- Burn Rubber
It begins as a soft motor purr. Lures her to the garage in the middle of the night, where her car slumps beside her husband's Subaru. She empties the car onto the lawn: her gym clothes, an armful of toys, the baby seat her daughter outgrew long ago, and three bags of stuff for Goodwill. She crawls into the back, where she hasn't been since college when her boyfriend accompanied her home for spring break. They'd snuck out of her parents' house to the nature reserve parking lot. She'd gone down on him as headlights swept through the woods.
Cheerios grind to powder under her knees. The seats are crusted with spit-up. The vacuum gasps. She scrubs the windows until she can see herself in them, the night mess of her hair. She wipes down the dash and hangs a new pine air freshener from the rearview mirror. Her fingers twitch across her nightgown. Her neighbors' houses are dark.
She uncoils the hose from the garage and swamps the car until it glistens. Turns the stream on herself, shocking her hot skin. At close range, the pressure pounds into her, but she welcomes the cleansing pain. In the morning, she will have bruises.
Bumper to bumper, she sits in silence. There are no new billboards this week, so she reads the old ones. Her silk shirt digs into her armpits. She used to listen to NPR, but pop is easier to digest. Her brain is going dark.
Breathing deep the scent of pine, she turns on Rosetta Stone, which she never has the patience to finish. Her daughter still sings the Spanish songs she learned in day care.
She creeps forward, flanked by indistinguishable hotel façades; chain restaurants; blank office buildings; billboards for box stores, politicians, furniture. One blank except for the words "Your Message Here." The ruler edge of the horizon remains constant, as if she is not moving at all. In high school, she blasted Nirvana with the windows down. In college, she road-tripped thousands of miles across back roads. Now, the car shakes on the highway, and she hasn't driven above fifty in years.
She tours Lincolnwood during lunch hour, snacking on Danish samples from the bakery where she never buys anything. She drives through the [End Page 173] Starbucks and on to the park where the heaving ash trees lull her into a Zen-like state. At Borders, she browses the Self-Help aisle.
Bumper to bumper on the highway with the windows sealed, she screams and screams.
The lights are on in the kitchen, where her daughter is setting the table without having been asked. Only eleven and already so disciplined. She wants to be an archaeologist, a circus performer, a writer, a doctor like her daddy.
Some experts say it's good for girls to have working moms. For her daughter to see her as more than just a mother. She often thinks she should struggle more with work-life balance. Her daughter's every sovereign breath has made her redundant.
She gathers the groceries, leaving one bag behind. It contains five packages of Oreos, dry shampoo, diapers, and cherry-red Abandon lipstick she didn't pay for.
The purr thrums in her blood. It invades her dreams and turns her body sluggish. Her husband doesn't notice the bruises. They used to walk around the house naked; she'd sneak up behind him as he washed dishes and run her finger up his ass crack. Now, she braids her daughter's hair. Packs her lunch and watches out the window to make sure she gets on the bus okay.
It's a relief to slip into the driver's seat and move toward something again.
At lunch, she curls up on the back seat. Rain blurs the windows. She scrapes the cream filling from an Oreo with her teeth. She is naked beneath the blanket she has stowed here. Her silk shirt—the one with too-tight sleeves—serves as a pillow. She sleeps better in the car than in her own bed, where...