Sometimes interesting Uber rides are all about timing. A rider may climb aboard at a pivotal moment in his life. It seemed to be that kind of moment for Henry.
I picked him up at Hot Tuna, a thriving restaurant and bar near Chick’s Beach. He was heading all the way to Norfolk. I kicked off the small talk.
“Having a good weekend?”
“Actually, no. Not at all.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Do you mind if a make a phone call? Excuse my language in advance.”
Henry, like most late-night weekend riders, was a little drunk. He was also clearly distraught. He’s a twenty-four-year-old seaman. For almost half an hour, he talked, yelled, and whined into the phone at his former girlfriend. I couldn’t hear her, but there wouldn’t have been much to hear. It was a one-directional, ranting monologue. I’ll try to recapture some of the parts I remember.
Look, honey, you need to just stay out of my f-ing life, okay? You want to keep playing games? Nobody can play this game better than I can. I invented this game. If you want out, then stay the f- out of my life, do you understand? … Oh, no. You don’t get to play the friend card. You don’t just all of a sudden get to be my friend now. It doesn’t work that way. I’m doing my thing. You do your thing….
I’m SORRY, okay? I’m sorry I f-ed up. I’m sorry I’m a terrible human being. I’m sorry I ruined the best thing that ever happened to me. Oh, I’m sorry you have f-ing problems. I have f-ing problems too. I’m sorry I joined the Navy because my f-ing parents wouldn’t sign the f-ing student loan papers! I’m sorry my dad wasn’t around to do sh- with me like normal kids. Fixing cars and playing catch and sh- because he was always too f-ing busy. I’m sorry my mom did nothing but yell at me because I couldn’t live up to her f-ing expectations! Okay? I’m SORRY! I’m sorry you’re not the only one with f-ing problems….
I want you to be with me. Always. I love you. I really love you, okay? But that doesn’t matter now. You’ve made your choice. If you read my obituary in the paper tomorrow, you can just move on with your life because it’s clear that you don’t care about me like I care about you. You don’t know this, but when you were in Japan, I was shopping for rings. Seriously. I was gonna ask you to f-ing marry me. Do you understand? …
That’s it though. It’s just me and my dog. I lost all my friends because of you. Now it’s just me and my dog. Watching TV. Drinking my Jack and Coke. I’ll never get married now. I’ll be an old man thinking about you because you were the only one who understood me. I’m sorry I f-ed it up. Now I’ll be a lonely old man going to bars wondering where you are. I’m really sorry. Do you forgive me? Do you?…
So that’s it. I can’t do this anymore. It’s all or nothing. I want you here with me. I want to marry you and take care of you the best I can. Now all I have is the Navy. Now all I will care about is doing all I can to kill our enemies. I was going to leave the Navy for you. Now it’s all I have….
So I won’t be calling you any more. We can’t be friends. I just can’t do it. Just do your thing. I’ll do my thing. I’ll probably wake up tomorrow and regret this phone call. I’ll regret making such an ass of myself. But now I’m done with it all….
The ball’s in your court. You can call me tomorrow if you want. It’s up to you…
This went on for thirty minutes. Rambling. Redundant. Hapless. Pathetic.
I felt sorry for him, but mostly I wanted to shake him. Slap some manhood into him.
He hung up with about five minutes left in the ride.
“You weren’t kidding about having a bad day, were you?”
He gave me a quick summary. She’s also in the Navy. They were stationed together for a few years in Japan. She pressed him to propose early on and he wasn’t ready. Then he messed up, started going out with the boys, and fooling around. Cheated with a girl who charged him with rape. He was exonerated in court. But he lost the girl.
I dropped him off at a strip club at 1:30 AM.