This is part of a dark little series called Fucked Up Ways to Die.
She stood under an awning in front of the cute little wine bar in a tiny, dirty alley to get some relief from the wind. To her right were two giant, smelly trash bins filled with wine bottles and god knows what else. On the other side of the far bin, a homeless man spooned one of the bins. He seemed to be sleeping — or was he passed out? Or worse, was he dead?
She moved a step closer, peering over the bin nervously to make sure he was alive and a waft of vomit slammed her in the face. Only when she saw his chest moving up and down did she allow herself relief and annoyance in the same foul-air-filled breath.
Fuck the bus, she thinks. I’m getting a Lyft. There had to be one easy, slightly redeeming thing about this night.
Ugh, this night.
“Interesting,” he’d said to her. “You don’t look like your pictures.”
Come on. Really? Her photos on the dating app where they’d “met” were recent and showed a full range without being annoying, at least by dating-app standards: there were no pictures of her crossing a finish line of any sort, no running or cycling shots, no obnoxious pics of her oiled up in a bikini. There were no from-behind shots of her doing a yoga pose on the side of a cliff.
She had photos with sunglasses and without — crow’s feet hidden and crow’s feet showing. She had a couple of full-body shots and photos that, sure, showed her in her best moments, but also presented her very human realities. She’d vetted all her photos with male and female friends, straight and gay. Everyone agreed: the pictures were an undeniably accurate representation of her.
The wind whipped around her as she left the protective stillness of the awning and climbed into the Lyft. Inside, she sipped a bottle of complimentary Evian as she thought about how she didn’t comment on the fact that he’d proclaimed himself to be her age — 39 — but was clearly a few years north of 50, maybe even 55. She thought about how none of his photos captured the fact that he was completely bald on the top and back of his head and how she’d refrained from judgment, genuinely trying to get to know who he was and not who he wasn’t.
Even when he was so condescending with his “interesting” comment (always code for “this is bullshit, but I’m going to momentarily pretend to be captivated and enlightened by the possibility of your truth”) she’d given him the benefit of the doubt. If they had great conversation and chemistry, what difference did a little extra scalp and a little less hair make?
In response to his “interesting,” she’d smiled and laughed and had tried to sound casual as she’d taken the bait, giving him more of an explanation than he deserved, “Well, pictures are a moment in time. I picked what I think are my best and most real moments.”
“Huh,” he’d said, clearly disagreeing with her.
And still she’d been polite, trying to keep the conversation moving even as he’d avoided eye contact and looked around the dimly lit wine bar and continued to give her one-word answers. She’d seethed inside at his complete and immediate rejection of her and she’d seethed some more at her attempts to get to know him despite it. Did he grow up here? Was he still doing marathons? (Note: in the future, do not ignore the red flag of “guy crossing a finish line” photo.) The wine’s good, right? How crazy is this wind we’re having?
All as he sat there drumming his fingertips on the table with impatience in some beat-up, mud-crusted topsiders (topsiders!) and a pair of acid-wash dad jeans, his ample belly pushing the buttons on his cheap-looking, wrinkled button down dangerously close to popping.
She opened the window to let in some fresh air, but the wind gusted through the car with such force that it was too much, so she closed it.
Why was she always so polite — on these bullshit dates, at work, in life. Why? It was kind of pathetic. She was pathetic. Well, no more.
She downed her complimentary Evian then crushed the bottle with vigor, the crumpling sound of the plastic filling her with resolve.
The accommodating version of her was GONE. No more Ms. Nice Girl. She would speak her truth, treating people with respect and kindness when they showed it to her. And when they didn’t? They’d be greeted with the honest, direct version of her. She would say all the things. She would stand in her power goddamnit. Oh yes, she would.
The Lyft stopped in front of her apartment. She opened the car door and the wind whipped everything in the car askew: her hair, her scarf, the crumpled-up Evian bottle, an old Starburst wrapper. She pulled her scarf tighter around her neck and she stepped outside, slamming the car door with the power of the New and Not-Polite Her.
She noticed it too late.
As the Lyft began to drive away, she realized her scarf was slammed shut in the door. Her hands flew to her neck as she quickly tried to loosen it, but the Lyft driver’s acceleration was too swift — she’d chosen the black car option, after all, and the Mercedes had excellent pick-up — and the scarf that was now a noose tightened around her neck.
She stood in her power for approximately three seconds.
And then for the first — and last — time, she tried to make her voice heard before everything went black.
Fun fact: This is is how the famous dancer Isadora Duncan died, only in a horse-drawn carriage instead of a Lyft. The moral of the story: watch your scarves out there, friends.