I wind my way through super-narrow streets of an older neighborhood in Baltimore. The homes look as though they may have been built in the ’30s. I can’t fathom how snow plows come through these narrow streets made even more narrow with cars parked on both sides. A blizzard dumped 26 inches of snow earlier this winter, and I wonder how the city cleared the snow from these streets. I feel as though I can barely make it down the street in my Subaru Legacy sedan without bumping into a car on either side of me.
I see my passenger; she hugs whomever is in the doorway (I assume it’s her boyfriend) and gets in the backseat. She’s high-school young, maybe a senior, Black, golden-colored, and she doesn’t look me in the eyes when she gets in. As she entered on the driver’s side of the car, she sits in the back seat, right behind me.
I chat a bit but she’s not biting, so I go quiet. We’ve got a 25-minute ride ahead of us; sometimes it’s better to be quiet on such rides. I point out the moon, waning from its fullness yesterday. She mumbles something back. Then I realize—and confirm to myself—that she’s on a phone call!
I never heard the call start. I never heard the Hey or those built-in tonal changes in speech to indicate someone is starting or closing down a conversation.
She’s sitting directly behind me, but I can barely hear her. There is still much rain and water on the road from the storm earlier tonight, and the water in the streets creates a lot of external sound. She’s also doing a grand job of high-school-kid mumbling.
Plus, unfortunately for her, whether it’s her default speech or something she reserves for friends and peers, she’s speaking in an urban dialect that I could barely follow if she were standing directly in front of me and speaking loudly.
But I can discern this: Her boyfriend has just broken up with her. She tells the person on the other end of the phone her painful story, bit by bit. How he doesn’t love her, how he can’t be with her, how he wants to be free.
She shares how she is attached to him even if they didn’t go to home base, how they’ve been friends for three years, how her mom is worried that she’s going to go to college and get attached to some guy … but her mom doesn’t understand: She already has her guy.
This goes on, until it doesn’t. Has she stopped the conversation, is she listening to her friend? There are no more uh-huhs, or yeahs or soft mumbles. It is so interesting to me that this young girl doesn’t vocally indicate the start or stop of her conversations.
I consider for a second telling her something positive about her life, something about how this is a good thing because she’ll be happier if she is with a guy who adores her and wants to be with her. But she didn’t invite me into the conversation of her woes, so I don’t jump in.
I know her 25-minute ride is going to cost $25-$30. I can’t imagine a day in my high school years—a single circumstance— that my mom would have given me $25 to take a ride to my boyfriend’s house, or to any location for that matter. Though, come to think of it, my mom let me use her car for extra-curricular activities, and she carpooled with a neighbor who worked in the same medical practice, so that I could have a car to use. So, actually, my mom did do this for me … just in a different way. That’s a longer story, and perhaps one for another time.
Key experience: Dear child, $28.15 one-way to or from your boyfriend’s house to your house! You don’t need him or that cost (imo)!
I’m now too far north of my dancing destination to get there with any ease, so I decide to uber a bit.