Hamed Abawi’s nose has a permanent curve to it, the result of a childhood bathtub fall and countless botched attempts to correct it. With his bob haircut and shiny-alligator-skin-print shirt, he looks like more like the lead of a Monkees tribute band than the prolific seducer he claims to be in his memoir.
“I’m the king at night,” Abawi, 55, says on a recent downtown drive in his SUV.
In D.C. Cabbie: Sex, Drugs, and Taxi Fares, published in May, Abawi relates countless booze- and drug-fueled sexual encounters across the Washington area. The book reads like an unconnected reel of anecdotes that first titillate, then numb around the time Abawi is describing yet another customer’s pubic styling. But Abawi remains positive about the self-published book’s prospects.
“Anyone that reads this book knows that this will sell itself in America,” Abawi says.
Abawi fled Afghanistan as a teenager ahead of the Soviet invasion in 1979, eventually landing in the D.C. area. What was meant to be a short-term job driving airport passengers turned into a decades-long career that gave him entree into countless District subcultures.
Cabbing took Abawi through a full spectrum of District life, from picking up Reagan-era cold warriors to having sex with a prostitute in a cemetery. In the course of the book, Abawi goes from driving Georgetown basketball star Patrick Ewing to ingratiating himself with a set of Dilaudid addicts in suburban Maryland.
In his nearly 35-year taxi career, Abawi claims he learned how to drive stoned, or with his feet on the steering wheel, or by shifting gears with his frequently erect penis. And he picked up some truisms of the District: Republicans love cocaine, in his telling, while Democrats prefer marijuana. A tittie-bump, Abawi helpfully explains, is “when you snort a line of coke from a breast.”
Abawi’s long career and love of stories made him a well-known figure in some parts of the District nightlife industry.
“When you drive a cab, the best times are from midnight to 5 in the morning,” says Marco Jelencovich, a co-owner of Dupont Circle bar Parlay and a longtime Abawi friend. “He was always out and about.”
The vast majority of D.C. Cabbie focuses on the countless women whose lust for cab drivers Abawi claims to have satisfied. The book doubles as an account of how difficult it can be to have sex in a taxi, as Abawi recounts several female passengers propositioning him, often before he delivers them home to their husbands or boyfriends.
“It was a dream for them to fuck a cab driver in a cab,” Abawi says.
When it comes to sex, Abawi’s style is more Penthouse Letters than Leaves of Grass. Consider a passage in which he shares cocaine with an attorney, then narrates their encounter.
“While she was blowing me, she bit my balls really hard,” Abawi writes. “I grabbed her by the hair and screamed, ‘Bitch, don’t ever do that again!’ She loved it. We had really rough sex.”
Abawi has some theories on why he’s been so popular with customers, honed through decades on the streets. A cab driver, according to Abawi, represents the ideal anonymous, late-night hookup for many of Washington’s professional women.
“After 10 o’clock at night, the women look for somebody to fuck,” Abawi says.
Abawi says he became an expert at relating to women from across the District’s social sets, with interns as a favorite. When Bill Clinton became embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Abawi thought about writing the president a letter explaining the best way to sleep with Washington interns: driving a cab, of course.
This purported attraction isn’t one-sided. At one point in the book, a coked-up Abawi sees two potential customers—only to realize he’s actually staring at a newspaper stand and a fire hydrant.
But Abawi’s seedy book may have revealed more than even he intended. Far from a lighthearted sexual memoir, D.C. Cabbie chronicles something more disturbing: how far Abawi was willing to go to have sex with his customers.
By his own account, many of the women Abawi beds in the book appear too drunk or high to consent. He has intercourse with one woman who had urinated on herself earlier that night, and another who threw up shortly after getting into his cab. When two women started having sex with each other in the back seat, Abawi describes himself joining in without their knowledge.
“They had no idea that my fingers were also in action,” Abawi writes.
In one encounter that Abawi ranks as one of the top sexual experiences of his life, he picked up a passenger he describes as “beautiful and incoherent.” When the woman couldn’t give Abawi her address, he proposed his own house instead.
