The day after I had a one night stand
and the condom broke, my car tire went flat
on West Main. All these men offered a hand,
but none of them could loosen the lug nuts—
a middle-aged one with a cowboy hat,
jeans too tight; a young truck driver on his knees,
browned biceps bulging, cranking the jack.
Someone done screwed these on too tight,
he cursed, handing me back the wrench.
I thanked him, waited for the tow truck’s
hulking girth. Damn, it was hot—
over ninety, and that street was shadeless;
not even the bus shelter held shadow
from the white, merciless yolk of sun.
I was sweating, nauseous from the pill
the doctor gave me that morning. Was it
consensual? he asked. Yes, I breathed,
willing myself to answer—my feet spread
in stirrups sheathed with paper booties
like small shower caps, his two fingers
in me, my face turned towards the wall.
It was an accident. He nods,
one hand pressing my uterus,
asks, Are you in a relationship?
No. He nods again, writes a prescription
for Plan B—birth control with irony, a name
with a sense of humor. Not diaphragm, sponge, IUD,
or worse, the wall-chart of birth control pills
pinned above the medical waste bin
in their pastel hubcap discs—pink, yellow, white
like dandelion clocks: Orthocept, Lo-Ovril, Alesse.
This plan was meant for unplanned disasters:
“the morning after”—like the wreckage
of an overnight bombing.
It was an accident, I repeat.
I want him to know I’m responsible,
not like that sign in the Registrar’s Office
back in college: Poor planning on your part
does not constitute an emergency on ours.
He nods, as the tow truck driver would
later that afternoon, as the cashier
at the service station would too—
walking under my car jacked high in the air
while the mechanic in blue coveralls
pointed to a tear on the tire’s side, then the rip
in the boot cover, the axle problem.
Clueless about the inner mechanics
of cars, all I knew to ask was How much?
Rubber is from Inventory at the All-Night Drugstore (Anhinga Press, 2003) and originally published in The Southern Review, 38.1 (Winter 2002).
Poem, copyright © 2002 by Erika Meitner
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2005, From the Fishouse