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As they approached the car, I saw the closed off body language. Both wore guarded and wounded expressions. My heart clenched for a moment. They were both polite as they got in; silence settled over the car like a heavy veil almost immediately. They were a beautiful couple, both dressed to the nines, clearly successful, see and be seen types in an up and coming neighborhood. The wife was fierce and proud and seemed like someone who had no problem speaking her mind, the kind of woman I most admire. And her husband was handsome, and polished, they were just beautiful.

“How could you behave like that?”

Nothing but stony silence.

Me, being the mother hen that I am, waited a few minutes for them both to calm from the rush of adrenaline; started chattering about the kind of nonsense I normally eschew but which is a useful refuge when emotions are running high. The husband did all the talking. Ok, I’ve got him off the ledge, time for a more direct approach.

“Young lady, I have to tell you how beautiful you look this evening. You’re absolutely stunning; and that dress is on point.”

I hear a soft gasp, a squeaked “thank you” and gentle sobbing.

Not what I was aiming for, but I think she needed to hear it. And it was the only thing I could come up with on what was only a very short trip.

A minute or two later I hear a shrill, “Don’t touch me!”.

I feel you, dear one; I feel you. It’s hard to feel love or compassion or accept an olive branch when the person you’ve given your heart to has humiliated you in front of a perfect stranger. But I could tell he truly meant it. I think he knew he could have handled himself better.

The trouble with relationships is we humans fear pain and abandonment, so anything that looks like either of those sends our heads spinning.

How cruel is life, that the things that first attract us to someone often become the things we find most triggering. The bonds that once drew us close often wedge us apart.

I’m sure the fact that she is fierce is why he loves her, why he won her heart. No other man had that strength, that courage. And I’m sure the fact that he is an impeccable gentleman made her feel safe, like she could let down her guard for once. But now, her independence looks to him like disrespect, and his nurturing feels oppressive.

I did something I never do, something I probably shouldn’t have done. I logged out of Uber, parked the car and got out. I asked her first, because she was on my side of the car.

“Is it ok if I give you a hug?”

She nods, and I hold her and she cries again. I never wanted to let go. In some way, it’s like holding my past self. But I remember this pain. I remember being young and in love and thinking that’s all it took.

This couple had so much going for them, and I truly felt they were well matched. The reality of this moment was painful to watch, and I know all too well how much worse it was to experience. I walked around and said “you too” and gave him a quick hug. I looked at them both and said, “You’re going to be ok, you’ll find a way through the hard times”.

I have no idea if it is true, I just want it to be, and I want to leave them with some hope to cling to.

What I really wanted to do is log out for the rest of the night and play therapist, to reframe these wounds for them, to help them remember what it was like when they first fell in love, why they loved each other, why they each won the other’s heart, and why nobody else ever came close. I wanted to help them see that the  thing that hurt the most was the very thing that could help them have a marriage others dream of.

Instead I did the only thing we rideshare drivers can do and watched them walk away.

I think of them often. I pray more for them than I do for nearly anyone. If there is a God, if there is justice, someone will help them see the truth of life, and love. Before it’s too late.

Love like that is rare, and we don’t get second chances at it.

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