He pulls up again, this was the third or maybe fourth time in as many months. Different time of day, different street, but I think I am wearing the same clothes. I’m not bothered, but only because he won’t remember me.
I slide into his car.
“Now, now, now, how do you say that name of yours?” he asks.
“It’s Ra.” I say.
“I wasn’t sure,” he said, “if it was pronounced in the masculine.”
“I know, Ray versus Rah– but it is Ra, even though I am female and it is a man’s name. Well, a God’s name.” I chuckle at the misunderstanding.
He shakes his head, “Ah, but yes, yes, Raet is a goddess. So it is both genders, and no genders, and it is powerful.”
“In fact,” I say, “Ra is short for Radhika. She is a deity, too. Just another companion goddess.”
“It is power, still, always.” Mr. Famous says, smiling, though I can’t see it. It is the sort of smile that changes the energy of a room. I can feel it.
The conversation is comforting to me, like watching Mr. Rogers slip on his cardigan. We’ve done this before, we’ll do it again. He never remembers me, some people never do, but he never forgets these streets. He follows the star on his map, and never asks if I know where I’m going.
My friend is next to me in the backseat. His foot isn’t tapping, like normal, he isn’t looking over the seat to the road. Mr. Famous puts him at ease for some reason, and I wish, not for the first time, that I could favorite an Uber driver. I’d rather wait 15 minutes for Mr. Famous, than drive with someone else who arrives instantly.
Like me, he is a good companion.
* * *
Raet is a companion goddess, a consort. Radhika is, as well. Some existences are built to foil others, to complement, to meld.
“Don’t you want to be the biggest thing in your universe?” so many people ask through inference. The books all say that if you reach high enough, others will let you stand on them. This life is your ship, you can be the captain, you can be the horizon, you can be the North Star, you can be the sails.
My spine is a strong one, so strong that it knows how to bend.
My mind is a strong one, so strong that it knows how to open.
I like to flex like the wind that pushes you forward.
I like my molecules to move fast, to change shape.
I like to be the companion.
I am mutable by nature, but there is power in my nature– still, always– just ask my namesakes.
Just ask Mr. Famous.
* * *
Later night, same day, this time I think he recognizes me. It has only been a few hours. It is raining now, and the droplets fall on the windshield as we move through the streets of Long Beach, in smooth contrast to the sharp jazz playing through the speakers.
He doesn’t speak, but I know he is paying attention. When I close my eyes, he turns up the music loud enough that the saxophone might be behind me, and when I open my eyes to count the raindrops, he lowers the sounds of the car so the splashes can have their own chance to serenade.
I can’t see his smile, but I know it is there.
This stranger is good company, I think, and he enjoys the art of good companionship, like me. Like my namesakes.
I wonder if his own holds a similar story, but I don’t know his real name. The Uber app says only that he is called Mr. Famous.
I’m tempted to ask:
Now now now, how do you say that name of yours?
But it doesn’t matter. Companions do not have eyes for companions, sidekicks don’t bond with other sidekicks, we are searching for the ones that do not bend. We are driving towards the ones that you can fold yourself around. The ones you cannot forget, the ones no one can forget.
We are Alfred, the butler, waiting on our Master. We are human strays, racing toward a time machine, trusting in our Doctor. We are Radhika, resting on a muddy pasture, looking up at our King. We are Raet, the solar goddess, praying for our Sun. We are Mr. Famous, the Uber driver, following our Star.
We are secondaries in a universe that idolizes the origins. We are bylines in a village that wants to stretch everything into a headline. We are raindrops in a world that thinks that ground is stronger because it does not weep.
We are waiting for someone, or something, to be alongside.
The rain has stopped singing, we pull up to my driveway and exchange gratitudes.
I step out into the mud.
The water has shaped the earth just as it likes it,
and the earth does not mind at all.
The ground is powerful enough to hold the rain,
and the rain is powerful enough to be held.
Neither are concerned with who appears to be more.
The one in the sky, shedding light, is not always the one who makes the light.
The sails on the ship are not always what guides it. The one in the cape is not always the one who secured the victory.
The one who is driving is not always the one who picked the star to follow.
But sometimes things are exactly as they seem, and that is perfectly beautiful too.
Power is a shifting thing, a subtle thing, a still thing, an always thing.
Just ask Mr. Famous.