One ride, three stories

On a rainy Friday night a couple of years ago, I took an Uber back home from my favourite restaurant after dinner. During the drive, I texted a friend and told them what had just happened when I got in the car.

Afterwards, I told the story again to another friend. And then later still, I told the story yet again. I told the same story three times, and every time I did, it was a little different. There was a little more in there. And perhaps a little less of it in me.

The first text, sent during the ride:

I just got into this Uber and the driver asked me, “Are you alone?”

It was the most innocent of questions, but in that moment, it made me sad.

The second text, sent the next morning:

I ordered an Uber last night, and as soon as I got in, but before I closed the door, the driver asked,

“Are you alone?”

It was the most normal question given the context. He was essentially asking — should I drive or should I wait?

Earlier in the day, a girl I like from Barcelona had texted to tell me that she wasn’t coming to visit. Her friend who works in Cairo is being transferred, she said, and she now wants to visit the city while he’s still there.

When I finally replied “yes” a couple of seconds later, there was something else in my voice. Something hidden within the yes. Something unsaid. And if you’re the kind of person who’s trained to listen for these things, then you wouldn’t even have to look at my face to know that I was hurting.

Third Draft, now:

The first thing the Uber driver said to me when I got in the car was, “Are you alone?”

The question caught me off-guard and I froze. For what felt like an entire minute — maybe more — I couldn’t utter a single word. The only sound in the car was that of raindrops falling on the roof.

In hindsight, what he was asking was whether to keep waiting, or start driving.

“So, are you?”, this time he turned to look at me.

“Yes,” I said finally.

But within the yes was something else. Within the yes were expectations unrealised. Unfulfilled potential. Wishful thinking. Self pity. And if you’re trained to listen for these kind of things, you wouldn’t even need the “yes” to get the message. The heaviness in my heart was already present in the silence that preceded it.

Every iteration — every retelling of a story — is tinted by emotion and memory. The difference in the narrative is more than just extra words on the page; it’s memory refracted through feelings and then projected back onto the self.

This is one thing that writing is really good for: capturing, processing, and sometimes even transforming memories. Because writing — at its core — is exorcism. And with every retelling, I found myself more free.

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