Invisible Burdens

The first thing anyone would notice about Carlos and Brianna is their looks. Brianna had wavy blonde hair and big beautiful eyes. Carlos was athletically thin and tall, with thick brown hair. She wore a floral sundress. He wore a checked button-down and khaki shorts.

They had that preppy fraternity look familiar to us University of Virginia alums. If you saw them walking down the street, you’d assume they had it made–good-looking, put-together, from high-income homes.

I picked them up at Calypso Bar and Grill on 11th Street. They were heading to Chic’s Beach.

Soon after we started the trip, Carlos leaned over to kiss her, and Brianna turned and pushed him away with her forearm. I saw it in the rear-view mirror. He was drunk. She was unhappy. He kept at it, pulling at her, trying to turn her face toward him. She silently resisted, then briefly lay down with her head in his lap.

A moment later, she sat up. “I wish I could get super drunk and smoke some pot.”

“What’s stopping you?” I asked.

“I’m pregnant.”

“Oh. I see.”

Then she said, “Yeah, it sucks. I want to breastfeed him.” But I misheard her. I thought she said, “I want to rescue him.” That explains my next question.

“Rescue who?”

She didn’t seem to think it was an odd question.

“Him. This is my…he’s the baby daddy.”

“So how did you rescue him?”

“He was drunk at The Shack.”

Carlos objected, slowly and slurrily, “I was not drunk at The Shack. I was not drunk. I was…tipsy.”

“Right,” I said, “Obviously.”

He didn’t catch the sarcasm.

“I wasn’t going to go after him,” Brianna said, “but then I bumped into his ex. At a gas station.”

“Oh, my God,” Carlos said, shaking his head. “Don’t bring this up. He doesn’t want to hear this.”

“No,” I said, “Keep going. This is a good story.”

“Oh, yeah, it is a good story,” Brianna said.

“No, drop the story. Drop the story.” Carlos said.

“He told her my whole life story. It was really embarrassing.”

“He told his ex your whole life story?” I asked, trying to get the facts straight.

“Yes. About my father and my mother. You know, stuff like that. Obviously she’s the love of his life.”

“Uh. That’s…not…true. That’s bullsh– I’m with you and my baby.”

“Just, my life sucks.”

“No, it does not,” he said. “We have a baby.”

She ignored him and kept talking to me.”I’m happy and depressed and scared at the same time. What would you do?”

“What would I do?” I’m rarely asked so directly for advice.

“If you were me. Would you leave him?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know Carlos. I don’t know your situation.”

“It’s so hard. I want to raise my baby with a father. But I don’t know if I can trust him. He told her my whole life story. It’s embarrassing.”

“What do you mean by that? Why is it embarrassing? Did he tell her you were pregnant?”

“No, he didn’t tell her I was pregnant.”

“What did you tell her, Carlos?”

“About her childhood. That she was abused by her father.”

“That my mom’s a meth head. Left me in Japan when I was a little girl. That I had to take care of my little sister.”

A long silent pause.

“Listen.” I said, “You know you don’t have to be embarrassed about any of that. None of it was your fault.”

“It’s not your fault,” Carlos repeated.

“And I’m going to be the best mother out there,” she said.

“You will be the best mom,” Carlos agreed.

Another pause.

“Do you guys ever talk about getting married?”

“Yeah,” she said. “I mean, he tells me what I want to hear.”

“I really mean it. I want to,” he said.

“Do you want to marry him?” I asked.

“I don’t know anymore. I’m scared. I don’t want to have to worry about if he’s texting other girls. I want to be able to trust my husband. I love him. But I don’t want to feel sick all the time because I think he’s cheating on me.”

“I would never cheat on you. Never. In my life. I’ll put it on my mom. I’ll put it on my dad. I’ll put in on my dog.”

I resisted the urge to tell him the dog part wasn’t very convincing. But he was drunk–I  mean tipsy. He was trying hard to be sincere, but it came out unintentionally comic. And pathetic.

