It’s the first sunny day after weeks of rain
so the line for the car wash is twenty-six deep.
But I wait anyway, reading a book in my lap, looking up
after every sentence or so to see if I can move,
if there is progress. I’m number twelve
when a Lexus SUV barges into the little space
between the Toyota Corolla in front and me.
I lean into the horn, all my sunny goodwill gone,
roll down my window and shriek, “What’s wrong with you?”
She is above me, suburban highlights, Gucci
sunglasses, easy listening. “I bought my gas here,”
she says, perky, as though I haven’t yelled at all.
“The man over there said to cut the line.”
She is pointing to a nebulous space towards the sidewalk
when I bark, “Well, if you can live with yourself, go ahead.
Just know I’ve been sitting here for half an hour.”
I push a button and up my window goes
as though I’ve had the last word.
I fiddle with the air conditioner vent
until the cold is blowing right on my face.
I’m not sure if the drivers of streaky smudged cars
snaked behind me think I’m a hero or a fool
or just another cantankerous Floridian.
The woman in the Lexus doesn’t make any more
eye contact, but her posture straightens
as she moves in, so that her passenger door
is almost scraping my bumper. I take a deep breath
and let it go. Not used to making a scene, I wonder
what made me lash out. The sentences
in my book are a fuzzy jumble and I can’t remember
where I was. I turn up my Girl Talk CD
and sing along with the mashups—
Black Sabbath, the Jackson 5, Jane’s Addiction, Ludacris, —
until I reach the window and order a regular wash.
When I hand over a ten, the man says, “No charge.
The lady in front of you is paying.”
The nozzles spray an arch around her SUV,
as though it has a silver aura. Her back is to me,
so I can’t even wave thank you.
I feel guilty, like a child who has been placated,
that it wasn’t such a big deal, and ask myself again
why I lost my cool. Was it because she was a woman
and I thought she would back down?
Would I have been so loud if the offender
were a bearded dude in a pick up? Then I remember
the balding guy driving the BMW convertible
who cut me off on US1 and how I followed him
right into Starbucks and confronted him,
how he slunk out of line, clutching his briefcase,
without saying a word. I went to the back of the line
in the placid green coffee chain, feeling obliged
to buy something. Now I am angry I didn’t order
the custom wax, angry that this driver thinks I can be
bought off, angry that she’ll go home with a righteous story
of how she paid for an old crappy Honda’s wash
but it was worth it to her because she saved precious time
not waiting in line. How rich people always treat
the poor—nanny, waitress, slave wage—
throwing a conciliatory crumb
when we speak up. She’s not going to get away with this,
I think, in neutral, the pink foam making rainbows
on my windshield, the heavy aqua belts whacking
my hood and trunk clean. But she does get away.
I’m spritzed and rinsed, then idle in the dryer, waiting
for the light to change from red to green.
The Lexus is long gone, already onto the next errand—
Whole Foods or the Aventura Mall. I pocket the ten
I fantasized about throwing back at her—the ten
that could have been a twenty or a fifty, if only I’d ordered
an interior vacuum or shampoo—and ease out into traffic
not yet knowing I’ll have a good dinner party story,
my windshields clean and clear, no match for the sun’s glare.