Jiffy Lube, Byway 17, North Medford, IL

Filling her nails with the perseverance of the annoyed, all she could think of was how tired she was from taking care of everything, every detail in their life together. Even the cars. She didn’t subscribe to gender roles, but enough was enough. Why couldn’t he deal with the cars? Whenever she brought the station wagon in for an oil change, they always tried to sell her extra things she didn’t need, and she knew if she got them her husband would be upset. Her hair was up so tightly in a ponytail it looked like her hairline might recede any moment from the force of it.

Knocked up at twenty, after two previous abortions, she hadn’t wanted to test her luck with a Lord she wasn’t totally sure didn’t exist. She had left her local progressive radio station to marry the teaching assistant from her mass communications class. He was the one who had knocked her up. Now, twelve years later, she knew there was indeed a God and his main purpose was to torture her. She knew that seemed self-important to think, but her husband was balding, now overweight, still sleeping with his students. He did it the way many women eat chocolate, compulsively, secretly, with great melt-in-the-mouth relish. He was a connoisseur of Bambis: Young, long legged fawns with blonde hair. What she had been, and if truth be told, still was.
She had grown to believe it was her destiny to be punished like this, ignored, cheated upon, devoured on Saturday nights after Washington Week in Review. She no longer even realized when men looked at her, so busy was she with the details of living day to day, until she saw him. He must be the new guy, she thought, his dreadlocks sweated in the greasy light, a patchouli and oil rigged smell gurgling from of him. She had neglected to find out his name, the way he put his greasy palm print on her face, the way she licked the roof of his mouth, the way it tasted of new car smell and licorice.

Elizabeth Powell’s first book of poems, The Republic of Self, won the New Issues Poetry Prize. Her recent work has appeared in Ploughshares, Missouri Review, Post Road, and Alaska Quarterly Review, among others. Her essay “Infidelities” appeared in My Mother Married Your Father, an anthology of essays on step-families, published by WW Norton. She teaches at the University of Vermont, and is poetry editor of Green Mountains Review.

*Photo courtesy of Eve of Discovery.