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Road Trip Series: Car Wash

After my clothes are on
and the doctor, with a sober smile,
confirms the illness I’ve sworn to everyone
was over has come roaring back,

After she’s reminded me that chronic
means it may come and go but
no matter what you do or don’t
it will always be with you,

After she’s asked, “Any questions?”
and written the script for the meds
I’d promised myself I’d never take again,

After, still tasting the chalky pink drink
that lit up my secrets, I call my mom
from the parking lot and hang up
before she answers,
because who needs a mom
when she can't protect you and
there's no way to shield her from your pain,

After I can't bear to tell my husband,
and turn off the ringer,
and crank up the car radio
to drown the questions
with no answers,
silence the words
I know I'll have to say:
"I'm afraid
I won't make it in to work,"
"I'm sorry, sweetie,
I can't play with you;
Mama's not feeling
good today," 
I roar past the pharmacy,
where the dreaded meds wait,
blow through the turnoff to my job,
the street where soon
I’ll have to pick up my son,
Don’t slow
until I let time stop
inside the car wash.

Untouchable inside my shell,
in neutral, I am rolled along
almost imperceptibly,
lulled by the rain
running down the windows,
drumming on the roof,
eased by the shushing hushing
smoothing soothing
foaming flapping
flopping mopping,
till my breathing slows,
the storm subsides,
slapping octopus arms slump,

And I am rolled out
maybe just for now,
but for now,
now will have to do, 
buffed and gleaming.

Cars. They’re a microcosm of family life. A four-doored home on wheels. And, as this series of essays reveals, a little magical. Cars provide a window to the past and the future. They can shift gears to make you feel 20 years younger or add a touch of gray. They can wipe away emotional scars, bring us closer together or transport us somewhere else. We asked writers to take a look in their rearview mirror and recall a car ride that impacted the way they look at life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

 Frank is the author of eight young adult novels, including the award-winning .