Who brings one hundred bucks to a surprise party? This woman calls, says she's planning a party for mutual friends. Can I come? Nothing fancy. Gag gifts.

Now this woman is standing before me, clutching a calculator and a wad of bills, asking me for my share. One of the honored guests is in the bathroom throwing up. The other is pretending not to notice as I reach for my checkbook. Someone else is yammering in my ear about her reflexologist. Indigestion vies with indignation as I flee.

"Where to?" the cabdriver says. I snarl. He hums. Blocks pass. I lose myself in my pique.

And then I hear this voice from the front seat. "To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow/ Creeps in this petty pace from day to day/ To the last syllable of recorded time . . ." Reluctance cedes to reflex. I continue: "And all our yesterdays have lighted fools/ The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!" His cue: "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,/ And then is heard no more."

He is black. I am white. He is my father's age; I am his daughter's. We don't know each other's names, but we're together now. In sync: "It is a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/ Signifying nothing."

"High school English," he says.

"Me, too."

"Three dollars," he says.

I give him $5 and leave, pondering the nature of indebtedness.