MISTER BUBBLES

Each afternoon at the end
of my shift driving the taxi
I have to get the vehicle washed.

I go to the drive-thru car wash
where taxis get a
discount:
3 bucks.

I give the front-guy 3 bucks and drive
around back
and the Mexican guy waves me
closer
making sure I get my wheels in
place
always waving impatiently
COME ON, COME ON, LITTLE MORE, MORE, MORE, then he
puts his hand violently in the air
for me to
STOP, NOT AN INCH
FURTHER
, as if I have narrowly
avoided disaster.

Then he points to the sign which I know
by heart:

WINDOWS UP
CAR IN NEUTRAL
HANDS OFF THE WHEEL
FEET OFF THE BREAK
WINDSHIELD WIPERS OFF.

And they have the instructions in Spanish
too.

Then the tracks grab my wheels and start
moving me into
the dark tunnel
with the yellow sudsy soap spraying all around
and the big loud brushes crashing against the sides
and the big heavy cloth flaps slapping down from above
the cacophony in which I somehow relax
and feel at peace
usually for the first time all
day.

Sometimes I do a bit of paperwork
under the dome light
or add up my numbers for the day
during those 3 or 4 minutes I am
in there
but often I just lean back and close my eyes
during that slow 30 meters where I am carried
and have no control or responsibility
as the car is cleaned
and it is like I am cleaned
too
of the dirt of the city
the dirt of life.

And soon I can see the light
at the end of the tunnel
as the clean water rains down
rinses off the grime
and the roaring blowers blow me dry
like jet engines
and then it all goes quiet
and I can see the Mexican kid standing there
at the finish
he rubs me down with his rag
like a boxer
his hands are fast and kind
and he gets my rearview mirrors
and some hard-to-reach places.

And when I’m finally birthed out
onto the pavement again
into the afternoon sun
he gives me a pat
looks at me and gives me
the “thumbs up”
which means I am free of the grip
of the machine
and I can get going

into the honking stinking mess
of the city streets
where the dust craves
to darken us

where for a few miles at least
at the end of each day
I shine.