I Drive in Circles
Mar 22 ● BY Claire Robbins
1. My phone is set to notify me of news articles on the ridesharing service I drive for. I want to know when a driver gets assaulted, or when drivers in L.A. go on strike. I watch a video of drivers flowing by as part of a funeral procession honoring the life of a pregnant driver who was stabbed on the job.
2. I print out a picture of the driver who was stabbed and tape it to my dashboard. I think it is selfish to ask her to watch over me with so many other drivers on the road, but I ask anyways. I am considered an independent contractor, not an employee, so the ridesharing company has few obligations to protect me even though my labor makes their CEOs rich.
3. My ex sends me a text, which surprises me because I haven’t heard from her in a year. She tells me she wants to apologize for the way she treated me. I ask her if she feels guilty or if she wants to be my friend. She replies that she feels guilty. She replies with pictures of her twin cats. She replies with a picture of herself in a baby blue button-down dress shirt and matching blue gauges in her ears. I look her up on the internet and see that she is single again.
4. My current girlfriend used to date my ex too, years ago, before I did. They dress similarly, have similar haircuts, and similar names. This is as confusing for me as it is for anyone else. I also start to cut my hair in a similar style.
5. When I first started dating my girlfriend, she told me that she wouldn’t have any friends if she weren’t friends with her exes. But after I tell her that my ex texted me, and that I might want to be my ex’s friend, my girlfriend backpedals. She actually is only friends with one ex and doesn’t spend time with any of her exes. One night, though, she rolls onto her side and texts her own ex, Ashe, for hours.
6. Sometimes, when we first started dating, my girlfriend reminded me of my ex, especially when we were kissing, eyes closed. I now wonder if my girlfriend also thinks about our ex when she kisses me, and if she imagines our ex just as I imagine her. Then perhaps neither of us is really present and we are just our ex making out with herself, which would be a turn on for my girlfriend and me and also for our mutual ex, who is self-centered.
7. I help a passenger fold up her walker and slowly lower her body into the front seat of my car. I drive her from a nursing home to a doctor’s appointment. She tells me she has been married twice, both died, three kids. She shows me the skin graft on her head. She is eighty-six. Are you married? She asks. No, I say, as my girlfriend’s face flashes in my mind. Not yet, the passenger says, you will. Not yet, I echo.
8. Many health insurance companies provide transportation for patients and in the process exploit my labor. Benefits for me do not include: tips, health insurance, gas money, vehicle maintenance. On a short ride I make two dollars and ten cents. Benefits for the ridesharing company’s CEO include: a net worth of 550 million and 41 million dollars in salary two years ago.
9. My girlfriend comes home from her greenhouse job covered in dirt. She pulls out her phone to show me a picture of her boss’s Tesla, everything customized. I look up the CEO of the ridesharing company I drive for. His head is shaped like an egg and he wears a nice shirt.
10. The trunk of my car breaks and I tape the handle back on with duct tape. I imagine a world where the CEO of the ridesharing company is murdered and his 41-million-dollar salary is spread evenly among the drivers. We repair our cars and buy groceries; we stay alive.
11. My girlfriend doesn’t like porn, so we watch a video of a giant log splitter instead. It pulls an entire tree trunk into its blades with mechanical arms. Later, I pull my girlfriend towards me with similar arms. The tree trunk is pulled into the blades, which splits the trunk into a flower of 28 logs, which fall to the earth in a quick series of thuds. My girlfriend plays the video again for me in slow motion and the logs fall heavily. I think about how the tree opens up into many logs as my hand is inside my girlfriend.
12. My girlfriend says she would do anything with me except a threesome, but then she backpedals and clarifies that she wouldn’t have a threesome with me and a man. I imagine kissing both my girlfriend and our mutual ex briefly before pangs of guilt wound me.
13. The bill for my car insurance comes in the mail. 627.52. The bill itself is such a surprise that I start laughing. It is due in two weeks. Somehow, I always forget about my car insurance payment. My girlfriend pays her car insurance monthly and, at 100 a month, ends up paying more than I do.
14. When I get into the car, I ask the picture of the driver who was murdered how she paid her car insurance. I imagine her rising up from the dead, still pregnant, but with rage. I imagine the CEO laying down cash in a carpet under her feet, but she keeps rising and her rage stabs him over and over. I imagine the cash under her feet taking root in the ground. I imagine my girlfriend cultivating cash in her greenhouse, piles and piles of it.
15. My girlfriend has been sober for five years. She likes steak, so I take her out to a steakhouse chain, and we order ice cold lemonade and toast to how much life amazes us. She practices the speech she will give at a meeting, detailing how she was when she was drinking versus how she is now. There is a difference between my girlfriend drunk and my girlfriend sober, I am sure, but I didn’t know her drunk. My ex did.
16. The next morning, I wake up to more texts from my ex. Again, she apologizes; again, she texts pictures of herself.
17. Sometimes I do the wrong kind of magic all night.
18. In the morning, bad news from the wrong person. I cut my hair, throw away old clothes. There is nothing left to work the bad magic except my desire. I have not lit candles, not called up names. I have not paced backwards from the spot it all began. The only spells I’ve said were blessings for my girlfriend.
19. My ex called up a circle. I broke the circle. There is nothing left to step into or out of. After my girlfriend leaves for the greenhouse, I light a candle. I feel myself expanding, opening up, then falling.
20. All morning I drive in circles around my small town, from one ride to the next. I imagine my car leaving a trail on a map, and if I drove my whole life, that trail would just circle and circle over the same places. I try to think about what it would take to go another way, to get away, but nothing comes to mind.
21. I type up several different messages to my girlfriend—life is too short, I still love you; stop texting me; I’m in love with my ex—but I delete each unsent message. Instead, I text my girlfriend—I love you.