the monotony of life after work—typing in locations on apps and confirming destinations with the press of a thumb. every night, the routine was the same; the route, no different. to hide in the darkness of a car, my skin and coat camouflaged into the leather of someone’s seats. and fade. it was the 115th uber ride.
he wanted to talk. his life, also repetitious during the day, was centered on drug counseling. but he was new to this, meeting different souls who once sat where i did in that moment. children who kicked his seat angrily and mindless parents who didn’t take notice; quiet souls who left scathing reviews about his excessive coffee consumption while drinking, and the passengers who held conversations that made the hustle of extra income worth it. he found excitement in the way the universe spun its wheel to select randoms he’d probably never see again to sit in his car and engage in dialogue. perhaps i would be just another backseat character in his ever-evolving tale as a driver. but there was a possibility that our brief stint in his car would go beyond that evening. what he would go on to say would in fact, confirm the latter.
in the weeks ahead, i would go from being the passenger in the back of his car, to being the one upfront, alongside him. drifting more towards him and further from you.
“are you anxious?”
he told me he felt my energy and read me as if i were a subject he found interest in. a stranger. a new canvas to paint on. i knew he was a cancer. the conversation–albeit smaller in length, but similar in content–felt like something i had been part of before. it angered me and brought forth questions i was forced to ask my inner self.
how are you here and yet, you’re not? what energy am i giving off that i‘m continually attracting you in different forms? what am i not seeing that you are still the only thing in sight?
never once looking at him, i drew the conclusion that he must have read stories told through my facial lines in the rearview mirror. my face always gave me away. and i thought of all the ways i put a period in the narrative and stopped myself from moving on:
threw headphones on to block possible blessings;
avoided eye contact as to not have my soul examined;
said nothing cause i didn’t want that hint of vulnerability to spill from my voice;
let out ‘mhm’s’ and ‘yeah’s,’ ‘something like that’s’ and ‘nah’s’ in conversations with men on trains and in ubers, and towards guys who move from entryways for me in busy cities where doors are often disregarded for women. everyone is always in a fucking rush.
and i never wanted to feel like i was rushing any of this or throwing away our years together for a quick emotional fix.
“i’m almost always anxious.”
anxious in thinking about the ways women shape shift themselves for the sake of conformity or motherhood or for societal perception and acceptance. anxious in the ways i would go from someone’s employee; to a mother of three, rushing home to meal preps and homework checks; to the woman you occasionally cohabit with, all in a matter of a few hours. reflecting on the labels and the expectations to get shit done and how much pressure lied on me without baring diamonds, but depression.
i didn’t want to do anything, but just be.
for that night, on the 119th ride, the 122nd through the 131st, i sat with him and knew that the rush i felt was in fact, resolve. flirting was foreign, but i dove in, accepting compliments, thigh grabs, and kisses on the hand. in the little things like saying “yes” to lunch dates and seeing him after work again, was the magnitude in how my life was changing. there in his car, i heard the very words you spoke to me days before:
“people this generation are always preparing themselves. photo opps and relationships that don’t last ‘cause of human arrangement instead of divine intervention. and after a while, you don’t know what’s natural anymore.”
maybe he had an agenda. in fact, i would later find out that he, too, was learning the art of release by any means necessary. but for me, preparation didn’t exist with him. i didn’t throw on extra mascara or reapply lipstick before hopping back in his car. after work, he was going to get an exhausted Erica, who unstrapped her bra when exiting the building and removed hair ties from her head to let it breathe. i didn’t want to be organized because you can still find a message in a mess. feeling exposed and transparent, he let me be.
but it was more than just growing comfortable enough to throw my coat in the backseat after a while. he allowed me to strip myself in other ways. vibed with him about therapy sessions and cried in the quiet confines of his car over my friend’s death. against the cold of the windows, i got it one night:
this was progression in an uber.
this was what moving on looked like—uncertainty in what’s next, but understanding that that hesitation to jump was only hinderance towards the self. that initial anxiety became anticipation for what lied ahead.
he was clarity.
because of his profession, he was who i conversed with about drugs. how we become addicted to humans who reek of toxicity and yet, we still go back to because we can’t kick comfortability or erase children created.
and i come home and smoke with you—the only time our lips touch by means of rolling papers. the burning of the leaf, mixed with a smell of growth emanating off of me makes for intellectual conversations about love languages and astrological understandings, disconnections from the world, higher powers, and one another. everything’s shifted. you knew there was someone else in the same way i did.
you moved different because progression looked like Ephesians 4:26; ridding ourselves of the emotions we felt during arguments and blowouts, with Sade, smoke, and sex before bed, an interim sort of erasure to our issues. but you never thought the habit of me and you could be kicked by moving on, even if it was temporarily. the trouble is, we think we have time. sometimes, it’s too late.
in what would be our last ride together, i told him that his purpose was to redirect me back to myself. every time i requested his services personally, every moment i spent in his company releasing buried experiences and conversations that never saw the light of day, i was unearthing mantras that went unnoticed for so long.
…a love that doesn’t lead me to question my existence in someone else’s space. more so, i don’t ever want take residence in someone else’s life in hopes of mending the brokenness i have the power to heal on my own.
…security, even in the moments of blossoming wildly.
…to look inwardly for the answers i want, understanding that everything i need, i already have that the outside world cannot provide.
my love language—words of affirmations—transitioned from something i sought in you, to something i started to seek within myself. that 115th uber ride of 2017 and every one spent in his backseat or by his side was simply a roundtrip ride right back to me. and perhaps even you, too.
sometimes i believe, we need the detours and the distractions. because in the end, we always return home. and nothing is ever really dead if you look at it right.