It’s finally starting to feel like fall, which means it’s October which means writing group! Our prompt (not mine) was actually inspired by a somewhat funny story I have involving UberPool, but that is for another time … over drinks. So, yes, the prompt was UberPool very broad but opens a lot of possibilities. Mine’s a little sad, as a semi-trigger warning. Please feel free to send me yours, I’d love to read it!
All my love.
Miranda’s rapidly dwindling bank account would have protested, but she really should have splurged on an UberX. Instead she’d been as practical and thrifty as she had been for the first 29 years of her life and gone with the UberPool.
Normally she didn’t mind being stuck in a car with a stranger for an indeterminate amount of time. Talking to people was kind of her thing. It helped that she was genuinely interested in their stories — ones that she sometimes jotted down in the cocoa-colored battered leather journal she kept in her purse. In Des Moines, she’d met a real life Willy Loman whose advice had inspired the line, you can tell the character of a man by the way he orders pancakes (what?!). It was now scrawled in thick black sharpie just below the one in gold sparkly pen that read, life’s too short not to go commando on The Strip. That came from one particularly hunky male entertainer who performed with the Thunder From Down Under show in Vegas. She’d learned that he lived by that motto when she’d tucked her hand inside his loose sweatpants for a quick and dirty handjob that probably earned her a one-star review from the driver but had led to Mr. Down Under returning the favor in her hotel room. To a five-star rating.
One of the sadder ones had been a pregnant 16-year-old with a black eye and a chin that never seemed to drop out of its defensive tilt. Bruised little flower, Miranda had written. An exhausted boxer who’s already gone 9 rounds, and is swaying, but bracing for another.
It’s not like she was a poet or anything. She just kept collecting these little souvenirs, these memories that lived in her journal and became as important to her experience as the sights she was seeing. My daddy always said life is like a 10 dollar hooker — you never know what you’re going to get. All Miranda had to do was read that line and she was back in Austin on that street with the fairy lights dripping from the sky and the college kids spilling out of bars and that place that had shots named things like “Bubblegum Delight” and “Bohemian Raspberry.”
She wondered what she’d be jotting down about her current Uber partner and what she would remember when she read it two weeks from now. A month. Tears catch on thick black lashes, then spill into wrinkles like rain drops into broken, dried land.
The woman had been crying now for the entirety of the 15 minutes they’d been in the car, but neither of them had spoken past confirming their names to the driver. There was still at least 25 minutes left until they got to downtown Denver. Why, oh why, was the airport so far away from the city?
Her fingertips tapped a staccato beat against her journal as if it were an emotional anchor. Sadness was a tricky thing. For some it got buried beneath layers of protective tissue; for others it was a raw, gaping wound that bled and bled no matter what they did to try to stanch it. Miranda got skittish around sadness.
Running away from those situations was more her MO. It’s what she was doing now. The weird thing is she shouldn’t have been the one doing the comforting in the first place. But every time she dropped the news their faces would crumble and twist and they would try to be strong and brave for her but she’d end up soothing them. And what the fuck was that?
Not only was she shit at it, that was certainly not what she wanted to be doing in her last months.
So she’d bought a journal and filled the first page with the places she wanted to see and the rest of the pages with the people she’d met there. Maybe it was selfish, this giving of herself to strangers when she held back from her loved ones, unable to take the grief and pity in their eyes. But if ever there was a time for selfishness, this was it.
Resentment coated her throat, making it hard to swallow. Resentment toward this woman, resentment toward her pain, resentment that she should be blissing out right now to the thoughts of getting toasted in the mile-high city. And instead she was getting treated to the very thing she was trying so hard to avoid.
Is this what her mother would look like in six months time? Body wracked with silent heaves, lipstick smeared into the cracked lines near her mouth, tiny hiccups of air slipping out as if sobs took too much energy.
Why had this woman gotten an UberPool? Miranda wanted to scream the question at her. And with each passing moment as the waves of the woman’s grief battered against the walls of Miranda’s defenses, she lost the urge to bite her tongue.
“Why…” Miranda actually started to ask. But at the sound of her voice the woman looked up and they locked eyes. Hers were forest green, deep and swimming in the liquid caught there. But it wasn’t her mother she saw in the haunted look. It was herself.
In that moment she realized she had never cried.
She’d entered immediately into some kind of optimistic haze of adventure and bucket lists and seeing America while she still could. Never had she actually grieved. Even in the darkest part of the night, right before the sun broke the horizon, when she couldn’t sleep and she found herself counting the popcorn bubbles on the ceilings of cheap motel rooms. The tears had never come.
Maybe this woman didn’t have enough money to get her own Uber. Maybe she’d been short on time and couldn’t take the train. Maybe it had been her default setting and she’d been stuck with it.
But maybe she’d just needed some human company. A warm body and a heartbeat next to her to know she wasn’t alone in this sometimes disaster of a world.
Miranda swallowed whatever she was going to say, dug for a tissue in her purse and held it out for her, laying her hand on the woman’s shoulder. She leaned in to the touch.
Seeking comfort is not weakness. Her fingers traced the words an hour later as she took another hit and tried to believe them.