Sometimes I Imagine the Back Wall of This Room is Rolled Open to the Night’s
Solitude Like an Alley Garage with The Door Cranked Up

by Freesia McKee

The mechanic works into the next day’s
               early hours, searching through recycled cigar

boxes piled with ordinary parts, wiping her greasy hands
               on the worn thighs of her corduroy overalls. The glow

of the garage’s center bulb flickers in its metal cage as her
               Ani DiFranco cassette tape reaches the end

of its final track and she turns it over again.
               I know—who listens to cassettes anymore?—but


               when I
               met her
               we were girls.


There were pool tables and dartboards,
               there were women playing pool,

there were women playing darts. There were women
               with short curly hair, there were women

with long black hair, there were women
               whose sunglasses shined on the table. There were women

with bike chain backs. There were women
               with arms like rivers.

There were women with eyes that told the time. There were women
               talking and sipping

drinks and there were doors
               and the doors didn’t roll up.


We were girls:

Girl smudging the bright rose
               of her cigarette into the ground.


Girl wearing a hot metal
               belt buckle.

Southside girl, rural girl, girl with green eyes,
               rusty girl, shining girl.

Watercolor girl. Girl
               who knows you
               by both of your first names.

Opulent girl. Girl with binoculars. Girl
               with histories like a scrapyard.

I’m a girl, a digging dog. I run
               the length of the graze.
               I know how to feed an animal.

Stay-away girl, visitor girl, girl
               wearing both sides of a wall.


At this checkpoint, they tell you that you want
               to go home

to the home they’ve chosen for you. They tell you that girls
               like you don’t want to be in places like this,

places like the places we met.


Every road in the city of gender
               has a checkpoint, official ritual.

When you come out
               the other side, you’re closer

to the next checkpoint
               which is why some girls forge their own roads.

How I want to give every girl a card
               that says cartographer, not because this land

is untrodden, but because every person
               needs to find her own way

to remember it. This is how the mechanic
               lets me watch her work:

a quiet road, an all-night drive, an exquisite,
               tuned machine. Here: I am a visitor.


I am waiting at her threshold.
               Waiting for her, I am sober as a crane.

When I stand in the water, the river
               moves beneath me.

The water seals around me like a well-fit
               wrench on a well-fit bolt.

She unfolds the map, which grows like a reed
               and shines on the rush.

I step in and the door
               of the theater rolls down.

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