I DRESSED VERY CAREFULLY for her, the way I would for a good friend, thinking hard about what she likes. What I think she likes. I ordered Uber Black — the highest level of Uber I’ve ridden. The driver said it would be about an hour and a half to Malibu, a long time to resist telling him where I was going.
‘‘I’m going to meet Rihanna,’’ I finally yelled over the radio.
He turned the radio down.
‘‘Rihanna. I’m going to meet her, to interview her. That’s where we’re going.’’
‘‘You kidding? That’s my girl,’’ he said. ‘‘I love her. She’s so down-to-earth. She always keep it cool with her friend and her family. Her and Melissa, I think they are the best celebrity friends. I always say that.’’
‘‘Melissa Forde,’’ I said, to show that I knew who he meant.
‘‘I took a picture with her! Look!’’ He handed back his phone and I took it skeptically. But there he was, in a tux, with his arm around Rihanna. She was smiling. ‘‘She hear my accent and ask me where I’m from. She’s so nice. I knew she would be.’’
‘‘Where are you from?’’
‘‘West Africa, Niger. I come to play soccer for University of Idaho. Oh, that’s the other thing I love about Rihanna — she love soccer.’’
Over the next two hours I interviewed Oumarou Idrissa about how he survived during his first five years in Los Angeles after his student visa had fallen through. He slept in laundromats, sending tiny sums of money back to Niger where his 25 brothers and sisters were starving. This took us through the beach traffic; we grew quiet as the SUV zipped along beach cliffs above blue water. I think we both suddenly remembered Rihanna.