Lately, it seems as though there are more female Uber drivers. They’re all I get these days, which isn’t a complaint by any means. I take it to mean that great strides are being made in humanity that car service companies are risking the hiring of women, for it means they fear no incidents of rape or other physical attacks, and therefore no liability for being held responsible for such things.
Last night, my latest girl was a Muslim woman, packing a hijab and everything. She barely addressed me as I got into the car, a prosaic black Toyota Camry. Admittedly, I was a bit too soused to engage in much communication anyway, so it was a blessing to discover she was either mute, or despised white women. Rolling around in the backseat, I must have lulled myself into a blackout because, all of the sudden, I was in medias res of a memory, one from nearly three years ago. It was one I thought I had expunged completely in order to go on surviving, the night of my four-year anniversary with Nicholas Rovington, a man six years my senior who I was constantly grappling with in terms of trying to fathom why he would be with someone as lowly and non-sparkling as myself. We had met at an event my friend put on for him at his apartment–the one friend I had in a high place, Aaliyah, a half-black girl whose mother conceived her while listening to “One In A Million.” She worked in PR and had connections to Nicholas because she participated in the campaign for one of his companies. Yes, one of. At twenty-five, he had started a business that served as an innovative concept to the food delivery service industry, hiring only busty, attractive women to transport the cuisine. It was called Eat or Bust. The company was soon bought out by Seamless and has since converted into a prostitution option in Las Vegas as well. At thirty, Nicholas “diversified his assets,” a saying I always found to be as arcane as “just one of those days.” He moved to the opposite of where rich people are supposed to when they acquire more money: the East Village. He gutted an entire two floors, turning it into a duplex, which is where I first encountered him at this “exclusive” party thrown in his honor in celebration of the launch of his latest project, a combination talent agency/movie studio. As Aaliyah introduced him to make a speech about the endeavor, I caught him glancing at me from afar, nothing in his eyes suggesting sexual interest so much as mild curiosity about what someone as Vivian Ward-like as myself could be doing at a fête like this.
Taking the microphone from Aaliyah, Nicholas went on about how it was time for him to start using his money toward more artistic pursuits, a company that could really give back to the world in a meaningful way. Ahem, through web series, which there was a lot of talk of. Call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer the behemoth, larger-than-life nature of the silver screen. And I told him as much later on that night. Later on that night after I had managed to stay longer than everyone else, drinking from his seemingly limitless reserve of absinthe–in that he had an absinthe fountain. He didn’t try to have sex with me, which was both chivalrous and vexing; and when I awoke in the morning he was gone. I felt like one of the Manson girls, breaking in to a yuppie’s house I knew I had no place being.
As for my own source of employment, it varied. Today, it was hostessing at a quintessentially bourgeois Midtown West restaurant called Le Pompe. I took a page from the beauty queens before each shift by rubbing Vaseline all over my teeth, as this was the only way I would be able to feign the pleasantries expected of a service worker to the affluent and faux sophisticated. My embarrassment over having to be this person to these people had long ago subsided, a pain that was once sharp and now serenely dull. That is, until Nicholas walked in with another suited man, who was blatantly decades older than him.
“Eden. Long time no see.”
I blanched. Why must the circumstances of my encounters consistently favor me being in the position of bent over masochist?
“Yes. Um, do you have a reservation?”
He smiled, as though charmed by my formal air.
“I’m afraid not. Do you think you can squeeze my father and me in somewhere?” he asked mockingly.
“Of course. Right this way.” I guided them toward the corner of the restaurant, next to a socialite and her boy toy du jour. I took another chance to size up his father, who appeared to have been forged from concrete. “Your server will be right with you.” I threw in a wink, thinking it was flirty, but, soon after, surmised it probably looked as though I was having a stroke.
About an hour later, as Nicholas was walking out, he let his dad go ahead of him, finding the time to hand me his business card and insist, “Let’s meet again.”
The card sat in my open palm like a flaming bag of shit, there purely to surprise and torment me. Now it was my responsibility to contact him. He had put me under a potential guillotine of apotheosis. Would the result be my head in a basket or my vagina on a dick?
I soon found out the answer next week when I summoned the courage to contact him and he invited me over to his duplex again. I was shocked to find a fully prepared three-course meal before me.
“The word fingerling is disgusting. I’m sensitive to words, the images they conjure. Especially when it comes to food. So no, I can’t eat this fingerling potato salad.” I had only had one glass of red wine and I was already rambling.
The rest of the night was just a series of jump shots to me. One minute I’m explaining that my parents remarried three times–to each other–the next I’m sobbing about how I’m trapped in a life that consists of nothing but dead end jobs. And then, there I am, on top of Nicholas in a flash. It was the end of summer when this “consummation” occurred, and soon after, the mode of coupledom began. I moved in with him, he took me under his wing–plucking me out of the obscurity I had so firmly ensconced myself in.
“Eden,” he used to say. “You live up to the name.” But that was more in the middle, when it was good and I was a source of constant interest to him, someone he could groom and mold in his image. When the end was in progress, an end I had foolishly never seen coming, he was removed, almost impossible to make contact with, either physical or emotional.
Which brings me back to the night of our four-year anniversary, the night he broke up with me. “I think we’ve gone as far as we can with each other, learned everything that we could. I’ve enjoyed my time with you, but I don’t see us going on this way.”
His businesslike manner blindsided me more than anything else. After all this time, I never thought I would be on the other side of it. I was twenty-four when we met, gave him the four solid years of my youthful prime to lead me to twenty-eight (I feel it wasn’t a coincidence he tossed my out before I hit thirty), and now, three years later, I was a thirty-one-year-old wreck, my face buried in a car seat that probably had numerous traces of other people’s vomit and fecal matter.
“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” the female Uber driver demanded.
“My heart’s broken,” I said simply. Well, as simply as one can through hyperventilation. “I don’t know how to fix it.”
“If he doesn’t want you, you shouldn’t want him.” Would that the formula of love were so uncomplicated.
I continued to lay prostrate in the backseat, paralyzed by what a piece of shit I was, how I could have deluded myself into buying in to that lie Nicholas’ film company sold about everlasting love. But at least A’shadieeyah seemed to care about me, her sense of female solidarity and maternal compassion kicking in on instinct.