Abawi insists now that he’s never “taken advantage” of anyone. Still, he admits he walks a “very beautiful, fine line” with his passengers.
“It is such a fine line that I walked in 35 years between rape and fun,” Abawi says now.
There’s no way to verify many of Abawi’s stories. Memories pulled from decades of heavy drinking and drug use—including at least a year when Abawi says he injected himself multiple times a day with cocaine, then chugged vodka to go to sleep—are naturally suspect. Much of D.C. Cabbie was written at night after Abawi drank half a bottle of vodka to jog his memory, which might explain the random, chronologically scattershot quality of many stories. (Abawi released his memoir under a different title in 2010, only to edit it and republish it this year.)
Abawi insists that all of D.C. Cabbie is accurate. Plus, he has some alarming proof: videos. In the final months of his cab career, Abawi installed a camera in the front of his car and aimed it at the back seat.
“They are drunk, you know,” Abawi says of his passengers. “They don’t know that there’s a camera recording them.”
Abawi improved his set-up further, adding a lamp aimed at the back seat—the better, he says, to illuminate his customers.
“I could see her vagina and it’d be good for the camera,” Abawi says.
Some of the videos Abawi proudly shows off are objectively revolting, while others are pretty benign. Usually, a lone drunk female customer gets in the cab while Abawi glances at the camera. After a few minutes of talking, he reaches back to touch her or tells her to flash him her vagina. Abawi describes his technique: attempting to hold a woman’s hand and seeing if she pulled back.
“Usually, it’s that first holding hands that would tell me it is going to happen,” Abawi says.
Sitting in Parlay, a bar where one employee describes Abawi as a “VIP,” he plays videos from the rides on his laptop and explains the kinds of passengers he sought. He preferred single women to groups and female passengers wearing skirts instead of pants. In one video, he waves off a group of women asking for a cab ride, hoping instead to pick up a woman standing alone on the street.
“Drunk? Skirt?” Abawi says. “Good sign for Hamed.”
Rather than demonstrating Abawi’s purported playboy lifestyle, though, many of the videos veer uncomfortably close to sexual assault. While one woman kisses him eagerly at the end of the ride, another video shows Abawi urging a plastered, barely responsive young woman to take off her shorts and show him her vagina. As she does so, the passenger seems to be hardly aware of what’s happening.
“I just told her, ‘Look at your pussy,’” Abawi says as he narrates the video.
In another, a young woman chats with Abawi and complains about her boyfriend, apparently a frequent talking point among Abawi’s passengers.
“Those are also the times that are very vulnerable,” Abawi says now.
The woman complaining about her boyfriend agrees to go with him to a bar near Union Station. “I told Rudolfo, my bartender friend, ‘Put some good shots in here and get them drunk,’” Abawi says.
When Abawi and his passenger return to the car, the now-agitated woman wants to know where he’s taking her. Abawi is vague on the details, saying only that he’s taking her to another bar.
“I’m not going anywhere else,” she says. “I thought that you were going to talk to me about your book.”
As Abawi equivocates on his plans for her, the woman becomes more concerned. “I don’t like this,” she says.
Abawi doesn’t show the rest of the video, but claims triumphantly that he later had sex with the woman.
“There are crackheads running around, but these are good ones!” he says.
Searches of area court systems for charges against Abawi turn up only a 2012 assault case for calling two men “faggots” and spitting on one’s cheek. According to his record with the city, Abawi racked up only parking- or traffic-related infractions as a cab driver.
Abawi has now retired from cabbing, although his taxi license is still active, according to the District’s Department of For-Hire Vehicles. He says he’s given up drugs, too, after a 2012 medical scare forced him to trade cocaine for promoting his book and caring for his three dogs. While he now jokes that the only “coke” he enjoys at bars is Coca-Cola, there’s one part of his past that he hasn’t turned his back on.
“One thing I don’t regret in life is the women,” he says.