M ran up to the car wearing only a T-shirt, barefoot, holding a pair of killer black stilettos in her hand and a bunch of papers in the other. She rushed into the backseat and right after giving me the destination, she got on her phone. She had a slight Eastern European accent that drooped down the edges of her homegirl vocabulary. I listened, of course I listened, as she told her friend Cookie about her night. It started with some guy, probably someone she had once dated, running into him at the club. There were details galore — how she hugged him, she was cool, she was up for having a good time, she had two tables but it wasn’t her fault that guys were supposed to sit there. Then she didn’t want to get into Henry’s car. The guy she was dating, Anthony or Fabulous, he was all like “Can I tell you something without you taking it all personal? Cause you always get worked up over nothing.” He was tapping Henry, like right bro? And Henry was laughing but Henry couldn’t hear shit. Then Fabulous kept digging at her and she was getting mad and he kept laughing and then Coozi was holding her back. I think they were out of the car now. Fabulous told her none of her friends liked her, they were all talking shit about her. She went at Fabulous. Fuck Coozi that bitch. Fabulous hit her with some kind of pillowcase or something, it had something hard in it like a shoe and he hit her in the neck. She went down. Then he hit her in the head. She saw stars. She was sure she had a concussion. “Cookie, Cookie, no I swear, I didn’t provoke him. He was provoking me.” A bitter silence. “Yeah yeah, it’s all my fault.” Then more protestation. “I had to go to the hospital!! They took X-rays and an MRI!! I know I’m not supposed to drink. Yeah I was faded but me and Tiny, we were up for a good time, we were giggling.” She got quiet and now I felt shame creep into the car. I didn’t hear her for a moment as she talked in hushed tones. But as she started to cry, she got louder. “I think I can just have one, and just take a sip, but then I don’t know what happens!!! I know, I know.”
When I got to her apartment building, I surreptitiously took a photo of her as she struggled with her phone, her keys, her shoes, her hospital papers. Man — what a great story!! But the minute I saw her face, hurt and sad and worn from all the changes she needed to make but didn’t feel strong enough to do, I knew I had to erase them. “Sorry you had to hear my whole crazy life.”
“It’s fine. Hey are you gonna be OK? Do you have friends who can help you?”
She kind of nodded but the truth is, maybe she needed to meet somebody with a real name. Not a Cookie, not a Coozi, not a Fabulous, not a Tiny.
“Take care of yourself.” I looked her in the eye. I meant it.