Forty-Something Years in Ninaland

Reflections at a Car Wash



I got a fast car. A new car, a black Camry with alloy wheels and fake leather mixed with real leather seats.

So I traded cars with my mom and I had to get the car washed. I was trading a Subaru for a Camry. When I got to the car wash with my grayish blue Subaru, I got the premium wash, because why not? Well, for one thing, it was a whopping 12 dollars! Is it just me or do you remember when car washes cost like $2.50? Right? I’m not sure when that was, but that kind of inflation scares me. I was yet to find out that car washes scare me, a little as well.

So I get in there, not noticing the sign that says you need to put the car into neutral. So it’s in drive mode until I realize something is not working right. I kind of felt like I was gonna hit the guy holding the hose, but thankfully he pointed to the sign and I put the car in neutral. He didn’t look amused.

I was not amused when these enormous brushes filled with some kind of soap started attacking my car. I wanted to put the car in reverse and sort of get out while the getting out was possible. Once, when I was a kid, I was sitting at a red light with my mom and suddenly decided to put the car in reverse. My mom gasped for air when she stepped on the accelerator and started going backwards. I was spanked that day. One of the very few times I was spanked. I contend to this day that I did not deserve that beating because no ever told me, ‘Don’t put the car in reverse.’ I was eight, I didn’t know what ‘reverse’ meant.

At the car wash, fortunately, I voted in my head against putting the car in reverse. Then this multicolored concoction of soap bubbles hit me, it was kind of pretty, like an abstract painting. I think about how my dad called me the other day and asked where he could get ‘Monkey Paintings’ ‘Monkey Paintings?’ I asked. ‘Do you mean abstract art?’ I asked him. ‘Yes, I think that is what I mean. Nobody does it like the monkeys do!’

Well apparently no one does abstract colors the way that car washes do, I thought of taking a picture but then realized how weird I am. I just experienced it and it was interesting to see the different colors flashing before my eyes, mixing together, creating new colors. I wanted to paint once upon a time. I painted something in grad school and put in on the wall in our living room. My roommate never mentioned anything about it until months later, she said it was ugly, where did I get that? Never mind, I said. Never fucking mind. That was the end of my art career.

So why didn’t I do the car wash myself? It’s kind of fun and really good exercise you say. I agree, let’s be honest. It was hot as hell outside and I’m kinda lazy, I’m not gonna lie. Me and my best friend when I was a kid would wash her dad’s car compulsively. We did it over and over until, well until we got tired. It was just fun.  We could spend a whole afternoon just washing the car. I don’t have any memory of what kind of car it was, but it was beige. I remember that.

Jeanette was my best friend’s name. She was a real piece of work. She’s the one who taught me how to crank call people, for real. Like, have long conversations with them. In fact, we created a crank call relationship with one of her ‘friends.’ Anyways, if we got really bored of dancing to Madonna tunes for hours and hours in her basement, we washed that car until the paint almost wore off. Years later Jeanette’s mother would die of alcoholism and many, many years later I would hear of Jeanette’s own death. I read about it on the Internet because I couldn’t find any trace of her on the Internet.

I don’t know how she died, I called her dad but didn’t leave a message. He called back and talked to my dad, they remembered each other. However, neither one of them mentioned Jeanette’s name. I never had the gall to call him back. I want to know so badly how she died. I don’t know what that will do for me, but maybe some kind of closure.I have all these imaginary ideas about how she died and why she died, but none of them really matter. She was a good childhood friend. The best.

As water started spraying violently at my car, so hard was that water that I wanted to roll my window down and express that perhaps the water pressure was too high. However, I did no such thing. I sat there, and eventually was rolling out of the car wash. My car was still in neutral but it was moving towards the road. I quickly put in drive and stomped on breaks. A kid came with a cloth and started to dry my car. He missed a spot, a big spot on my left-hand side window. Of course, I didn’t tell him that. I waved goodbye.

I felt like I just got a new car. I felt like as I drove, everyone was admiring how clean and new my car looked. No such thing was actually happening. People were going about their way, doing their thing, as I did mine.

I don’t drive extremely fast, but I got a fast car.

I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Anyplace is better
Starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe we’ll make something
Me, myself I got nothing to prove


Fast Car by Tracy Chapman Studio Version – YouTube

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