2:03am. Your uber is arriving now.
The car, a black Toyota Camry, is empty. I’m thrilled. My driver, Cary, a man, taps his phone, beginning the trip. We’re two blocks from the Manhattan Bridge — my bed a mere mile away — when it happens. The moment I’ve come to dread. The inevitable DING that somehow always comes as a shock. We’re picking someone up, Cary tells me. Where, I ask, petulant. Beauty and…Essex? Carey responds. Oh, I say.
Parked outside the bar, a spill of women stand silently together. They careen from left to right on too-high stilettos, their faces ghoulish in the collective blue glare of their phones. They look like docked ships, swaying in tandem. We wait a little longer. Cary is getting upset—it’s been two minutes and no one has approached us. Hope creeps in. But then, alas, Cary rolls down his window.
Haley, a small, brutish and aggressively made-up 20-something, is drunk. After climbing into the car on my side, clearly seeing me through the untinted windows of Cary’s Camry (“don’t worry, I’ll scoot,” I preen), Haley begins to rummage around the backseat. I feel like telling her that she can call off her frantic search: I drank the last mini Poland Spring bottle. And it was delicious. But I don’t. Instead, I watch as Haley comes to the slow realization that her thirst won’t be quenched, that the distance between the Lower East Side and her apartment will be a desert stretch–her bed a mirage belonging to the far off future.
We’re halfway across the bridge — windows rolled down, radio on low. I fear I may have judged Haley too soon. She’s passed out next to me — her eyes firmly shut and mouth slightly ajar, fingers braided in her lap like tiny lobster claws. She looks almost sweet. But then, with a sudden burst of energy she sits straight up, swallows a hiccup, and starts. It’s not singing, really, it’s more like spoken word–issued with zombie-like urgency: But she’s looking at you-ou-ouu. You-ou-ou-ouuu. You-ou-ou-ouuuu. Before I know it, she’s made a theatrical lunge for the stereo’s volume knob. But, in a dramatic turn of events, she lists slightly too far right and misses–turning the volume up to the highest level. For a moment, the three of us are stuck in a nightclub of Haley’s own making. BABY. THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR. Luckily, Carey is quick to act, hitting the power button before the return of the second chorus. “Can you pass me the AUX chord?” Haley slurs. Cary refuses. Five stars, I think to myself.
Carey is driving down Flatbush with quick and quiet determination, speeding down the low-lit corridor of the underpass. The party is effectively over: Haley has receded into herself, her body buckled and resigned. I am on high alert, hyper-aware of the competition remains: Who will be dropped off first.
The blurred landscape comes into focus as we pass familiar landmarks of my neighborhood: the shuttered Wells Fargo–the building that marks the six-block mark from my house–a shadowed sign of corporate confidence, bolstered by the yoga studio next door. I’m nervous — hugging the chair in front of me, my arms suffocating its metal neck — and carefully tracking the tiny car that is our uber on the GPS as it glacially makes its way down Myrtle Ave. Haley is showing clear signs of agitation. “Are we even close to Bushwick?” She says to no one. Nowhere near, I don’t say. Five blocks, four, I’ve never been so happy to see the laundromat that leave me sockless, two.
Nora DeLigter lives in Brooklyn. Her Uber rating is a middling 4.3 stars.