I remember some things from that day vividly. Other things are still fuzzy. I remember the warm sunshine and crisp air of a Minnesota summer morning. I was in Minneapolis to speak to a client about their new software system. I was sipping coffee in front of my hotel, waiting for a cab to take me to that client.
The cab pulled up the hotel driveway. I got in on the driver’s side.
“Where to?” the driver asked.
I gave him the address. He pulled out of the driveway. I took another sip of coffee.
“Where is this place?” he asked.
“Don’t know. First time here,” I said.
“Dammit!” He hit the steering wheel hard with his right hand.
I jumped. Coffee spilled and burned my hand.
“I expect my fares to know where the hell they’re going.”
I slid to the passenger side of the cab to look at the driver. He was a big guy with long brown hair, maybe in his thirties.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” I said, “Do you have a map?”
“You’re a smartass. You’re from South Dakota. I’ll bet anything. I hate people from South Dakota. You hicks come here in your Sears suits thinking you’re better than the rest of us.”
“Uh…I’m from Chicago,” I said.
He angled his body toward the dashboard. I heard a click.
“I don’t think you are. I think you’re an asshole from South Dakota.”
I looked out the window. We were on an expressway. We had been moving this whole time. He knew where he was going. He was just messing with me.
I felt a searing hot pain on my left thigh. Faster than I thought possible, he had reached around and pushed the cigarette lighter into my leg.
“Damn”, I yelled.
I grabbed his hand, but he kept pushing down. He was very strong. The pain was incredible. A hole had burned in my pants. Smoke was rising from my leg. I was in shock – unable to move.
Instinctively, I made a fist and swung with all my might at his head. I just kept hitting in a blind rage, slamming his head into the doorjamb. His hand left my thigh, but the pain did not stop.
I heard horns, screeching tires, an incredibly large sound. Then blackness – nothing.
All that happened twenty years ago. I still glance at the scar on my thigh where the lighter burned me.