Jill McDonough is a poet and winner of three Pushcart prizes. “Car Wash” is part of her forthcoming book, Reaper.
Josey and I get girled a lot. People like us, want to be
our friends. They say Hi, girls or What’ll it be,
girls, when they’d never call dudes boys, call some
straight couple kids. But don’t worry about it. It’s fine.
We’re girls at the Auto-Rite; diners; toll booths;
The Drinking Fountain, our favorite secret bar.
You can tell a secret in a poem and it will stay a secret
forever. No one reads poems except for me and you.
The Drinking Fountain’s by the car wash, for after
the thud and squeak of cozy suds, jolt of correlator,
conveyer belt nudging us like baggage. We’re lugged
as groceries, not up to us anymore. The car wash
is sexy—tugged into now languid, now hurried slaps
of fresh blue sudsy rags, taken over, into the private half
light, a tunnel of suds. So there is kissing, sudden happiness,
still. I google, learn mitter curtain, part of the pre-soak arch.
I knew I’d love the lingo, knew there was more than undercarriage,
hot wax, tire bright. Albert ladies us. But Hi girls! calls Gina
or Linda or Nancy when we walk in to the dim din, Brian Williams
on one tv, Law and Order SVU on the other. Josey gets a G&T
and a Black Pearls scratch ticket, or Cash Blast, spondees
that make me laugh. I get the beach of a five-count Bacardi
on ice with Coke, lime wedge in an eight ounce glass. A white guy
tells Josey she looks like Michael Jackson. A black lady regular
rolls her eyes. The guy says I’m not saying she looks like a man,
and I shrug But she does. Or, more than grown-man Michael, right?
We all talk Michael’s noses, Jackson Five to death, determine
when Josey’s nose comes in. Gina tells us come back
St. Patrick’s Day, her conned beef sandwiches, free
for everybody after three. If I have one more I’ll cry, so in love
with the car wash, bar, with Josey, Boston, you. We go to the Drive-Thru
Car Wash whenever there’s salt. Because our red Ford Ranger’s
chassis rusted so you could see sunlight shine through. And the guys
at Morrison’s Auto-Rite said, all sad, you girls can’t drive it anymore.