On April 21, the world lost a musical legend, a man whose work will remain immortal among the likes of Beethoven, The Beatles, and Justin Bieber. Prince died on a Thursday, meaning that over the weekend, Charleston would witness tributes and love to a man who touched the hearts and souls of so many.
It also provided ample opportunity for lunacy above and beyond the normal rates to occur in the backseat of my car.
That Friday, April 22, afforded me chances to meet customers from all over Charleston who loved the man. It also allowed me to meet the ghost of Prince himself, or so I thought.
Midtown usually spells mischief to me, so I dreaded answering an Uber call to pick up from there. Normally, the usual customer really is under 21, or 45 with the maturity of a 7-year-old. In either case, it’s never an easy journey to the final destination.
The ghost of Prince was no exception. As I waited on Woolfe Street across Midtown for my customer, a man approached my car and silkily states to me “Loraina?” the age-old pronunciation of my actual name, Lo-REE-na.
“Um, yes that’s me,” I say in a tiny voice. Ghost Prince gets into my backseat. Apparently, when you die your soul must travel to another living vessel to continue, for it seemed that Prince himself had morphed this skinny white man into another being, another life-force altogether. Adding to the effect, he had chosen to resemble Dave Chappelle’s Prince from his Charlie Murphy sketches. Poor Prince had morphed into a white man doing Dave Chappelle in blackface. What happened to the universe in those last 24 hours?Ghost Prince’s overpowering presence was only rivaled by his sequined purple suit and perfume resembling a mixture of sweat, Tinkerbell perfume for little girls, and sex. Ghost Prince knew how to dress for the ladies’ approval.
“Baby love, I’ma tell you right now, this is it for you. This is a ride of your life, I won’t forget you and you won’t forget me,” Ghost Prince told me as we started off, adjusting the fake Afro on his head. “You see baby girl, I’ma rock your world, I’ma love you good, baby girl.”
“Oh, ok great!” I say as we prepare to turn onto Meeting Street. I have been driving for Uber for almost a year, and I’ve learned to take whatever comes my way with love, patience and all the salt from the oceans surrounding us. “Um, I need to know where you’re going,” I said so we could turn the correct direction onto Meeting Street.
“Oh baby, baby girl,” Ghost Prince started “I need you to pull over now”. Freaking out, I pulled into the Church’s Chicken next to the Commodore on Meeting Street. Starting to worry over Ghost Prince’s intentions, I tried to remain calm and carry on.
“Now baby girl, now we’re stopped, I need to explain to you. Do you know who I am?”
“Yes, your name is B-“ I started, but Ghost Prince raised his white hand to my face.
“Mhm yes baby girl, that’s what YOU wanna think, but no. Honey, I am the one and only Prince!”
Ghost Prince strangely became more similar to real Prince in voice and delivery.
“Um, excuse me Mr. Prince,” I start, “but didn’t you, um, you know, pass on yesterday?”
“No no, no no, baby girl,” Ghost Prince said. “You think that, because they told you. Because life tells you. But you know what? Baby girl, I’m here. I’m right here. And you’re right here. And the world is here. Now I’m here. And that is here. And life exists because it’s here.”
“Sure, oh I see!” I intentionally egged him on, “but where are you going home to tonight?” I didn’t mind that Ghost Prince had obviously found comfort in his new identity through a mysterious cocktail of alcohol likely mixed with illicit substances. It was 2AM on Friday, which meant that the more he tripped with me, the higher my 4.5 surged fare was going to be.
“Baby girl,” he sighed as he finished slurring, “I don’t know. Yesterday, I was me. Now I am free. Tomorrow I won’t be. It’s that easy.” He swayed back and forth as he looked out the window and told me, “baby girl, I don’t know where I want to go.”
“Ok,” I said, “well how about home?”
“Yes,” Ghost Prince said.
I expected an address after that. I waited 30 seconds and say, “So, where’s home?”
After another round of “baby girl”, I received an address in North Charleston off of Cosgrove Avenue, and we finally pull back onto Meeting Street.
Ghost Prince asked me to take I-26 for a “smoother and pleasurable time”. Before getting on the interstate, Ghost Prince had a special request.
“Baby girl, I just wanna hear it, I wanna hear it one more time,” he said.
“Hear what?” I asked at the stop light before I-26.
Ghost Prince replied, “My song, baby girl. My voice.” He then took my aux cord and went to YouTube. As we turned onto the interstate, it came on: Purple Rain. The most masterful, perfect song created by Prince.
Ghost Prince was experiencing ecstasy as he skipped through the long intro to the verse. He proceeded to sing the opening words with perfection. “I never meant to cause you any sorrow, I never meant to cause you any pain…” The words escaped his lips, and for a moment it felt as if the real Prince was still alive.As we navigated the turn on I-26 to go around the old hotel, the first chorus began. “Purple rain, purple rain,” Ghost Prince says over and over, as the song returned to its meaningful verses. At this point, Ghost Prince lowered the volume to talk to me. “Baby girl, you’re my star. A shooting star, the ones that shoot from far. You’re my heart, you’re my soul, you’re my world you are,” he told me.
“Well, thank you,” I said, as we passed the Spruill Avenue exit.
“No, baby girl, you don’t get it. I am here, and you’re here. And now our souls are here. You are love, you define love, no one gives it like you dear. My life ended, but now it’s begun. The soul, the one in me, is eclipsed, and now I am complete in it.”
I meant to ask the meaning of his words, but it was too late. As we reached the Cosgrove exit, the pinnacle of Purple Rain happens: that guitar solo. As it came to Prince’s singing, we turned off, and before I could stop it, Ghost Prince rolled down the window for the world to hear his wisdom.
“Eyeee, eyeee!” Ghost Prince warbled. He was in conjunction with the rift until the climax of the song was over. It truly was remarkable to hear real Prince and Ghost Prince perform it at once.
Ghost Prince had lost his afro out the window from this. He was unaware that the jig was up, and I could now see his sandy blonde mane.
The beautiful eye makeup with the ghastly blackface made a combination almost impossible to resist laughing at, but as we sat at Cosgrove Avenue and Rivers Avenue, I held back while Ghost Prince explained the meaning of life.
“Baby girl,” he started, “I’ma love you now. You’re a woman, I’m a man. The world is us; it’s love. It needs us, it needs love. We need to love. Everything is love. The man and the woman, they’re not sperm and eggs, they’re love. Our home is love. Our life is love. Let’s remember love.”
“Got it,” I said. We turned onto Rivers Avenue. Ghost Prince swayed back and forth, reminding me of Stevie Wonder. He had a song in his head but he wasn’t sharing it anymore. He sat back, picked his nails, and humped against the door as much as his seatbelt could afford.
A mile later, we reached his home. Ghost Prince reached for his wallet, and I tried declining his payment, but Ghost Prince wouldn’t oblige.
“Baby girl, you’re beautiful, but unappreciated. Let me love you,” he explained, and gave me a $20 tip he won’t let me refuse. Ghost Prince stepped out of the car, and zig-zagged to his door, finally going inside as I turned around and headed away.
Did he really think he was the immortal Prince? Probably, at least until his cocktail left the building. Who knows? Prince was known for his generosity, and since $20 is like a million to an Uber driver, perhaps I can add Prince to my celebrity encounters after all.