victim – those two rascals had been putting on that show on the Ligne 119 for quite a while.
“Oay lelika!” was all I could say.
Related country: Madagascar