I mentioned that I had been a pastor for a couple of years and had done some marriage counseling, so Carlos asked me, “What do you recommend?”

“Well, it’s not easy, and I’d want to spend a lot more time with you than I can in an Uber ride, but what would be best, in my opinion, would be for you guys to get married and you, Carlos, prove to be a faithful, trustworthy husband and father. Because that’s what’s best for Brianna and the baby.”

“I’m trustworthy. I would never lie.”

Brianna reacted a bit to that, so Carlos adjusted, “I mean except about alcohol.”

“That’s where it starts,” she said calmly. “You start lying about alcohol, then maybe drugs get involved and you start lying about drugs…”

Carlos tried to interrupt, “Drugs? Weed isn’t…”

“And then other girls get involved and you start lying about females…”

“I told you the truth.”

“Yeah, after I questioned you. After I looked at your bank statement.”

“But then I told you everything about having lunch with my ex.”

“Can I ask you why you had lunch with your ex, Carlos?”

“Because she was suicidal. And I used to be suicidal.”

“He still is.” Brianna added.

“And I still am. And I want to help anyone who is suicidal. Whether it’s a guy or a girl.”

“Yes, but she’s your ex who you  used to love and were with for like three years.” Brianna said.

“That’s true, but I also talked to Tom when Tom was suicidal. I talked to Julie. Julie was suicidal.”

“Wow,” I said. “Why are all these people thinking about killing themselves?”

“Because it’s big here,” said Brianna. “I’ve had multiple friends commit suicide.”

“Multiple friends?”

“I’ve had two good friends commit suicide,” said Carlos. “It’s bad.”

“Yeah. Are you getting help, Carlos?”

“Yeah.”

“No, he’s not,” said Brianna. “He tried. For three days.”

“Four days.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“Virginia Beach Psych,” he said. “I’ve been to AA meetings. And I went yesterday to the doctor and got anxiety medicine.”

“So, is alcohol a problem, Carlos?”

“Yes.”

“It’s good that you can admit that. It’s a start.”

“It’s a big problem,” Brianna said. “It’s not just alcohol. He’s addicted to Xanax.”

“Is that right?”

“Yeah,” said Carlos.

“How old are you, Carlos?”

“I’m twenty-two.”

“I’m twenty,” said Brianna.

“Man.”

“We’re very young,” she said.

“Yes.”

By this time, we had arrived at their destination. I put the car in park, but they didn’t move to get out.

“Look. I’m really worried about you two. You need to get help. Professional help. Both of you. Together. I’m not just being a nosy Uber driver. I care about you guys.”

“Thank you. I appreciate that,” Carlos said.

“Are you religious at all?” I asked.

“Yes. I’m a Christian,” Carlos assured me.

“Are you part of a church?”

“No, not really.”

“What church do you go to?” Brianna asked.

“It’s called Redeemer Church. It’s in Chesapeake. It’s a really great church.”

“Are there any young couples with kids?”

“Yeah. Lots of them. It can be really helpful to be surrounded by people who care for you. It might be a long drive…”

“Actually,” said Brianna, “I live in Chesapeake.”

I took out the stack of church invitations I carry and gave them each one.

“You should come. Give it a try. People won’t judge you. I’ll introduce you to some people your age.”

“Okay. I probably will,” said Brianna. Carlos was quiet.

“But will you promise me you guys will get some counseling? I’m going to be praying for you both and the baby. But you need to get more help than an Uber driver can give you.”

“Yeah, we will. I promise,” Carlos said.

I got a ping for another ride. But we sat in the dark and the silence for a few moments.

“Thank you,” Brianna said.

“Yeah, thanks,” said Carlos. “This has helped.”

“I hope so. Good luck to you guys. I hope I see you at church sometime.”

This was about six weeks ago. They haven’t visited the church yet.

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