Dear Uber Rider:
Tonight, as my car glided noiselessly down the cobblestoned surface of Cary Street, a very strange and disquieting affinity for this place came over me. Perhaps I really will miss this little metropolis when I leave in January to pursue a career in one of the world’s largest cities. And so, to steal a turn of phrase from eminent creep Robert Frost, the story of my life in Richmond is little more than a book of people.
This city–and this state, for that matter–has seen me become the musician I always truly believed I could be, and has seen me at the nadir of my progress as an artist. I have laughed, loved, wept, and, more than anything, I have had conversations. Mostly with women. Because my friends are almost always women, and while most of them are not in my life anymore, I remember each one so specifically, and can recall, with great clarity, singular conversations that promised, simply from the depth of their import, that we would remain close until death stole over one of us in its furtive rapture.
But, no. I don’t talk to Tori anymore, nor Katy. Lauren and I are strictly Facebook friends, and Raquel cares so little about me, she’s failed to return my texts for the better part of a year. I am still close friends with Jerrika, Jessica, and Amanda, and of course, my Noodle, Melissa. But experience has taught me to downplay the concept of permanence. The fact that you and I were best friends for about 20 minutes dovetails with this concept nicely, as your last words to me were “See you later, dude.” You won’t ever see me again.
It’s funny: anytime I get a ping that says it’s coming from Cha Cha’s, my testicles retract about 18 inches back inside my body, and I start looking around for fixed objects to fatally crash into. I saw you, saying goodbye to a friend, oblivious to me in the middle of the street with my flashers on, as two police officers flapped their arms up and down in a vain attempt to appear like they were doing their jobs. So when the lightbulb above your head finally sparked on, and you entered my car, I was relieved to be moving. Listen, Alicia–killer outfit btw–I am so happy that you’re alone, because during most of my Cha Cha’s trips, I’m portering 4 or 5 of you around, and that’s a lot of drunk to deal with. But you’re not blackout drunk, only clumsy drunk. After being in my car for no less than 15 seconds, you had already lost your phone in the irritatingly small crack between the passenger seat and the center console.
You complained that you had long legs, and short arms, like a t-rex, and that made life hard for you. I laughed at the mental image. Then you got saucy! Upon retrieving your phone from the depths of despair, you, in the most earnest of tones, voiced your satisfaction. “Thank Satan!” you exclaimed boisterously. Almost did a spit-take on that one.
We exchanged the normal pleasantries, and, as it turns out, you, Little Miss Thang, have, with a 3.3 GPA, just graduated, after only two and a half years, from VCU, with a double major, no less, in two things I, in all honesty, don’t recall. But I’m proud of you! Backing up to the initial sentence in this paragraph, 13 commas in one sentence? Don’t test me, I will run my sentences as long as I damn well please.
It was, however, when we were getting onto the expressway that you dropped, in the most ambivalent patois, your bombshell. “I think I cheated on my boyfriend tonight.”
Wow, ok, what a thing to be confused about. “I mean, I know I cheated on him, but he’s a little bitch.”
The next 5 minutes I remember as a blurry, hazy filibuster on the man you’ve been dating for almost a year. He’s bad in bed, because he jackrabbits away at your unassuming orifice for 45 minutes, and you have to use lube EVERY TIME you have sex, and he was a virgin when you started dating, and that puts a lot of pressure on you, and you hope to get laid one more time before you break up, and about 100 other things I don’t want to know. You ask for advice, and my advice is to let him down firmly, but gently, and don’t tell him you cheated on him, as no good can come from it. You tell me that you hope he made tacos, because you don’t want to break up with him on an empty stomach. Just at the point that I fear that you are a complete sociopath, you ask me if I would not take the next turn, onto the street where you live, and instead drive you down the road for about a mile and a half. You admit that you don’t want to face the upcoming uncomfortable situation, and would really like to go down Laurel, because you have heard that someone has a killer Christmas light display. Fuck it, I’m down. You are the reason, Alicia, that I missed surge tonight, but who cares; we were hunting dem lights. We momentarily hatched a plan to break into Hollywood Cemetery, but you quickly chickened out, pointing to the fact that you’ve never been to a cemetery. I don’t even know how that’s possible, but sure, let’s keep looking for the lights.
After driving down Laurel to its terminus, it was with a heaviness in your voice that you expressed your fear that the lights weren’t on Laurel. So, we rolled down the next road, back the way we came, and about halfway up, there it was, in all its tacky opulence. I rolled by at about 4 mph as you snapchatted that motherfucker into oblivion. Then, as I reset my GPS for your apartment, the melancholy was back, and we sat in silence for a second. I broke the silence with some bullshit about how everything would be ok if you approached the situation the right way. After showing you a human level of tenderness, I glanced over at you, and realized that you were staring at me the way a lion stares at a gazelle, or a gazelle stares at a blade of grass, or a blade of grass stares at a particularly osmotic-looking droplet of water. I hastily mentioned having a girlfriend, in a fashion just qualifying as being pertinent to the conversation.
So the night was over for us, but you’ve got a big conversation ahead of you, and I feel for you. As I pulled up, you told me you’d be praying to Satan for guidance. Cool…?
I told you to be a good person, and you in not so many words told me you weren’t. Can’t argue with honesty. You shut your door, and turned around. “See you later, dude.”
And as you prayed to Satan, the strains of a Christian hymn played rhapsodically in my mind while I realized that, for the most part, I don’t care if people are good or bad. What wondrous love is this? Oh my soul. Oh my soul.