Editor’s Note: This story is based on the recollection of the author and are not exact quotes.
It is Sunday night of dead week. I have my first college exam the next morning for English 45A. I’m not too worried — I’ve been dreaming of Macbeth and The Wife of Bath since my Thursday nap on my books. Still, my stomach tosses and turns as I think about tomorrow. After studying at my sorority house all day, I finally decide to call it a night and Uber home. I tell myself that I simply can’t walk the long three blocks back to Unit 3 because it’s past 8 p.m., but in reality it’s because I’m lazy, weighed down by 40 lbs. of textbooks and slightly bloated from a Postmated Gordo’s super burrito.
The car pulls up as I’m texting my friend, but when I climb into the Honda Civic, the driver quickly draws my attention. She’s chatty and friendly the moment I swing the door closed, making sure I buckle up before she asks about my night.
“Hi there! How’s your night going?”
I shrug, still not fully invested in the conversation, bothered by CalCentral’s emails to register for upcoming classes.
“Eh, all right. I have an exam tomorrow morning.”
She glances at me in the rearview mirror as she rounds Channing Circle. “Really? In what?”
“No shit! I studied English literature in college.”
Noticing her intense excitement, I finally lock my phone and slide it into the side pocket of my backpack. Now I’m curious, eager to get past awkward silence and small talk. “Did you go to Cal?”
She shrugs. “Nah. Went to a local college in Oakland and got my bachelor’s in poetry. Actually, I wrote my senior thesis on how Shakespeare was the first-ever rapper.”
I don’t immediately know how to respond, when suddenly we have already pulled up to the backside of Unit 3 next to the hidden walkway where I normally tell my Ubers to pull over. But instead of scrambling out the passenger door like I normally would, I hesitate unbuckling my seatbelt, my mind buzzing about this “Shakespeare rap.” I make a split-second decision. I ask her to go the full route, requiring her to drive a large circle around Durant Avenue and adding on three extra minutes.
“Bailey, can I share something with you for the few minutes we have left? Bailey, I’m going to. I’m going to share with you a part of my senior thesis. I’m going to fuck your mind in two minutes.”
Before I can respond — although I don’t even know what I would’ve possibly said. Perhaps a “Sure”? Or maybe a “Please enlighten me”? Or possibly a “Yeah, I guess you can fuck my mind?” — my Uber driver launches into a breathless, amazing, incredible, truly mind-fucking rap entirely centered around Shakespeare.
“The Uber driver paints a landscape from Hamlet to Macbeth, from King Lear to Julius Caesar.”
The world starts to whirl around me as I begin to swim in poetic lyrics. The Uber driver paints a landscape from Hamlet to Macbeth, from King Lear to Julius Caesar. I feel like I am hooked up to “Rap Discover” on Spotify or at a concert in Oracle Arena.
I am vaguely aware that my mouth is hanging open. All I can think is “Holy shit! What is happening?” She doesn’t stop to take a breath, never missing a beat.
Almost as quickly as she began, her rap is over, and the car is parked in front of Unit 3. As promised, she has truly fucked my mind in a short span of two minutes.
I’m still stunned when she speaks again. “Bailey, thank you so much for letting me share that with you. Good luck on your exam tomorrow.”
I struggle to find my voice. “That … that was … wow. Thank you.”
She looks back at me. I snap my mouth shut so she doesn’t see my jaw wide open catching flies. “Remember that what you’re doing is important. Literature is important. Have a great night!” She flashes me a casual smile, one that screams, “I just fucked your mind, and the whole time I was thinking about what I need from the grocery store.”
“I have that feeling — where I want to learn from her, but now that she’s gone, I never will”
I mumble, “Have a great one,” before I open the door in a daze and stumble out, still weighed down by the books in my backpack. As the Uber driver pulls away from the curb, I realize that I’m waving to one of the most impressive people I’ve ever met. I have that feeling — where I want to learn from her, but now that she’s gone, I never will. Almost like a religious encounter, or like one of those “important moments” in life that people talk about when they say “a time that changed my life” or “I’ve never been the same since.” It was pretty much all of those clichés happening at once.
I can’t bring myself to talk with the security monitor, Johnny, although normally I word-vomit everything in my brain at him as he gives a half-nod and scans my Cal 1 card. Tonight, I am silent. Luckily, my roommate isn’t home when I shove open the door to my closet-sized dorm, because I know that I won’t be able to sustain conversation right now. I sit myself on my bed and slowly begin to unpack what has just happened to me.
My Uber driver entrusted me with her musical literary masterpiece, and I am reminded why I love English literature. The stories, the words and the intense passion in each writer’s voice speaks to me as my Uber driver did tonight.
While I might not be able to recite a rap focused on my favorite English writers (yet), I can start by first passing my English exam.