The Black Rose

It was one of those cold spring nights in April, following a warm spring day in Boston. It was one of those nights only made colder by the fact that you didn’t have a jacket because this morning it was warm. Your favorite thing about the weather is also what made you resent it after some time. It was cold, and I was standing outside. It was Saturday, around 1:40 a.m. so, I guess technically, it was Sunday. I was leaned up against a stop sign, sober, across from The Black Rose, waiting for an Uber.

The car is eight minutes away, and I’m getting colder and colder as I wait for it. As I’m waiting, a car pulls up and stops in front of me, presumably to follow the instruction of the sign I’m standing beneath. I don’t know what kind of car it was. I have never been good about that. It looked like every kid-I-went-to-high-school-with’s car, a 2002 Camry? I don’t know. It was old, not beat up, but you could tell it was older. Dark blue. The only thing that would distinguish it from a high schooler’s car was the light blue panel on the driver’s door. It was a only one panel and only a few shades light, but the discoloration added a bit of illegitimacy to the vehicle.

So, the car stops. Then, out of the drivers window, a woman sticks her head out. “You waitin’ on an Uber?” she asked. I confirmed that was what I was doing, and she said, “You got cash? I’ll give ya a ride home for a few bucks.”

I don’t know why I did it. It doesn’t make sense. If this happens to me a hundred more times I would do it differently. But she caught me on this night, feeling this way. Maybe it was a moment of glaring stupidity. Maybe I fell victim to every young person’s, especially young male’s, ignorant sense of invincibility. I agreed. “Yeah that’d be great, thanks.” I told her.

I entered the car like I would any other Uber. I got in the backseat behind the driver. Almost immediately the woman reached her hand back and touched my knee.

“Oh baby, you can come sit up here with me!”

I declined politely, “No thank you, this works.”

No time passes and she asks me, “Where’s your girl at baby?” I look at her through the rearview mirror and told her a bold faced lie, “She’s at home. Headed to join her now.”

“Where’s home?” she asked. “Where are you headed?”

“Allston, just take 90, it’s right off the highway.”

As the car moved out from under the streetlamps the full darkness of the night was no longer obstructed. The car darkened and she told me, “Oh I’m not taking 90 baby. You and me gotta go down Storrow.”

Now, it doesn’t take a geographic knowledge of Boston to know that this is strange. The aforementioned “Storrow” is Storrow Drive, which will take us from downtown, to Cambridge, just north of Allston, and then ultimately into Allston. The concerning thing is, first, I live on the other side of Allston. The highway, I-90, is much faster. Now secondly, and more importantly, I asked her to take 90, and she refused. I don’t think I would have noticed anything weird about her taking Storrow if she hadn’t denied my initial instruction. I was the one who knew where we were going, but she committed to Storrow like she had predetermined it.

This does get spookier if you do have a geographic knowledge of Boston, because not only does Storrow take you to the other side of Allston, away from where I live. Storrow Drive runs parallel to the Charles River.

Now, it is dark. The city streets are empty and her headlights are illuminating the few feet in front of us. Once she made a mention of Storrow Drive she keeps muttering it to herself. “Yeah, we’re headed to Storrow… We gon’ take Storrow baby…” Every few words she turns back and says aloud, “Almost there baby!” And then it’s back to the muttering.

We hit a red light. I look down at the lock on my door. It is one of the locks that sits right above the handle and slides out and in as opposed to being near the window sill and sliding up and down. Every moment in high school, sitting in my friend’s Pontiac Grand Am (I know that car) flashes in my head. His car has the same locks, and it is in this very moment, sitting at a red light that it dawns on me that I could never tell, which position was lock and unlock in that car. I’m clueless. I can’t try to fling the door open because she’ll clearly notice. The Storrow Drive exit is approaching on the other side of this intersection.

In what may be the quickest thinking I’ve ever had, a complete departure from my thinking when I got in this car, I pull out my phone and tell her, “Hey my buddy is back at that bar! Can we give him a ride too?”

Her head whips around to look at me. She stares at me for a moment. She thinks it over. “Yeah… okay. But tell him he’s gotta be waiting outside for us.”

She takes the car around the block, and we get to the street she picked me up on. The streetlamps return. There are people around now. She starts to drive incredibly slow. She’s forming a line of Boston drivers behind her, all beeping their horns. She keeps asking me “Where’s he at?” Pointing to random men on the street, “Is that him?”

Her voice gets louder. “Which one is your boy? Tell him to be outside!” More cars are honking, and she’s looking for a man on the street who isn’t there. None of these men are my friend because I wasn’t at the bar with my friend. I wasn’t at the bar at all.

We get to the stop sign. The sign I was standing beneath, just outside a pub, The Black Rose. We stop at the stop sign, a car pulls through the intersection. I fling my door open. “He’s inside, I’ll go get him” I shout back at her as I hop out of the car.

I’m certain she didn’t hear it because as soon as my feet hit the sidewalk she peeled away, using the momentum of her turning the car to close the rear driver side door. And like that, she’s gone. I walk to the sausage cart guy a block away so I’m not standing in the same spot in case she doubles back. Also, I know he isn’t going anywhere and there is a long line of drunk Bostonians craving street meat, so I figured it was safest to be with a crowd. I waited there. I called an Uber, and having learned my lesson, I waited for this one to show up and confirmed it was my Uber.

I think the only reason I started putting more thought into this as something more than a strange experience was because of a conversation I had the next day. The day after this happened I met up with a friend. With this event clearly on my mind, I told him the whole story. I told him what happened, starting with the stop sign outside The Black Rose. When I told him that’s where I was he only had one thing to say.

“The Black Rose? Isn’t that where all those guys disappeared from?”

To Be Continued…