Port Charlotte Car Wash

I am sitting in the car-wash waiting room in Port Charlotte. Car washes here are either do-it-yourself or this one. You tell them which wash you want, and they take your car away. When it comes out, some half hour to 40 minutes and $27 (plus tip) later, it is clean, vacuumed, has shiny wheel covers, and sparkling windows (inside and out). Patience is a virtue, but, unfortunately, it is not mine. I brought a book, “Next Year in Havana,” to settle me down, and I wait.

Before I dig into it, I see a tall man wearing a NY Yankees shirt, and I yearn to say “Go Sox” under my breath so that only he and I can hear. I am not that stupid, and I am also afraid. He is very large — and loud.

I begin to read. The book is good enough that I do not hear the washing apparatus. I do not hear the talk show playing on TV, and I do not hear the conversations between the Yankees fan and other strangers. It is a novel — the story, though based on the truths of many, of Elisa, a woman who fled Cuba in 1959 when Battista left and Fidel came into power. It is also the story of her granddaughter Marasol, a current-day, 30-something Miami woman who, now that Castro is dead, travels to Cuba at her recently deceased grandmother’s request. I have found beautiful writing even here at the beginning. This book could very well be a marathon read.

I am on page 37 when I hear the waiting room door open, and a young man yells, “LINCOLN!” At last. I walk out toward the lot, and, as I pass two old men sitting on a bench, one says, “That’s some car you have there.” I say, “Yes, it goes like hell.”  He told me his wife has a 2006 MKZ, and she refuses to give it up. I tell him I understand, and then I ask, “Hey, are you a Yankees fan?”  He snorts and says no way, and I say, “You keep living the good life, now,”  and I walk to my shining car and head south on the Tamiami Trail.